Saturday, June 19, 2010

"I Just Don't Have That Kind of Dad"

Probably about 18 months ago I had a dialogue with a couple of people who had shared with me how much they disliked Mothers Day. One was because she had grown up with an abusive mother, was neglected and eventually abandoned by her. The other was someone who had never been able to have children and mothers day was a stark reminder of what she would never be.

I think about those people now on Mothers Day, and I know there are people who feel the same way about Fathers Day too. I recently read a talk in the Ensign entitled: "I just don't have that kind of dad". The author did not have a good relationship with her father, but had been asked to give a talk on honoring your father for the Fathers Day program. She reluctantly agreed, and said:

"At that point the days of turmoil began. What could I say about Dad? We hadn’t been close for as long as I could remember. Things had been especially strained during my teen years when, upon seeing the world in “black and white,” I fancied myself a female Nephi clutching the iron rod while Dad lurked somewhere across the way, in the shadowy depths of the great and spacious building. He was the dad with the year’s supply of brew; the dad who told home teachers and bishops and well-meaning relatives to leave him alone; the dad who cursed and came home late or not at all.

But he was also the dad who went to the daddy-daughter dinner; the one who attended the first (and last) spelling bee I was in; the father who perused every school text to make sure I was getting an adequate education; the man who fed a stranger, even one who’d tried to steal from him.

During the next few days, I thought a lot about the word honor. In every scripture I checked concerning the commandment to honor fathers and mothers, honor was used as a verb—a word expressing an act. One scripture I found especially meaningful was in Ephesians:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

“Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with a promise;)

“That it may be well with thee.” (Eph. 6:1–3.) The issue at hand was not my father’s honor; it was how I honored my father. I was left with the nagging feeling that although I had certainly done my share of judging, I had done little honoring, little loving.

The prophets have said that our greatest tests often take place within our own homes. How we behave toward one another as children, parents, spouses, brothers, sisters, and roommates under the stress of everyday life is the real indicator of our Christianity. And although the gospel of Jesus Christ encompasses the highest ideals and standards, we must never forget its underlying principle—love. And that is what honoring implies—loving. Not judging, not resenting, but loving in its highest form.

Many of us know the sorrow of seeing loved ones choose a road in life other than the gospel path. We pray for them and rejoice when they come back to embrace correct principles, but we must also accept the possibility that some never will in this life. I do not know which path my father will ultimately choose, but I do know that my honoring him is not conditioned upon that choice.

Just as I remember the principle of repentance by thinking of four R’s, I think of the principle of honor as having four R’s. These include:

1. Recognize and accept. He is my father (my brother, sister, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, friend), a child of God, a combination of good and bad just as I am. Above all, he is an individual with agency.

2. Regard with respect. I needn’t deny reality, but I should never fail to appreciate the positive, to focus on the good. Through my father I received my earthly body. He provided for me physically, loved me in his way, and offered me a worthy lineage.

3. Revere and esteem. I should reconcile my negative feelings through humility, prayer, and counseling, if necessary, until I can truly revere and esteem. It’s amazing how relationships change when I respond to a person with my best self.

4. Reward by offering unconditional love. There are still many differences between my father and me; but, as I have tried to honor him, I’ve been greatly blessed with an appreciation for him, his life, his feelings, and his gifts to me. My new attitudes have resulted in a love that spans our differences, a bonding of generations, a bridge over the canyons that have divided us in the past."

(Kelly Clark Hinton, “I Just Don’t Have That Kind of Dad,” Ensign, Jun 1988, 51)

It seems to me that no matter how bad or painful our relationship with a parent is, or was, that blessings will come to us as we really look for ways to honour them and keep this important commandment, it's one of the Big Ten after all, and as the author reminded us, it's the first one that comes with a promise.

So a happy Fathers Day to you all tomorrow, may you be surrounded by love, and lots of it!

1 comment:

  1. Ooo that was a good article. She's in a tough position...a dad that's good to the world, but torn about his standards with the Gospel. It would be easier if he was all around awful, but he's not! I think this is why we are urged to just love the person. That's the only way they will come around.


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