My son was in high school, and my wife shared with me, “Joel hates you.” My stunned reaction was no he doesn’t. He knows I love him and want the world for him. My wife repeated the statement in another way so I could absorb her comment. Well, he can’t stand being around you most of the time. You hound him about his school assignments, and you are always correcting him about how he handles every detail of life. He feels like he can’t please you no matter what he does to try and make you happy.
The truth hurt I didn’t want my son to grow up and be like me and deal with the same failures and weaknesses I had in my life. I continually tried to correct the character traits I struggled with in my life by trying to motivate him to do things differently in his. However, my overbearing attitude produced the opposite effect a deep-seated resentment for me.
So at this point in the conversation with my wife, the counselor in me swallowed my pride and admitted she was right. The communication problem was my assumption that his feelings didn’t matter, and my feelings were the proper ones he should have for me. He should love me. I’m his father.
Here is the lesson. It has nothing to do with what I think as a father; it only matters what my son believes and feels about me. So the next day, I took Joel to lunch, and as we sat at the table, I expressed my heart was breaking with how I had mistreated him. I told him I was negligent for being so critical of him, that his dad at best was a jerk and would he forgive me for the things I had said and done. As tears rolled down my cheeks, I shared how proud I was of him as a young man and how much I loved him and how, from this day forward, I would do my best to honor and respect him
It was a God moment, grace came down, and my son granted mercy to me. Years later, I would officiate his wedding, but far more humbling was his request for me to be the best man at his side. I’m glad I swallowed my pride those many years ago and listened to my wife and son’s heart. As a father, I’m still working on it today.
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Colossians 3:21 NIV
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