Forgiveness: The other F word

If you spend any time online visiting any social media or news sites you will notice that there are a lot of people who are mad, angry and offended by just about anything. Some of the offending topics of the last few weeks that pop into my brain at the moment are, in no particular order, ISIS, politics, healthcare, unions, President Obama, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, vaccinations, circumcision, education, school lunches, gun control, gay rights, religion, abortion, sports, Grammys, Oscars, celebrity nude photo hacks, Kardashians and even The Dress. (White and gold. I know. Who cares!) And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of crazy stuff out there. But what’s even crazier to me is the amount of truly vicious and vile comments that people leave without a second thought. th-11I wonder what would happen if people lived their lives choosing to forgive instead of choosing to look for ways to be offended. Can you imagine what a difference there would be if we each lived that way?

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Sure, Carl, that sounds nice. But we’re talking ISIS. That’s pure evil. How could you possibly forgive them? You know they murdered over 20 Christians recently and just kidnapped over 250 Christians in Syria, right?” I agree. That is pure evil. Yet, Diane Foley, the mother of James Foley, an American journalist who was captured by ISIS in 2010 and beheaded last August, is calling for forgiveness of the man who is believed to have been the chief executioner for ISIS.

“So, he, in a sense, had a priviedged upbringing, so to me that makes even more sad that he’d want to use his gifts for such evil and hatred. It’s very frightening to me. We need to forgive him for not having a clue what he was doing.”

What? How is that even possible? If anyone has a right to withhold forgiveness from another person or group it would be his parents, right? Again, I agree. Wanting revenge is the natural and instinctive reaction. Yet, they are choosing to forgive this man. Wow. Again, can you imagine if we each tried to live our lives with such forgiveness? Maybe we could forgive ourselves for saying or doing something wrong.

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Bostick was supposed to block #13 so the guy behind Bostick could catch the ball. Instead, Bostick botched the catch and #13 recovered.

Most of us don’t have our major screw-ups happen in front of over 70,000 people plus millions on TV, but that’s exactly what happened to a football player on the Green Bay Packers named Brandon Bostick. He’s the player that many fans blamed for the Packers’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks, which cost his team a trip to the Super Bowl, all because he made a mistake near the end of the game. Bostick wrote an article recently about what his life has been like since that game took place about six weeks ago.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and it’s the first thing on my mind. There are nights when I dwell on it before falling asleep. Sometimes the thought creeps up on me when I’m lifting weights, or eating dinner, or sitting on my couch at home.

I flash back to that moment—I can see the ball floating right in front of me—and I wonder: What if?

I messed up in the NFC Championship Game, and trust me, it hurts. I’ll probably think about my role in the botched onside kick every day for the rest of my life. It haunts me like a recurring nightmare.

This guy is beating himself up over something that he did wrong. How many of us do that to ourselves? I know I do. Unfortunately, I mess up daily. I lose patience with my family. I’m not as loving or kind to my wife and kids as I could be. Sometimes I even raise my voice and yell. I say or do something, trying to be funny only to have it blow up in my face. Yet, at the end of the day, I know that I’m human and that I’m going to mess up.th-5 I love my wife and kids but I’m not perfect. So, I ask those I’ve wronged for forgiveness and I forgive myself; hoping to learn from my mistakes so that I won’t repeat them. Sometimes I’m successful in not repeating them. Sometimes. I try to point out to my kids that I’m not perfect so I don’t expect them to be perfect either. It’s just that we need to keep that as our goal so that we’re improving ourselves.

Back to forgiveness. When we choose to not forgive it wrecks relationships. I grew up with a loving yet very controlling father. As I grew into my teenage years I began to realize how much I didn’t like his type of parenting and began to resent him for it. Thankfully, I soon realized that not forgiving him (even though he hadn’t asked for it) wasn’t going to help my situation but only cause me to become angry and bitter myself. So, I forgave him in my heart and decided that I would still love him. It certainly helped when I moved away to college two hours away from my hometown. It wasn’t until almosth-7t 10 years after I graduated from high school that my father finally realized the hurt he had caused from his desire for control and asked me, his son, to forgive him. It was a tender moment when I was able to honestly tell him that I had forgiven him years before and had prayed for this day of reconciliation. We became much closer from that point forward and those last 6-7 years of his life saw him a changed man. I believe that the healing of our relationship was only made possible because we both chose to forgive. I’m so thankful that I could learn from him how to humbly seek forgiveness so that we could be so much closer over the final years of his life before he passed away in 2007. I know that it has certainly shaped my own parenting as a Stay At Home Dad, prompting me to seek and give forgiveness in order to develop and maintain a close relationship with my fantastic children, even during their crazy teenage years!

Can you imagine what the world might be like if we each chose to look for ways to be kind and to find common ground instead of choosing look for ways to be offended and angered? What if we actually dared to forgive others? When I was 10 years old, my 12 year old friend Beth was killed by a drunk driver who hit the car that Beth’s dad was driving. Even though they had to face some pretty serious emotional and physical pains of their own, Beth’s parents chose to forgive the young man who ended their daughter’s life by driving drunk. While the guy faced legal consequences and was imprisoned for a time, Beth’s dad reached out to him and regularly met with him in prison, extending him true forgiveness and love. Can you imagine doing that? I would like to think I would do the same, but I don’t know for sure.

Can you imagine how different our relationships might be if we each chose to forgive instead of holding on to the anger and hurt? I’ve heard many people talk about how a lack of forgiveness hurts you, not the person who wronged you.th-14 But what good does it do to hold on to that hurt and anger? It doesn’t help to heal the relationship. In fact, it does the opposite by creating distance until ultimately it is destroyed. It happens with co-workers, with friends, and with family. Why hang on to the control and power and lose the relationship? As someone who values relationship over control and power I tend to forgive rather than get offended or, as my teenagers call it, butthurt. Some might call me a sucker for giving people an extra chance and I suppose that is one of the risks of forgiving. You lose some of the control and make yourself vulnerable to being hurt again. But the upside is that I’m not burdened by the past. Newsflash: If you’re dealing with another human being you’re going to be disappointed and hurt at some point. I guarantee it. How you choose to respond to that disappointment and hurt is up you. The choice is yours. Choose wisely!

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Dad on Strike?

I was recently contacted by a representative of the Steve Harvey Show to see if I would be interested in appearing on his show.

Hi there! My name is Michelle and I work at Steve Harvey show. We are doing a segment called “Dad on Strike”. We are looking for stay at home Dads who feel that their family is taking them for granted and they want to go on strike! Do you know anyone who would be interested in coming on the show for this? Please feel free to contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx  for more info. Thanks, Michelle

Huh? I thought Steve Harvey was a comedian and host of Family Feud. I didn’t even know that there was a Steve Harvey Show! So, I looked online and found a little more info about this topic. Below is a screen capture from his website.

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Steve Harvey

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Aha! That’s the hook. They’re looking for Stay At Home Dads who don’t feel appreciated who would be willing to go on strike and then talk about it on national television. My experience as a SAHD for 14 years has taught me many things, chief among them is the fact that a career as an at-home parent (dad or mom) is vastly under-appreciated by both our families and society in general. I think know that feeling needed and appreciated is a real need for all people, regardless of their chosen profession. images-3I also know that many people think that it’s enough to just do your job without anyone telling you “good job” or “thank you”. While it’s true that doing a good job is a reward in and of itself, knowing that others appreciate you for what you’re doing is important. I know that when I was teaching (my career before being a SAHD) I often heard from my students, their parents, other teachers or my supervising principal that I was doing a good job; that my students spoke very highly of me as their teacher. As a SAHD I rarely ever get that type of positive feedback about my “job performance”. In fact, the feedback that I often get from my kids is along the lines of whining or complaining. “Dad, I want you to get me this Barbie doll? PLEAAAASE?!” “Dad, why can’t I watch a movie? NOW!” “Why do we have to eat this for dinner? Can’t we just order pizza?” If you’re a parent you know what it sounds like. And you know that you never hear your kids say, “Thanks, Dad, for making me eat veggies so I don’t get backed up” or “Thanks, Dad, for loving me even when I was being a total turd.” or “I appreciate you, Dad.” Okay, maybe that last one a little bit on Father’s Day… You get the point, though.

So, yeah, getting that invite from the Steve Harvey Show to go on strike and then talk about it on national television…um, NO THANKS! What’s not to love about an offer to damage both my career and marriage in one fell swoop? To loosely quote former President George Bush, “Not gonna do it. It wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture.” The reality is that I wouldn’t go and rag on my family for not showing me enough appreciation. Could they show me more? Sure. But could I show them more appreciation as well? You bet! I’m trying to be the husband and father that my family needs me to be because it’s the right thing for my family. I don’t do it for any awards or recognition. A simple show of genuine appreciation such a kind word or hug is enough. I’m trying to teach my children how to be thankful for others and to remember to show them appreciation every day. I’m convicted and reminded that I need to be better in this area, particularly in modeling this attitude of appreciation toward my own wife and kids. Sometimes it’s easy to forget to recognize the positives when I’m in the middle of the daily grind of raising a large family. Always operating in the mindset of what needs to be done next. images-1Yet, I know that I’m certainly motivated by simple acts of gratitude and genuine appreciation. There have been a handful of times over the last few years as my children have grown up and matured that they’ve told me how thankful they are that I’m their father. Those precious conversations are the fuel for my daddying-soul. They encourage me to keep on doing my daddying to the best of my ability.

So, this SAHD is not going on strike. No job slowdown, either. I’m not looking for more drama or politics in my workplace (I tried to leave that behind when I “retired” from teaching in 2002, at age 29). If the Steve Harvey Show or any other media would like to interview some pretty awesome dads I’d be more than happy to not only be interviewed but also to hook them up with some of the hundreds of amazing dads, both SAHDs and non-SAHDs, who are doing a great job changing the face of modern fatherhood.

I would like to challenge you, my readers, to take a moment each day to tell at least one person how much you appreciate him or her. Let me know if it makes a difference to the other person…or you!

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Dalai Lama

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McDonald’s Playplace Judgement

On a recent Tuesday morning my four year old daughter woke up and promptly announced “I’m bored of staying home and want to go do something today.” As I’m the Stay At Home Dad she knew that would normally be music to my ears. Except that a couple of our normal go-to places (children’s museum and zoo/aquarium) were closed that day of the week. And it was too rainy and chilly for the park. So, I decided that it would be fun to bring the girls (and their 10 year old brother who is homeschooled) to a nearby McDonald’s Indoor Playplace after running a couple errands later that morning. We arrived there just after the noon rush to find about four other families eating and playing. Since my 4 1/2 year old is friendly and not at all shy she immediately found two other girls to play with.

My baby was excited to finally be big enough for the play equipment.

My baby was excited to finally be big enough for the play equipment.

My 1 1/2 y.o. adventurously climbed into and up the play structure and was making delighted squeals as she was finally big enough to go with the bigger kids. After I brought my kids their food they came back to our table to eat. Only there was one extra kid, another 4 y.o. girl I’ll call Z. She hopped right up next to my daughter and asked if she could share my daughter’s lunch. In my 14 years as a SAHD this was a new one for me. While I want my children to share, it’s unusual for someone else’s child to ask for food at a Playplace. I responded as nicely as I could, so as to not upset this little girl, saying, “I only bought enough food for my two girls so you should go ask your own mommy or daddy for some. I don’t know if you’re allowed to eat what we’re having.”

Without missing a beat Z responded, quite matter-of-factly, “My mommy doesn’t get me any food here. She says I should share with my friends.” I looked up to see her mom sitting at a booth about 20 feet away, completely absorbed in her phone call, as she had been since we had arrived. I noticed that Z was telling me this while she was chewing an apple slice we had “shared” with her. A moment later Z and my daughter bounded off to the play structure and played together some more. Minutes later my daughter announced (rather loudly, I might add) that she had to go potty. I picked up my toddler and held my older daughter’s hand as I opened the door to leave the play area and walk to the restroom. At that point I noticed that Z was trying to tag along to the bathroom with us. Again, as gently as possible, I told Z that she would have to ask her own mommy to take her to the bathroom. I couldn’t do that for her. Of course Z was already through the door, standing barefoot in the busy counter area. Thankfully, she complied and went back to her mom as we continued to the men’s room. As we were entering the stall inside the men’s room Z bounded in the main door to the restroom, followed by her mother. Still on her phone. In the men’s room! After passing the urinals she finally realized her error and exclaimed that they were in the men’s room and needed to leave. I chuckled a little bit at the absurdity of the situation. Judging her just a little bit as a bad parent.

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As we walked back into the play area and my daughters resumed their fun on the play structure, I was convicted of my own hypocrisy in thinking bad thoughts about this other parent. What did I know about her or her daughter? Had I made any effort to communicate with her? Sure, she was on her phone, talking or texting the entire time we had been there, but still, who was I to judge her? A couple of minutes later she finished her phone activity so I walked over near her table and began a conversation with her that went something like this:

Me: Hi. It appears our daughters are hitting it off pretty well. I just wanted to let you know about something that happened earlier. Your daughter asked to share some of my daughters’ food but I didn’t know if that would be okay with you.

Her: That’s fine. She can have anything.

Me: Oh. Well, she had an apple slice or two. But she appeared to still be hungry. Would it be okay if I got her something more to eat? Maybe a Happy Meal or something?

Her: Yeah. That would be great.

Me: Would you like anything?

Her: No. I’m fine.

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At that moment I realized how wrong I had been to judge this mom. I didn’t know her or her situation. We just happened to be there at the same time with our children. Maybe my purpose in being there at that time on that day wasn’t to be a judgy sanctimonious jerk but rather to do something nice for that little girl and her mom. I contemplated that as I walked to the counter to order a six piece chicken nuggets Happy Meal for little Z. After a few short minutes I brought the food back into the play area and handed it to the mom. She smiled at me and asked if we came there often, making an effort to have a conversation. We talked a bit more and she told me that they came to McDonald’s almost every day after her daughter was done with school since it’s only a few blocks away from her school. Then Z came over to eat her meal and asked her mom where the food came from. Her mom told her that I had gotten it for her and asked her daughter to thank me. After a few moments of hesitation she did as her mother had requested. My daughter asked me why I had gotten Z her own Happy Meal and I told her, simply, that Z seemed hungry and it was a nice thing to do for her. She was satisfied with that answer and happily played with her new friend once she had finished her food. As we got ready to leave my daughter gave Z a hug goodbye and said, as only she can, “Bye, friend. Hope to see you again!”.

Reflecting on that day almost a week later I’m bothered by how easily I started to judge this mom and her child. I’m sure we all do it every day. I know that I do. I also know that I shouldn’t. Instead of judging I’m going to try to be more compassionate and understanding of what others are going through. After all, that’s what I hope my children will do when they meet others. If I don’t do it, how can I possibly expect it of them? Thanks for the lesson, McDonald’s. I’m lovin’ it!

Hogan’s Heroes: ALL DADS

In October of 2013 I was fortunate enough to go to Denver for the 18th Annual Convention of the National At Home Dad Network. As a newbie I went there not knowing a single person in attendance or even what to expect from the two days there. I had an incredible time networking with about 75 other Stay At Home Dads from around the United States, learning, among other things, that I was not alone in my career. The first evening there a group of us went out for dinner at a local establishment. I happened to sit next to a guy named Hogan Hilling. I learned over the course of the next few hours about Hogan’s long career as a SAHD for his three children, who are now college aged and beyond. He’s also an author of a handful of books and a motivational speaker. We kept in touch over the ensuing year as Hogan and NAHDN President Al Watts co-authored a book entitled Dads Behaving Dadly: 67 Truths, Tears and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhood, which was published last June. It’s a collection of 67 stories submitted by dads from around the world. I was fortunate enough for one of my submissions to be accepted for the final cut. A second edition is being readied for publication this coming June. At the most recent convention last September I was able to spend more time with Hogan and my fellow SAHD brothers, including a book signing with several of the contributors who were also present.

It should be pretty obvious that Hogan is passionate about fathers and the significant role they play. As such, Hogan is trying to raise funds for a “Dads Behaving Dadly Convention” in Los Angeles (and other cities if there’s enough interest). He asked me to share the following letter from him with my blog audience. Please take a few moments to learn about his project and consider getting involved.

Hello,
I have lived with the stigma about how men don’t ask for help and the running joke about why men won’t ask for directions. Fatherhood is no laughing matter and a huge responsibility. No man should and cannot do it alone. And the best resource dads have is other dads.
As the author of Dads Behaving Dadly: 67 Truths, Tears and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhoodwww.dadsbehavingdadly.com, I am asking for help to provide an event that will give dads an opportunity to network with each other in a face-to-face setting. The Dads Behaving Dadly Convention is for All Dads. Dads with different family dynamics, income levels, religions and ethnic backgrounds ……..working, at-home, divorced, single and step dads and dads of children with special needs…….Fatherhood issues don’t discriminate.
Please visit and read the information about my Dadly Convention Campaign at http://www.gofundme.com/ktlyzw. If you like the presentation, please make a donation. No amount is too small. With the success of the LA and Orange County Dadly Conventions I plan to expand to other cities in the USA and Canada.
Bill Carroll, KFI 640 Radio Personality, who interviewed me on his show last Thursday agreed to be a guest speaker for the LA Dadly Convention. I need funds to make it happen.
Keep On Daddying,
Hogan Hilling
“Hogan, America should take lessons from you.” – Oprah Winfrey
 
Author, Speaker & Life Coach
Twitter @TheDadGuru