“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.”
A question arises from time to time in the minds of young men: given the Biblical commandment to “Honor your father and mother,” does that requirement expire when one is out on his own? The answer may surprise you.
It’s a two-parter
Since this is a commandment from God, it is part of the moral law that applies for all people, in all places, at all times. So the short answer is yes, we are to honor our fathers as long as we live.
However, since the primary way children honor their dads is through obedience, it can be confusing to shift gears and learn how to show honor while making one’s own decisions. The key, though, is respect. That’s your primary need as a man — and your dad is no different. So how can you show respect and honor to your dad as a grown man?
As an adult, you are responsible for yourself and your choices. Even so, if your dad is in your life, he’s keenly interested in how you’re doing. He knows you’re busy, but he wants to hear from you. The shift from supreme authority to coach is a challenge for Dad, too, but it’s worth it to work through it with him.
As capable as you are, you’re bound to get stumped every once in a while. This is a great opportunity to ask your dad for counsel. Dads are the original mentors, so get his take on it — whether it’s job related, project focused or relationship oriented. If your dad is like mine, he’ll gladly share what he’s learned — from doing it right and from doing it wrong.
Listen to him
The west in the 21st century idolizes youth. That’s just a fact. Even so, you can honor your dad by listening to him. The most important principles are timeless, and you’ll honor Dad by setting aside time to hear his hard-won wisdom, as well as family history. Most people have lots of stories to tell — they’re just waiting for someone to ask.
Everyone needs encouragement — that includes your father. For those gifts he gave you and those values he instilled in you, don’t be shy about blessing what went right and saying thank you.
A quick story: When my older son was a newborn, Dad came to visit for the afternoon. This visit allowed my dad to see me handle the rare baby hat trick — urine, poop and spit-up during a single diaper change. We both had a good laugh over that.
But after I got cleaned up and got my son settled for his nap, Dad and I stood in the doorway to the nursery — both looking at my son, his grandson, with a sense of wonder. I asked my father, “Did you feel about me the way I feel about him?” Dad looked at me, a little surprised, and said, “Did I? Son, I still do!” It brings tears to my eyes even now. Thanks, Dad.
Try as they might, fathers often fall short. The results range from a series of mild disappointments to full-on emotional trauma. Robert Bly refers to this as the Father Wound. Some of this comes from our disillusionment when our dads show themselves not to be the heroes we imagine them to be, but fallible men. Some of this comes from his own woundedness.
In our church we say, “Hurt people hurt people.” Wounded dads don’t come from nowhere. That realization can move you to a place where you can forgive your father for the ways he failed you — whether great or small. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I have seen extraordinary acts of forgiveness recently, and I can tell you it is possible. That is a decision each of us gets to take — or not.
A word to the fatherless
If your father wasn’t around — because of death, divorce, deployment, addiction or work — I want to tell you that my heart is with you. A father’s absence leaves a tremendous void in a boy’s life. Grandfathers, godfathers, uncles, scoutmasters and coaches sometimes step up to fill the gap, but not always. If that’s you, don’t despair.
When I completed my sons’ initiations, I explained to each of them that although I would always be their dad, God had been fathering them through me all this time. Even though I may have disappointed or wounded them, He would never fail them. I want to offer you that same counsel, that same encouragement.
Happy Father’s Day to you dads, and here’s to the fathers the rest of you can be!
So how about you? How do you plan to show honor to your dad this Father’s Day