How To Succeed As A Father: Today Is A New Day!

Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.
— Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

Such words take on profound meaning in times of life and death, as they did in the days of World War II.

There are lesser battles, yet very real, and there is a battle every parent encounters that tests the heart.

Sarah and I can recall many moments when we felt like failures as parents. Looking back on it now, we realize that the failures of the day were not fatal and the successes of tomorrow were not final!

We had a decision to make. Would we let defeat defeat us as parents?

Parenting is not for cowards. As Churchill said, “It is the courage to continue that counts.” I love what Proverbs 24:16 says: "A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again.”

Read the testimony of this father who got back up on the heels of feeling like a complete failure as a dad. Until he reached a pinnacle moment, he felt he could never change for the better, at least not really. His personal inability to change was final and fatal, or so he thought.

“As for my daughter, I lost my temper with her over the phone about a relatively trivial matter involving the computer. It was just the trigger; there was a more serious underlying issue involving a boy and many of the typical teenage problems I was upset about. Yet, I let this trivial matter trigger my frustration with her.

“I was so filled with self-loathing afterward that I decided I was a hopeless case. I decided I was never going to change.

“But then I decided that I would seek professional help and learn everything there was to know about anger management, etc. I was not going to give up trying, but I had given up hope of ever changing.

“A few days later, I was driving along in my car, and out of the blue, the Spirit of the Lord came over me with great power. The life of the Savior passed through my mind in an instant and I thought of all the knowledge and wisdom He held.

“He was God-incarnate, yet he was continually assaulted with ignorant questions from the religious authorities of the day. Even His disciples who were often slow to comprehend must have tried His patience and kindness at times as He sought to teach them. I thought of the torture and crucifixion that ended His mortal ministry and I was struck with the thought and marveled at how, through all of this, He never lost His temper.

“Then it was as if a still, small voice spoke in my heart and mind saying, ‘You have covenanted to always remember Him, to follow Him and try to be like Him in every way.’ I was overwhelmed with a feeling of sorrow for my sins, but at the same time, a feeling of enlightenment and liberation from them.

“I was working out of town at the time and I called all my children and my wife individually on the phone and told them I was so sorry for all the times I had been anything other than kind and patient with them. I asked for their forgiveness and promised them it would never happen again. I had not read this in a book or heard any one suggest that I do it. It was all just my instinctive response to a powerful spiritual experience.”

What do you feel as you read this father’s testimony?  Are you one who has exploded in anger... again? Do you have self-loathing? Have you given up on yourself?

Father’s Day can be a new day. Your failings as a father are not fatal!

Here are two things I recommend:

  1. Drive somewhere by yourself and open your heart to the Spirit of Christ. Ask the Lord again, but with this man’s testimony in mind, to help you be like Him. With all that He suffered, He did not lose his temper. Realize this is less about your inadequacy as a dad and more about your imitation of Christ. Standing beyond the shoulder of your child is Christ. Jesus said that we do what we do “unto” Him. This is not about the disobedience of your teenager, but about your obedience to Christ. This trial affords you the opportunity to show your courage. Your courage in following Christ is what counts.

  2. Seek the forgiveness of the family members. They may or may not forgive, but this is about you asking. You cannot control their response or the outcome in them. You can only control your actions and reactions. As you have sought Christ’s forgiveness, seeking the forgiveness of family demonstrates the genuineness of your humility before Christ. (Let me add, as you know, stay totally focused on what you did wrong. Do not even hint at what they did to “cause” your anger. Why go there?)

When you do this, you will be succeeding as a father. And though this success is not final, relish the moment. This Father’s Day can be a new day for you!

“A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again.”

So, rise!

-Dr. E