“Young man, look at me in the eyes!”
These words often haunt me. David was only eight years old. I don’t remember what he had done wrong, but I wanted him to look at me so I could talk to him, teach him, and discipline him. But no matter how many times I asked him to look at me in my eyes, he continued to look at my forehead. Sadly, I spanked him and sent him to his room to think about how important it is to respect his father and to obey me when I ask him to do something.
Two months later we discovered that David had lost the majority of his central vision and was compensating by using his peripheral vision. As he looked up at my forehead, he was struggling to look at me in my eyes. My sweet little boy was trying his best to obey his daddy! Twenty years later I can’t even type these words without tears. I felt like such a loser father. I, of course, asked David to forgive me. Without a moment’s hesitation, he wrapped his chubby little hands around me and told me he loved me and forgave me. But I struggled to forgive myself. Guilt overwhelmed me and gnawed at my gut. What kind of parent was I?
Without a doubt, every parent struggles with guilt over something we did, didn’t do, or said to our children. There is no such thing as a perfect parent! If you are a part of the David’s Refuge community, you will often hear us say, “You are not alone.” You are not the only parent who has messed up, yelled out of anger and frustration, failed to follow through on a promise, or checked out from exhaustion. Welcome to being a loving caring parent who just happens to be human! The real battle you need to fight is the little voice that screams at you and says, “What you did is unforgivable!” That is a lie! Just as David forgave me, I too had to forgive myself.
Thankfully, I have forgiven myself and rest knowing David and God both cut me some grace. If you are struggling with self-forgiveness, here are few things you may want to try to quiet, in fact destroy, the little voice that keeps you from forgiving yourself.
- Post the following on your mirror: “I am a great parent! I’m not perfect, but I am good!”
- Ask your child to forgive you. Simply say, “Would you forgive Daddy/Mommy? I am so sorry I yelled at you. It was wrong and I love you.” Many times our own repentance shared with the person we hurt brings self-forgiveness. Don’t let your stupid pride stop you for doing this.
- Be willing to learn from your failure. Everyone drops the ball. Everyone stumbles. Everyone hurts others eventually. It’s part of the human experience and condition. But not everyone will learn from what they do. What can you learn from what you did so you don’t repeat it again?
- Agree with God. As a Christian, I believe God loves me and forgives me. So if Almighty God, the One who knows me better than myself, forgives me, then I should agree with Him and forgive myself. I could write a lot more about this but will wait for another blog!
Moms and Dads, don’t give up if you are struggling to forgive yourself. Your one or two failures don’t define you. Your love for your children defines you! Your sacrifice defines you! Your endurance defines you! Your willingness to battle for your children defines you! Your faith defines you! You are a great parent, not perfect, but you are good!
PS: These same principles work great for those who are married! Is there something you need to say you’re sorry for? Don’t wait, make the phone call.