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Topic: Fatherhood

When Dad Is Selfish: Scott Weiland and the Call to Selflessness

December 18, 2015
By Matthew C. Millsap

On December 3rd, the music world was shocked and saddened by yet another talented artist gone “too soon”: Scott Weiland, lead vocalist of seminal 90s grunge band, Stone Temple Pilots, was found dead on his bus while on tour with his latest band. Although authorities have yet to issue an official cause of death, it appears that a drug overdose was likely a contributing factor, which, if confirmed, would add Weiland to the ever-growing list of musicians for whom drugs have played a role in their demise.

As a 90s teen, I grew up listening to early STP, their raw and heavy riffs punctuated by Weiland’s deep, brooding vocals. There was something about their music (and the music of other grunge bands, like Nirvana) that seemed authentic in ways that pop music lacked. Though not necessarily displayed by my outward appearance, inwardly I felt that at times I identified with the angst expressed through Weiland’s lyrics and the music that would blare through the cheap headphones connected to my CD Walkman.

But now, if I’m honest, I’ve found myself identifying with Weiland in a different way, and it’s a way I wish I hadn’t.

Early last week, Weiland’s ex-wife, Mary Forsberg Weiland, penned what I can only describe as one of the most gut-wrenching things I’ve ever read (at the Rolling Stone website). The letter is an unflinching look at the devastation that can be wrought upon a family by an absent father, as seen in this selection:

December 3rd, 2015 is not the day Scott Weiland died. It is the official day the public will use to mourn him, and it was the last day he could be propped up in front of a microphone for the financial benefit or enjoyment of others. The outpouring of condolences and prayers offered to our children, Noah and Lucy, has been overwhelming, appreciated and even comforting. But the truth is, like so many other kids, they lost their father years ago. What they truly lost on December 3rd was hope.

As Ms. Weiland continues, the portrait painted of her former husband is that of a talented and beloved musician who essentially abandoned his family, leaving his children devoid of a strong father in their most formative years, barely interacting with his children as teenagers, and ending up a shattered man before his passing. The truth was this: Weiland’s children really didn’t know him at all.

That stark reality stopped me in my tracks, and prompted three brief reflections on fatherhood.

First, I’m struck by the selfishness that we men naturally battle—me included. Overall, despite various problems, including those catalyzed by drug us, what characterized Scott Weiland was his selfishness. It is here that I find myself identifying with Weiland now beyond my teenage years. By the grace of God, I have never struggled with alcohol or drug abuse. But unfortunately, I have repeatedly struggled with selfishness, and this was acutely brought to my attention again through these recent events. As we know all too well, humans, by our sinful natures, are selfish creatures. Selfishness is a disease from which we all suffer.

However, for men—particularly fathers—selfishness can hold especially devastating consequences, as the tragic case of Scott Weiland bears witness. Here was a man who, by worldly measures, had a dream life: acclaimed musician, wealthy, married to a model, father to two children. But even with this recipe for temporal “happiness,” a broken man was ultimately the result. By the accounts of those who should have mattered to him the most, Weiland was so mired in selfish behavior that he became a shell of a man to them. Rather than leaving a legacy of leadership, care, and investment, he left behind nothing but a wake of heartache and disappointment.

So, as renewed men, how can we guard against the selfishness that holds such potential to destroy? Perhaps these next two points can help.

Second, I’m reminded that we need to love our wives selflessly. As men who are called to love our wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25-27), we must love our wives selflessly. Moreover, if we are to love our wives selflessly, we should do so in demonstrable ways that are visible to our children. Men, your kids need to see you love their mother. They need to see you show her affection, they need to hear you say “I love you” to her, yes. But they also need to see you demonstrate your love selflessly through acts that show you consider her interests above your own, that you are willing to sacrifice for her.

They need to see you give up a weekend of golf with your friends in order to take her to the market she’s wanted to check out. They need to see you forgo watching that Saturday afternoon football game after a mutually busy week in order to reconnect with her over coffee and conversation. They need to see you decide to wait on that personal purchase and instead spend the money sending her out with her friends. This doesn’t mean you do things like this in order to “score points” with the children, but rather that the consistent practice of selfless love toward your wife is naturally part of their lives. They know that sacrificial love is part of who you are and that if you express it to her, it will be expressed to them as well.

Third, I’m convicted that we need to intentionally spend focused time with our children. We men must ensure that we are intentional about spending focused time with our children. Many of us as men are tempted to think strictly in terms of prioritizing our work to the exclusion of nearly everything else. To be clear, our work is important. God has called us to provide for our families, and the desire he instills in us for work is a good desire that extends all the way back to our Edenic state. There is satisfaction in a job well done. Yet I fear that, far too often, we emphasize the importance of our work to the detriment of the health of our families.

Our children are good gifts from God. We should enjoy spending time with them, and the time we do spend with them should be focused. This means two things. First, when we spend time with our children, our attention is not elsewhere. Not on work we have left to do. Not on recreational activities we want to pursue. Not on personal entertainment we have yet to enjoy. Our attention during this time is on our kids: playing with them, talking with them, relating to them, investing in them. If you are spending time with your kids in a state of “there, but not really there,” they will know.

Focused time with our children also means we spend time doing with them what they enjoy. There are far too many parents out there who try to live vicariously through their children, attempting to direct their interests where they may not actually lie. Do you have a daughter who is interested in art? Spend time with her as she paints or draws. Ask her questions about some of her creations. Do you have a son who loves video games? Play them with him. Learn about the worlds he experiences and the characters he plays.

When you spend time with your children doing what they enjoy, you speak to their hearts that you care about getting to know them. When you repeatedly force your child into an activity that you enjoy but they clearly do not, you cultivate in your child a heart of bitterness.

Christian men, our families need us. Though they may not be as in dire of circumstances as the Weilands were in the years prior to Scott’s passing, they nonetheless could be if our own selfishness were given free rein. Ms. Weiland’s letter should push us to resolve that we will not allow this; we will be men known by our selfless acts. Our wives need husbands who will sacrificially love them. Our children need fathers who will, as Ms. Weiland puts it, “try just a little harder and [won’t] give up.”

Sin is strong, but grace is stronger. By God’s power, we can show the world who witnessed the Weiland tragedy what godly fatherhood looks like. From a biblical perspective, it is nothing short of dying to ourselves and developing an intentional pattern of selflessness as we lead our families.

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