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Marlboro Dad?

I received the following email in response to last week’s Familyman Weekly accusing me (and others like me) of feminizing men.

To the Writer (Todd),

Though there are sometimes that this is relevant, most of the time it is not, and is a cause for undue pressure on the dads. I also see some organizations, though with good intentions, trying to make men have ‘women’s intuitions’ and ‘womanly communication skills’, and thus applying a standard that was never intended by God. At the same time they’re telling children they have been neglected if their Daddy wasn’t sensitive enough to them because he “didn’t care.” This gives them a crutch allowing them to ‘blame’ someone else and not taking full responsibility for their sin and shortcomings as individuals. The blame game makes for weak Christians and weak people.

Not everyone can listen all the time and our children should be taught that there are appropriate times for all things, and if it is not the proper time, then maybe they should make the request at a different time. It doesn’t mean that Daddy ‘doesn’t care’.
Also, ‘coded’ answers does not translate into ‘I don’t care’; it means just what was said, regardless of translation.

Let me challenge you: how about taking the time to see how many Men/Daddy ‘weakenings’ or ‘bashings’ your family hears, from those who are supposed to be on Gods side, you see in the next 3 days.

We need to teach our children what true biblical masculinity is and not what some counselor/psychologist has said mixed with some scripture verses.

Get rid of the fluff and show some true grit, that the real men of the Bible have. This is a greater challenge because for men to be men, all relationships have to change.

C. H.

Here is my Response –

Dear C. H.,

I sure appreciate your letter and your desire to be what God wants you to be. That’s what I want of myself and for every dad I meet. Let me say that you are not alone in your thinking. Occasionally I get letters from other men with similar thoughts, and in fact, many books and speakers would voice a manly “Amen’ to all that you have said.

But they’re wrong. The views they share and write about are not based on Biblical truths but on some kind of macho Hollywood Marlboro Dad.

Yes, we need warrior-men who lead their families, love their children, and fight for their wives. In fact that is our prime directive. But, we do not achieve that by watching Monday Night Football, shooting guns, using power tools, refusing to vacuum, and communicating in grunts.

We’ve been fed a lie that says: For a man to be a man, he needs to do “manly” things and act according to his “natural” tendencies. Really, what is being said is that we have to do what WE want to do to be truly masculine. That line of thought is based on selfishness, not selflessness. It is a worldly philosophy not a Biblical one.

If you were to follow that line of logic then one could easily say, “Since men are drawn to sensual images, then it can’t be wrong to ‘look’ at them because that’s how God created man to be. God certainly wouldn’t create someone with a particular bent and then expect him to deny it or even call it sin. In fact, maybe it would be better to nurture the desire.”

Now I know that I just pushed my point a little far, but the same line of thinking is put forth in the idea that men get their self worth from their job. That may be true, but that doesn’t make it right to be a work-a-holic, nor does it mean that we should live in such a way as to gratify that desire.

C.H., you pointed out that we should ‘teach our children what true biblical masculinity is and not what some counselor/psychologist mixed with some scripture verses has said.’ I assume you’re talking about me. I am not a psychologist, and though I was a pastor for 10 years, I wasn’t very adept at counseling.
You also implied that since I didn’t QUOTE the Bible that I must not USE the Bible. That’s simply not accurate, and you did not offer Scripture to back up your opinion.

Actually, I’d be very interested to see what scripture you base your biblical masculinity on. You seem to imply that it’s the sword swinging, lumberjack kind of masculinity. That is a worldly standard, not a Biblical one.

The Bible is counter cultural…you could almost say that if the world goes one way…God would have us go the other.

For example: The world encourages husbands to go for the gusto, don’t be pushed around, take time for yourself, leave the women’s work to the women…or at the very least have your children do it. In contrast, the Bible says, “Pray for those who persecute you, live with your wife in an understanding way, do not provoke your children to anger, give to those who ask, turn the other cheek, serve one another, to be great…serve…and a bunch of other stuff that is easier to say than to do.

Can a man turn the other cheek, communicate with his wife, offer to do the dishes, and still be a man? Yes! In fact, that’s the kind of man God wants us to be. Yes, some have feminized men, BUT working to be a good listener, servant, and communicator, isn’t feminine, it’s “living with your wife in an understanding way.” It’s manly, manliness!!

You wrote that ‘telling children they have been neglected if there Daddy wasn’t sensitive enough to them, and he “didn’t care”…gives them a crutch to ‘blame’ someone else so they do not have to take full responsibility for their sin or shortcomings as individuals. The blame-game makes for weak Christians, weak people’.

C.H. my audience has never been children. I don’t point out their father’s shortcomings. I talk to dads…and to the wives who listen in illegally. I remind them, as I do myself, that if we are not sensitive to our children’s needs, care about what they care about, and love them as they need to be loved, then we will provoke them to anger, and NO crutch in the future will be of aid to them. The undeniable truth is that we fathers leave indelible marks on our children for both good and bad (just look at some of the father/sons in the Bible).

That’s an awesome truth, one that REAL MEN embrace but other men mistakenly blow off as “unmanly.”

You wrote that children should learn (my paraphrase) that what a dad says is what he means. I wish that were the case…but they know better. Your wife knows better. And you know better. In fact, you read into what I wrote. You assumed I was feminizing dads because I was a wimpy kind of dad. Hey, I even read into your note and made assumptions about you by what you said. It’s not good…but we do it.

I agree that children must learn that there are times that they cannot interrupt, etc., however, I took that son along with me in order to spend quality time with him, and then I showed him that I’d rather be consumed with my own thoughts than listen to his. I believe that teaches him that Dad doesn’t care about his thoughts. Even a 6-year-old can translate that.

Let me set the record straight that I’m no wimp. I own all kinds of power tools, spit, played football in high school, and go days without shaving, BUT that isn’t what makes me a manly-dad. I’m a manly-dad because I deny myself and serve others. I set aside my “natural” tendencies and sweep the kitchen, change diapers, give baths, talk with my wife about fabric colors, and try to be interested when my children describe their latest LEGO creation.

Now I fail a good chunk of the time (just did about 10 minutes ago), but I never give up. I apologize (another “unnatural” thing to do) and try again. I know many men who would say, “Yeah, but what about my wife and the kids…don’t they have to try?”

Yes, I wish my kids would be easier and that my wife wouldn’t get upset over little things…but instead of blaming them for their behavior, I say, “BRING IT ON! I can handle it because I’m ‘da Dad!”

That’s what a real man is…a biblical, selfless, go-ahead-and-punch-me-in-the-face-cuz-I-can-take-it kind of man. That’s what God has asked of us; that’s what I want of myself, and that’s what I encourage other dads to be.

And with all that said, I still fail miserably.

So, C.H., thanks again for your letter, and I appreciate you letting a fellow dad rant. I’ll tell you what, you keep searching the Scriptures and so will I.

Defend your family, rescue your damsel, and don’t forget to take out the trash.
You ‘da dad,

PS — I’ve written about our great responsibility and superhero likequalities in my book Father Power. You can order a copy for yourself and a fellow dad at the Dad Store.


This Post Has 41 Comments

  1. Todd,

    You da DAD !

    It is much easier to be self absorbed than to do the tough thing and listen to your wife and kids…

    I challenge any man to spend a weekend doing nothing but what your wife does in a typical day during the week.


    Just about any man can have kids…that is simply biology…it takes a REAL MAN TO BE A DAD !

  2. My favorite quote from the latest Rocky movie put it best. It’s not about how hard you can punch, but about how hard you can BE punched and still get up.

    Endurance is the most significant display of real strength a man can hope for.

    I also watched a special on Ernest Shackleton recently. The things he did for the sake of saving the men following him were incredible given the situation.

    So you thump your chest and grunt all you want. I’ll keep hauling my tired butt out of bed in the middle of the night to tend to a sick kid so that my wife can rest more so that she can deal with the kids with grace while I’m gone during the day.

  3. I agree Todd. It’s nice to know that we can voice our apinion, but be flexable and find errors in our ways and not be afraid to admit it and work on them.

  4. I may be reading ILLEGALLY, but you rock!! I think many wives, like me, read your stuff, because we want to see what’s made a difference in our husbands!! I am so happy for your weekly reminder for him to be the Biblical dad that God desires him to be! Thank you, thank you!

  5. I would highly encourage and challenge CH and every man with this type of mentality to read Every Man’s Marriage by Fred Stoeker and gang. If you come away with the same mentality as you went in with, you really didn’t read it. Follow it and it will change your marriage. Has nothing to do with feminizing men, but instead, making us Godly men who love our wives and children- not just ourselves!

    Keep preaching it Todd!
    You da’ Dad!

  6. Great response. Here is the best definition I have ever heard for manhood. It fits totally into what you are saying:

    A real man:

    1. Rejects Passivity
    2. Accepts Responsibility
    3. Leads Courageously
    4. Expects God’s Reward

  7. The GREATEST Man who ever lived claimed to be “gentle and lowly” (Matthew 11:29). Maybe not that’s not the world image of manliness, but it’s mine.

    May God bless all Dads with even more gentleness!

  8. Amen and in Ephesians, before it tells the wives to submit to their own husbands, it tells all of us (husbands included) to submit to one another in the Lord. A husband submits his own natural desires to his wife and childrens needs.
    You da man (and as your former seminary roomate) congratulations! Also when I knew you if it didn’t come in a Chef-boy-rdee can you couldn’t cook it. Now you can vacum (Way to go). Keep preaching His truth.

  9. Todd,

    I’ll have CH know that I have one of those hand holding, spontaneous hugging, 9 child (from 31 to 4)listening, wife amusing – read that as shoppin’ scrappin’ and crochetin’ stuff, bottle feeding, diaper changing, holey underwear wearing because seven kids needed shoes at one time Poppa’s … in my book he is definitely da’ Poppa. That man doesn’t have a selfish cell in his body.

    I don’t want anything to do with a chest thumping Hollywierd conjured Marlboro Man. I dearly love my man that knows he is a man because he follows the Bible and cares for me as Christ does His church.

    I wonder do CH’s children come bursting out the door every day no matter the weather and bowl him over in the front yard. I know who has my children’s hearts … does CH? What a sad, sad existence to believe that you have to be a chest thumping “image” to be a real man!

    Todd you are da’ Dad!! Keep up the excellent work!!

  10. Why are we assuming that the feminizing of men is a Christian phenomena? In the last 25-30 years there has been a cultural shift in the world to render men useless and to make women the new authority. This is reflected in TV and movies. The church, unfortunately, has picked up on this trend and adopted it. In fact, the only people I find that are still willing to admit men are men are those last vestiges of Christians who have NOT surrendered to the latest worldly trends.

  11. I was at whits end w/ my wife and what I thought her role should be in the house until I was taught to honor her and put her before myself. I never thought I could, or would receive the amount of respect and honor she has given me since I learned to love her as Christ loved the church. She does nothing but make feel like the manly man and husband I always wanted and hoped I could be. Don’t change a thing Todd, or else I would stop listening to you. It’s good to know your right across the fence.

  12. Dear Todd, Thumbs up to you on your Marlboro Dad article. I’m sick and tired of worldly machoism. It’s time we men be the way God intended for us to be.

  13. Another vote for “Every Man’s Marriage”…I give it my strongest recommendation. I found this site (and that book) a little late, and I’m currently in the process of losing my marriage to a divorce that I very much don’t want and would do anything to prevent. Guys, don’t let your marriage die! Even if it doesn’t die physically like mine, you don’t want “oneness” with your wife to die either. Please trust me: you don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it. The pain of this tragedy is so much worse than what little “pain” it would have been to be a truly loving and caring husband in the past.

  14. C.H. —

    Quit making excuses. Are we called to be like David (although a man after God’s own heart, he was an adulterer and certainly wasn’t the greatest father) or are we called to be like Christ?


    You ‘da Man…er…‘da Dad!

  15. Hi Todd,

    As a young husband and father (with a real hero for a great role model— my own godly Dad), I found your answer refreshing and thought-provoking.

    Whose image are we to conform to, anyway? Psychologists, actors, superheroes and even men in the Bible all ultimately fall short of the MAN Christ Jesus (1 Tim.2:5). (Thanks be to God, we’ve got a perfect Standard to go by!)

    Thanks for the encouragement, and keep on the firing line!

    —NC in Beijing, China

  16. CH’s email smacks of the archaic Victorian belief that “children should be seen and not heard.” It’s obvious that CH missed the entire point of the article: you were supposed to be spending quality time with your child and instead you were tuning him out.

  17. Todd,

    I sometimes tire at the stubborn ignorance some of our Christian brothers display when they feel as if their definition of manhood is being challenged. I wish I could say that I am never guilty of this same ignorance. That may just be the reason God has called you to minister in this way!

    Thanks Bro! Keep It up!

    JR, Marion, IN

  18. Thanks again Todd for speaking the Truth in a world full of deception!
    **I AM a wife reading “illegally”, but I promise that I resist the urge to use your words against my hubby. Promise!! I am a mom of four (3 teen boys), and wife to a wonderful and godly man. Frankly, having grown up without a dad of any sort in my home, your insight into what a godly husband and father actually IS, has been priceles information to this clueless wife and mother, and helps me to appreciate the man God gave me even more. Thanks again for all you do for ALL OF US!!

  19. I was raised by the ultimate Marlboro dad. He died in 2000. It still brings tears to my eyes to watch fathers telling their children that they love them. My father was too manly for that. Even when he died.

  20. I love it!! That is such a great response and the exact reason I love getting your emails every week. You remind us as hunbands and fathers what is really important and the path that we should be sticking to. I thank you and I thank God for your ministry. You are a real inspiration to my daily walk as a father.

    You ‘da Dad!!

  21. C.H.
    I think we fail our kids if we don’t teach them something about how to approach God. I want my kids to learn that they have a Father in heaven who is eager (enthusiastic) to hear from them, to see their creativity, to answer their questions. Are you a father who pursues his kids or are they learning that “Dad can’t be bothered”…“The line’s busy, make your request at a different time”. Now, there are times when I’m busy (playing with my power tools) and I can’t be bothered. But I want my kids to know that I will seek THEM out, I will hunt THEM down, I will jump into their little world and experience life as they know it (Hey, isn’t that what Jesus did?!). And as far as my wife goes, sometimes I need “undo pressure” to be the Romeo to my Juliet. Life is rough, we dads get tired. If servant leadership is undue pressure, then Jesus had it all wrong…If servant leadership is undue pressure, then what will drive the message of God’s love into the hearts or my family? He is no wimp, no push-back dad who kills it, drags it home, and helps cook it.

    Let me challenge you: how about taking the time to see how many times you can pursue the interests of your wife and children in the next 3 days. Teach them just how powerful and passionate God’s love is for them.

    You da’ Dad C.H.!

  22. I only wish this website have been avaiable to me when my three sons were small. My baby is now 27 (yesterday) with children of his own. Great words to live by and to share. Keep up the great job.

  23. As a new reader to your site I say amen to your rebuttal! I’m tired of those who say we have to be “extreme sports” Dads to be manly. When you work 12 hours a day (2 on and 2 off) and your wife stays at home and schools the kids you had better take some of the load off her and show the kids that Dad is responsible in helping maintain the household and family even if it means cleaning, washing and cooking. We still hunt, fish and other stuff but it takes a back seat to keeping the household going. A man is a servant, just like our Savior and he was THE MAN.( and now that the housework is done we are going to finish our potato cannon!)

  24. I read your response first since it was sent out to the email list before I was able to read the original letter by CH. Though your response is a good message, it completely misses the issues raised in CH’s original letter. The dad who wrote the original letter says nothing which could be construed as siding with the Hollywood, or to be more specific, the Madison Avenue portrayal of an American man. You and CH are actually on the same team about this issue— just looking at different ends of the continuum.

    CH is decrying the liberal feminist element at work in our society which either demonizes or trivializes a Dad’s role in the family. CH asks you to be alert for the “Dad-bashing” that has slipped into the attitudes of even fellow Christians and church leaders. All too often people are viewing themselves as victims and want to blame their Dads as being at fault.

    Again, your message is great about being the kind of Dad and husband God wants us to be. I just don’t see how your message makes sense as a rebuttal to the points CH raises when he shares his heart with you in his original message.

    For further reading on how the institutional church (from the 2nd century to now) has undermined the role of men in both families and churches, read “Why Men Hate Going To Church,” by David Murrow or check out Murrow’s web site,

  25. Another woman here, “listening in”. My husband is one of the manliest men I know. He’s looked up to in the community. People trust him with their time, money, and secrets. He’s not afraid to get dirty, he’s super-duper handy, and yes, sometimes he does more grunting than speaking… but he also knows how to love and give. He washes the dishes and the laundry, helps clean the house, and tends to the needs of our family while providing for us as well (and letting us know, verbally, how much he loves us all).

    I am incredibly blessed to have such a man, but this did not come about until he gave himself to Christ. What a change God mades in the lives us his children!

    You know, even women have to set aside natural tendencies to do these “womanly” things. We have to be selfless and set aside our desires to care for our families, to give our husband love and affection even when we’re “all touched out” at the end of the day, to feed the baby several times during the night when we’d rather be sleeping, to cook when we’d rather order out but know our husbands want a nice homecooked meal (and money saved)… Sure, we have this mother instinct, but not everything comes natural. I know, for myself, I find great encouragement and guidance in the bible!

    I know one thing my husband struggles with is setting aside things to just come to us and spend time with us… to make time to play with his children, listen to them, love on them.. because he is such a hard worker and wants us to have nice things, etc.

    I LOVE your message… and I’m thankful there is someone out there who challenges what REAL MEN are. I’m glad I have a REAL MAN at home!

  26. From CH: “Let me challenge you: how about taking the time to see how many Men/Daddy ‘weakenings’ or ‘bashings’ your family hears, from those who are supposed to be on Gods side, you see in the next 3 days.”

    I would like for CH to point out those examples maybe he has seen in his life within those 3 days.

  27. Todd
    i think you really needlessly slammed CH.
    your reference to the Marlboro Man was very insensitive. Why dont you practice what you preach in your response to him. In addition he NEVER mentioned Hollywood and it is not right to assume that is what he means. Is that the way you talk to your wife, read in your own meanings while not listening to what was said?

  28. Todd, This really strikes a chord with me – a very personal one. I was raised with a military dad who hunted, fished, and had every power tool known to man. He is a man’s man in every way imaginable and has probably come up with a few ways to be more manly on his own. As a result, he has one very lonely wife (my mom)and children who didn’t really know him or have much of his time. You guessed it – they eventually divorced. Now in my marriage I felt tendencies to ‘compare’ my husband to my father – do I need counseling? – and always felt like there was some imaginary mark not being met or achieved. You see my husband’s father never did any of the manly sort of things so my husband wasn’t taught any of this. When we married there was a subtle underlying question mark in my head – is my husbnad manly enough? He plays sports with our son, he works out, he fishes now that he knows how but only with our son, he is learning how to use power tools, and has expressed interest in deer hunting. He is even the Cub Scout Master! But more importantly, he loves me and I know he loves me and loves our son and my son knows he is loved by his father. He is active in listening to me, supportive of me even when I have PMS, and is a very Godly manly man. Reading this shed newe light on him. I just wanted to thank you for this. My hubby forwarded the link to me and I read this and was convicted of my preconceived notions of man-ness. I know that these new revelations will change how I see my hubby as well as how I treat him – not that it was bad before. I just have a new found respect. Saying this outloud is very cathartic for me. I also wanted to tell you that ever since getting your calendar 3 years ago at a homeschool convention, my hubby is really a different man. Thanks and keep it up! Praising Him, Sonia

  29. OK, I find it interesting that the self-proclaimed illegal bloggers (the women!) are all on Todd’s side of this argument. My point is (in pointing that out) you’re NOT helping his case! I just read a fantastic book by John Eldredge titled “Wild at Heart”. I recommend this book to any man (or boy) who wants to learn about TRUE MASCULINITY. I do not think Todd’s views are in direct contrast to this book at all. But I wonder if this book was the motivator for C.H’s letter. In my opinion this book and Todd’s views are on the same side, they’re just prioritizing different points because they personally have different gifts (different callings or a different mission). This is my humble opinion and I welcome any response.


  30. I am a grandfather now, but back in my youth I rodeo’d and drove semi-trucks across this country and Canada, did that make me man? Simply put NO! We are told in “Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” What super-hero or so called Hollywood tough guy can stand up against Satan and his minions? Even Michael the Arch-Angel did not attempt to fight Satan without permission from God. But as husbands and fathers we are expected to protect and teach our wives and children. Those of you who are subject to Jesus Christ and are covered in His blood can and are expected to stand between the sin in this world and our families. Pray for your wives and children constantly. Teach them on every occasion or time that you have with them about the Bible and the grace that the Father in heaven has given us. But again I say stand up put on the full armor of God, then you are more of a man than any Marine ever thought of being.

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