Buddy Curry was a professional football player, and life was all about him.
"I made up my mind to have as much fun as possible," said Curry, former Falcon inside linebacker and 1980 Defensive Rookie of the Year. Toward the end of my eight-year career, all the things I had been doing didn't seem fun. I wanted a relationship and to settle down."
When Curry met the woman he would marry, he described himself as young and selfish. "When we got married, I had no clue how to be married," he said. "As an athlete, I had been coddled. Most of the time I got what I wanted. Like other athletes, I thought the rules applied to everybody but me."
Within three years, his marriage was in crisis.
"Every time I saw my wife do something wrong I called her out," said Curry. "I was critical, and I hurt her very deeply. Although people loved me because I was a pretty good guy, the state of my marriage made me step back and consider how I would learn to be a good husband and father. I knew I was not strong enough to make the necessary transformation by myself."
Curry started seeking out older and wiser men to mentor him, men who would hold him accountable as well as encourage him as a husband and father. Instead of being critical of his wife, he started serving her.
"Even though she very clearly wanted out of the marriage, I made a decision to learn new ways of relating to her," said Curry. "My goal was to bless her and allow time for healing in our relationship. Through a lot of tough adversity, I believe God changed me."
A pivotal moment in Curry's life came with the birth of their first son.
"I had been making a lot of changes in my life for the better," said Curry. "When my son was born, I realized there were other areas that needed some attention. Realizing that my children are going to follow me was eye-opening."
The Currys have four children ranging from middle school to young adulthood.
"Being a father has taught me about my own weaknesses," said Curry. "I recognize that there is a generational transfer taking place. I am sending my children into the future. I would like to help my kids not make the same mistakes I made. I want them to understand the importance of self-discipline, what it means to be committed to something -- even when the going gets tough. I want to teach them how to be a good team player."
One of the most important lessons Curry learned is that you can have the best of intentions for your marriage and your family, but without being willing to invest the time it takes to make those things happen, it's just wishful thinking. No amount of success in the world can make up for failure at home.
E-mail Julie Baumgardner, president and executive director of First Things First, at firstname.lastname@example.org.