An open letter to my son
I yelled at you today and of course, I shouldn’t have. You didn’t deserve it. 6-year-olds surely don’t. I’ll admit, I was frustrated with you but you were only the straw; I’m not exactly sure where the build up began but sadly the pressure released on you.
I love you. I have high expectations of you. And to be honest, they’re unrealistically high expectations. You’re advanced in so many areas that I often fail to remember that you only have six years or so under your belt. Wisdom doesn’t come overnight yet I often lay that burden on you like it should.
One of the most important things to me is that you turn out to be a better man than I am. That you make better decisions, that you relate better to people, that you set better examples. When I watch you stumble, I see patterns of my life which could potentially be where some of the unleashing stems from. I potentially get upset because I see you only mimicking my bad behavior.
Without turning this on you, here’s a few of areas that I’d love to get better about teaching you but for you to learn them, I know I have to model them.
I realize it takes a lot of nerve to ask for your patience with me as I get better with these things on a day where I potentially made you feel lower than low. I’m a work in progress.
I’m sure by now, you’ve seen me in action – I’m a classic one-upper. Many of my interactions with people in life go on while a good majority of my brain is working through what to say next. I’m a weak listener and I dish advice like a street-prophet. Even if I haven’t been there or seen that, I’ve got a story to match it. I’m prideful, vengeful, inwardly focused, and outwardly cynical. I’m like a mixed cocktail of the characteristics that most people avoid all stirred up into one.
Help me and join me in working each day to become less self-centered. Winning is fun but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. You know what matters? Building your brother up instead of tearing him down or repeatedly putting him in second place. Likewise, your mother has constantly traversed the waters of a husband that has all too often put his own interests first for almost 15 years. They both deserve better of us.
When I – and hopefully you by watching my modeled behavior – quit worrying about how we’re perceived, most of the following areas we need to work on should automatically resolve themselves…
We’ve had this conversation on more than one occasion. It’s the primary reason I yelled tonight. In the greatest sermon ever preached, a pretty smart man let us know that our word is our bond. I have no idea how many relationships I’ve harmed over the years; how many circles of trust I’ve broken; or how many seeds of doubt I’ve planted just by taking the easy road out in situations but it’s far more than any man should, I know that.
I’m still working on the right way to get you to understand this simple, yet profound concept of ‘let your yes be yes, and your no be no,’ but 3 hours after the fact, I know that tonight’s teaching method isn’t a tool I hope to keep in my tool-belt any longer.
Telling the truth is hard. It’s accepting responsibility for ones actions, it’s acknowledging that you’ve done wrong, it’s heart-breaking when you realize that you’ve hurt others; and yet, it’s the only way I want you to live your life.
You will break things. You will get out of line. You will make poor choices. You will hurt others. You will be rewarded for things you should not have received credit for. It all occurs, often daily. But what I pray that you will do, is take responsibility in any situation and own up to what is right. Break people’s possessions and they will forgive quickly, break people’s trust and you can look forward to years of rebuilding.
Speak truth in love.
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords…” Prov 12:18a
It’s always right to tell the truth. It’s also always right to show respect to others in how you tell them truth. I fail miserably at this. As a self-centered individual that believes in truth-telling, many-many people have been slaughtered by my tongue. It’s not right and it’s not called for.
Build others up. Make sure they’re built up higher than yourself. And then build them some more.
You’re phenomenal. You’re intelligent beyond your years. You’ve got a steel trap for a brain. You have a gift of athleticism at six that I’ve never had. Your ability to make and foster relationships is great. Your respectfulness of both young and old is admirable. Your love of an unseen God is inspiring. We love all of this about you and more.
Let your mother and I (and others) handle the commendations. We speak highly about you to each other; to others both when you’re around and when you’re not; and even directly to you when it is needed. Be confident in who you are but remember that humbleness is both a gift and a desire of God.
“For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.” Psalms 18:27
At six, you’re already leaps and bounds ahead of me. At thirty-six, it shouldn’t take an event like this evening to bring reality back into perspective – but it does. I continually allow a pride-filled version of myself to make decisions about the direction of my/our lives. You most definitely deserve better, and for that I apologize. You’re stuck with me for a little while longer, and in that short time that I still get to hold you, I’m still working to be a better man/husband/dad.
I’m sorry for yelling tonight. I’m sorry for making you feel like I’m not proud of you because I most certainly am. I’m thankful that at your age, it’s pretty likely that tomorrow you’ll have let all of this roll off your back but I’m also pretty sure that I’ll still be kicking myself over it.
Tomorrow is about ‘others.’ You included.
I love you.