As a father I hope I have been right more often than I have been wrong for my children’s sake. I haven’t been keeping score but I also haven’t been ignoring mistakes. I try not to overanalyze every moment but I also try not to miss an opportunity to learn from the good and the bad times. If I live my life in a euphoric state, filling my mind with only good thoughts and memories, it is just as damaging as living in a dark state of emotional pain, filling my mind with only bad thoughts and memories.
To be a good father I must learn from my past.
To be a great father I must learn to learn from my past as soon as it becomes my past. With two sons married and a third finishing high school, I figured this out late but as I found out, it is never too late. There is nothing I can do to change the past but there is so much I can do to make sure the past is addressed and the future is not a repeat of the same mistakes. It wasn’t easy to face my sons and tell them that I was sorry for the way I treated them but it was the right thing to do. My expectation was an explosion of accusations, which based on my past behaviour, would not be unwarranted. What I got was forgiveness and ownership for the part they played in the difficult interactions we had had.
To look back and learn led me to look forward and apply what I had learned.
The apology would be hollow if nothing changed. I now try to be a better listener. I ask more questions and seek clarification so I am not reacting to my perception of what my children are trying to say. When I disagree I try to leave my emotional attachment to my opinions out of the discussion. I am bad at this but I am learning from my mistakes and more importantly apologizing when I make them.
Don’t be fooled, all is not well even if it looks that way.
In our closest relationships, grace and mercy, or at least the attempt to act gracious and appear merciful, creates the appearance that all is forgotten. It is Godly to extend grace and show mercy but it also can cause the unintended side effect of covering up the need for reconciliation. Just because the interactions between you and someone else have returned to what appears to be normal, does not mean that all is right in your world. Forgiveness in the context of following Christ is independent of the actions taken or not taken by the one who has done wrong to rectify the situation . This means that forgiveness granted does not equal reconciliation achieved.
Is there someone in your life that could benefit from you learning from your past?
Sorry isn’t enough. To apologize in most cases will bring reconciliation but reconciliation achieved does not guarantee reconciliation will remain. We need to learn from our past not try to make it go away. There is a short term and a long term outcome that we should all seek when we look back at our failings:
- Identify the improper behaviours/responses of the past.
- Recognize the improper behaviours/responses as they happen.
- Eliminate the improper behaviours/responses.
Number one should lead you to attempt to reconcile with the person you wronged by your improper behaviours/responses of the past. Number two is about seeking to reconcile as soon as the improper behaviours/responses happen so they do not become past issues in need of attention. Number three is the completion of the process. It may not be possible to fully eliminate the improper behaviours/responses but it is the goal. We are imperfect so there is a high likelihood that we will repeat the improper behaviours/responses at some point. When we fail at number three we must make sure we address it as soon as possible or we will end up right back where we started.
There are no guarantees but there are requirements regardless of the outcome.
Every situation is different so I cannot make any guarantees that apologizing will make everything right with your children, your spouse, or anyone else. What I do know is that as a child of God, apologizing for the distant past and for what happened a few minutes ago as well as trying to eliminate the improper behaviours/responses starts the process of making it right, repentance, with your Heavenly Father. From there on you will have to leave it in His hands.