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Breaking the Cycle of Teen Fatherhood

Would my sons think I was a hypocrite for urging them to remain sexually pure until marriage?
By Roland Warren

When I was 20, I did something that no Christian young man is supposed to do. I got my girlfriend Yvette pregnant.

I can still remember, as if it were yesterday, the moment I received the phone call from her to give me the news. She was crying. She was confused. And she was terrified, because she knew that she would have to tell her father, who had not quite embraced the idea of my dating his daughter. Plus, since her body would change and become a public reminder of our sin, she would be ashamed and embarrassed.

I, too, was shaken; but mostly, I was disappointed in myself. Because of my lack of self-control, I put the woman whom I loved in a difficult situation. I had let her down. I had let my family down. Most importantly, I had let God down, because I knew well His principles of sexual purity, and I also knew well the possible consequences of violating them.

You see, my father had gotten my mother pregnant when he was about 19 years old and she was about 16 years old. Although they married and remained so for a few years, eventually they split up. My father, like too many others, became distant and disconnected, leaving my mother to raise four small children on her own. So early on, I vowed not to repeat my father’s mistake.

I also felt like a hypocrite; and of course, I was one. I was a Christian, and most of my friends knew it. I went to church and Bible study regularly. I was even a member of the university’s gospel choir. In fact, I used to be teased a bit because I proudly carried a big red Bible that I received in high school.

Haunted by my past

I determined to do the right thing. After a few months, Yvette and I got married and had our fist son, Jamin. A few years later, we had our second son, Justin.

As my boys grew, I was on a mission to break the cycle of teen fatherhood. So when they were young, I would be sure to share and reinforce the biblical principle of saving sex for marriage. It was really easy then because they were more interested in Hershey's kisses than girl kisses. But I knew that this would change, and this made me nervous.

In a sense I was haunted by my past and how my first son was conceived. Therefore, as the time approached for me to have “the talk” with Jamin, I began to worry about how my son would deal with the news that I had violated a principle that I had stressed for as long as he could remember. I feared that, even if he respected me too much to say it, he would think that I was a hypocrite.

Every time I thought about this, I was paralyzed; so much so that at times I was tempted not to have the talk at all. But by the grace of God I did, and the conversations with both of my sons went well. I was very candid about my mistake and my hope and prayer that they would break the cycle of teen fatherhood in our family. The blessing was that they both did.

The difference between hypocrisy and spiritual growth

Over the years, as I have reflected on my dilemma, I realized that I was laboring under a misunderstanding that has plagued many fathers. I believe they struggle with understanding the difference between hypocrisy and spiritual growth.

You see, hypocrisy is when you try to stop your children from doing something that you are currently doing. For example, when a father says, “Do as I say but not as I do.” So if you try to admonish your children to stop doing something that is immoral or illegal while you continue doing it, you are a hypocrite. And most likely your kids (and your wife) will call you on it.

However, spiritual growth is telling your children not to do something you did because you learned it was not God’s best for you or because it violated His principles. This is like a father saying, “Once I was blind, but now I see.” Indeed, a blind man who receives his sight and helps others avoid a dangerous ditch that he once stumbled into is not a hypocrite.

He’s a hero.

So, too, is the father who protects his children from repeating mistakes he made in the past.

Romans 3:23 tells us that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Therefore, it is a natural aspect of the human condition for any father to have things in the past that he regrets. However, the good news is that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

In other words, when we truly confess, God presses the reset button and gives us a new beginning. The key is for us to accept God’s forgiveness and move forward with our lives.


Adapted excerpt from Bad Dads of the Bible by Roland C. Warren. Copyright © 2013 by Roland C. Warren. Used by permission of Zondervan.

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.

Next steps:

1. Referring to past failures, Roland Warren says in his book Bad Dads of the Bible, “Don’t give Satan a ‘stun gun’ that can stop you from taking action with your children.” Mull over these words. Then spend some time identifying areas of your life that you need to correct.

2. Are memories of your father good or bad? Roland Warren, the former President of the National Fatherhood Initiative, recalls his parents' split in his FamilyLife Today® interview “Acknowledging Father Wounds.” Listen to this radio broadcast and apply it to your life.

3. Attend a Stepping Up® small group video series or bring it to your church or community as a video event.

4. Read FamilyLife articles for dads.

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