Mike Berry shares a tough parenting moment and the heartbreaking lesson he learned from it.
As human beings we are prone to failure. Sometimes, the failure is monumental and the damage we cause is beyond calculation. This has never been more true than within the context of our families. How do you pick up the pieces and move forward after you’ve failed your children, your spouse, or your siblings?
It started with a disrespectful look, or so I thought. I had asked my 13-year old daughter to do something she knew was her responsibility and the face she made when I asked her angered me. It quickly escalated into something greater and it was my fault. Sure, she made the face at me, talked in a belligerent way to me, but it didn’t warrant the hurtful words, or angry outburst that came from me.
I had lost it. I wasn’t myself. When the dust settled, I had left the house, and my little girl went to bed sad and bewildered, wondering why her daddy would treat her this way, or say the things he had said.
I wondered the same thing. In fact, I’m still wondering. What I continue to learn, even at 39 years of age, is that my words, spoken in anger, or haste, cause something devastating to happen to the ones I love the most.
Our Words Are A Tap
I used to think that words spoken in anger were like bullets being fired from a gun. How often have we left one of our loved ones lying on the ground, their heart and soul riddled with bullet holes from the hurtful words we’ve fired at them? I’ll speak for myself … too many times to recount!
What I’m realizing though is that angry, hurtful, or spiteful words are more like a tap that drains our loved one’s hearts of energy, hope, peace, and freedom. Yes, we take away the freedom of our loved ones with every angry word we speak.
Have you ever wondered why? I believe it’s because we aren’t getting something we want. The reaction we want, the remorse we want, the respect we want, the results we want. On and on and on. That may catch you off guard, but as I think back to the argument I had with my daughter, it stemmed from the fact that I believed she wasn’t giving me the respect I thought I deserved. As a parent, I do deserve respect, but at what cost? Allowing something rather small to escalate into something so big that it empties her heart?
The damage this causes is beyond what we understand. How do we remove the tap and stop our loved one’s hearts from draining?
The Space In-Between
Close the space that’s growing between us. That’s how. You see, what often happens in the wake of a big failure, is that we allow too much time to go by, and too much space to grow between us, that we suddenly realize we’re standing on opposite ends of the Grand Canyon. We do this for a number of reasons—we feel guilty, we feel ashamed, we can’t believe we said or did something so hurtful, the list goes on and on. After time, that space becomes such a fixture in our life that we forget it’s there.
As awkward as it may be, or as difficult as it may be, we need to close it. We must seek out our hurting kids, hurting wife, or hurting husband and speak words of forgiveness. That’s not just us telling them we forgive them. It’s also us asking for forgiveness. I had to do this with my daughter after our battle. It was hard, I was ashamed, I felt terrible. But I couldn’t allow one moment to pass without asking for her forgiveness.
Often times, we spend so much time avoiding, covering up, or trying to compensate that we let days, weeks, months or even years go by without speaking one word of forgiveness. If this is you, can I challenge you with something I’ve been challenged with? Never allow the space you share with your family to fill up with everything you haven’t said! I can’t say that enough. It’s a conviction I have everyday.
Remove the tap, close the space, and move forward.
This Too Shall Pass
How? Where does that leave us after we’ve failed? It’s a big question.
I think it’s easy to beat ourselves up even after we’ve made amends. After all, the biggest problem we have with forgiveness is forgiving ourselves, not others, right?
This morning, as I shut the front door after my daughter walked to the bus stop, my heart was still hurting. I had sat down with her earlier and asked for her forgiveness but I couldn’t forgive myself. I couldn’t get the words I had said out of my mind. But then as I walked to the kitchen to refill my coffee cup I heard a voice whisper to my heart. It simply said, “This too shall pass.”
As hard as it is to accept, that’s the truth. This will pass, as long as I work hard to love my child and hold true to the forgiveness I’ve asked of her.
Perhaps you have failed your spouse or your children. Maybe you are at odds or you’ve realized the space you share with them is filling up with a lot of unspoken words of healing. I don’t know where you are personally, but I know for me, I can’t allow one moment to pass without righting the wrong, making amends, seeking forgiveness, and filling up the heart I drained.
Originally published on ConfessionsofaParent.com.