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About Your Father

A few years ago I was visiting with a friend about a book he was reading. I can’t remember what book it was, something about growing up to be a man or some such thing. As usual, I am too late in thinking of some things I wish I had said in that conversation. So I thought I would record my thoughts here, before they escape me again. As I remember it, one of the chapters of this forgotten book was on the relationship of fathers and sons, and how that relationship contributes to the son’s development as a man. One of the assertions made was that a son may be carrying hurts and disappointments from his youth that he really needs to confront his father with and get . . . well, I’m not sure what. This is what I would say if I could go back to that conversation:

I suppose it’s possible that you have issues that need ironing out between your father and you; but you should be very careful and think long and hard before you do that. I’m sure you have been hurt and disappointed. I’m sure your father failed you at some point. I know he did. I know that because he is a man, and that’s what men do. Including you. So think twice before you call your father out on any of his failings, because he’s a flawed man, just like you are. What’s more, he is very likely far more aware of his failings than you know. He has regrets just like you do. He may have wept bitter tears over things he wishes he could go back and do over, but never can. Don’t rub it in.

That, in a nutshell, is what I would say to my friend. I didn’t know his father personally, but I know a little of his character as I heard it from his son. Now I would like to expand my words to a wider audience—to you, who I don’t know, and whose fathers I don’t know. And, while this was brought up as pertaining to fathers and sons, it should go without saying that it applies to all parent-child relationships.

Some of you have had a truly bad time growing up. You have been abused to greater or lesser degrees, and you carry legitimate scars. Your father was a monster. You have pain from which Christ alone can deliver you. I don’t want to belittle your suffering. Your situation may be outside the scope of this post, but perhaps you can find something here of value to you. I do hope you are seeking comfort and healing in Christ and are not wallowing in the past.

This is primarily for the rest of you, the vast majority, whose imperfect fathers did their imperfect best, and still managed to let you down. What did he do that so disappointed you that you can’t let it go? Maybe he spent too much time at work. He missed your ball games. He forgot to do something he had promised. Maybe he had a bad temper. He didn’t understand you. He misjudged your motives. He didn’t trust you. He said something hurtful. He belittled something that was important to you.

Are these the kinds of wounds you are nursing that require some sort of resolution? If so—and I’ll be brutally honest—you’re a crybaby. You’re a self-centered brat and you ought to be ashamed. Buck up and be a man (or woman). Get over it. Because if you don’t, you’re going to have a miserable life, and you’re going to make everyone around you miserable. Your friends are going to let you down. Your wife (or husband) is going to let you down. Your children are going to let you down.

imageWhich brings us back around to where we started: You let your father down. So before you go to him with your list of grievances, be prepared to do your own confessing. Because you failed him. You disappointed him. You dishonored him. You disobeyed him. You betrayed his trust. You thought ill of him when he was taking a hard stand for your good. Yes, at some point, no matter who you are, you did all those things.

Furthermore, you will or perhaps already have committed the same or similar offenses of which your father (or mother) is guilty against your own children. You will fail, and you will live to regret it. The older you get, the more things you will look back upon and wish you had done better, done differently, or not done at all. You will weep over your sins and your mistakes. Your heart will ache over the pain you have caused. You will want with all your heart to go back and do it over, but you’ll be unable to.

Then, one day, maybe one of your children will read some trendy pop-psychology book and come back and unload on you for being what he (or she) is in the process of becoming.

All of this failure is, to some degree, inevitable. It is hard-wired into the human condition. God provides us with sufficient grace to live as we ought, but we still fail. We must then depend on his grace to rise from our failures and move on. By grace we must bear the offenses of others as well.

So give the old man a break. He loved you—not as well as he should have, as only God does, but certainly better than you deserved. And remember how much you have been forgiven.

If you found this unsatisfactory, click here for an attempted clarification.

First posted January 4, 2008.

Posted 2019·08·20 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Reruns

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