I had a different post drafted for this week. However, after last night, I’m calling an audible.
Have you ever been rude, hateful, or harsh with your children? If you’re like me, it's happened, and more frequently than we’d like.
I try to avoid it, but despite my best efforts I sometimes show my sons the ugliest version of myself. Last night was one of those nights. I was hateful and out of line with one of my sons.
All of us parents have acted in ways we wished we wouldn't have. Hidden in these situations is a golden opportunity to show the gospel to our children if we will take advantage of it.
First, I need to cool down. I can’t shape my son’s character with veins popping out of my neck. Often, I just need to regain perspective and ask myself if what I’m angry about will matter 5 years – or even 5 minutes – from now. Usually it won’t.
I regroup by doing some or all of the following:
- Reading my Bible (The Psalms, #51 specifically)
- Listening to music (not screamo or death metal, that backfires!)
- Talking it through with my wife
As soon as I’m able, I offer my son an apology. One that focuses on my sin alone. Not some cowardly mixture of, “you and I both got outta line…”. That’s not an apology. It’s a justification.
My apology usually goes like, “Son, I’m sorry I was hateful to you just now. You deserve better from your dad. Would you forgive me?” If I was especially jerkish, I might say, “I hope you’ll consider forgiving me.” He can forgive on his timeline, not mine.
I must acknowledge my own sin, especially when it’s on such clear display. A quick way to lose credibility with our families is to ignore the obvious. If I was hateful, I should say I was hateful. I shouldn't say I was "less than kind." Let’s call a spade a spade, even when it’s staring back at us in the mirror.
I sometimes double-back the next day, or later that night. I will offer another apology, and recommit to avoiding this behavior in the future. I might share how sad or embarrassed I felt.
This is when the opportunity presents itself.
When I admit my sin, I can point him to a savior who is consistent, kind, loving, and controlled. I can remind him of a God who is all the things I am not. I can talk about God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
Then, I can encourage him to follow God and trust in Him alone. I will say, “Son, I will let you down. I will allow frustrations to build, and I will take them out on you. I will not always be a model of a loving father. However, God will never let you down. Trust Him alone.”
In the end, I decrease and God increases.
That’s the gospel message right there.