This Dad Lost It Big Time

Nick Crews, a retired Royal British Navy officer and father of three adult children, had heard all that he could handle of his kids’ divorces, stagnant careers, and financial problems. After letting his wife bear most of the responsibility of maintaining a relationship with their children and grandchildren, Nick decided he needed to let them know how he felt. So in an email (not the most personal form of communication) he communicated his disappointment with them in no uncertain terms.

Here’s the closing paragraph…

I can now tell you that I for one, and I sense Mum feels the same, have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children’s underachievement and domestic ineptitudes. I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about. I don’t want to see your mother burdened any more with your miserable woes — it’s not as if any of the advice she strives to give you has ever been listened to with good grace — far less acted upon. So I ask you to spare her further unhappiness. If you think I have been unfair in what I have said, by all means try to persuade me to change my mind. But you won’t do it by simply whingeing and saying you don’t like it. You’ll have to come up with meaty reasons to demolish my points and build a case for yourself. If that isn’t possible, or you simply can’t be bothered, then I rest my case.

I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed.

I’m sure that most every parent has been disappointed in their children’s choices, thought that their advice went unheeded, and felt unappreciated. So in one sense we can identify with Mr. Crews’ frustration. But did his email accomplish what he hoped? Did his kids find it motivating? Did it make them want to draw close to him? Did it help them own up to their flaws and set a new course?

No. Two of the kids haven’t spoken with their dad since receiving the email. It only furthered the alienation between them.

A few thoughts…

1. While it is good and right to set standards for kids and encourage them to strive for excellence, be careful that you aren’t falling into the same trap as Mr. Crews and communicating anger and condemnation when they fail to meet those standards.

2. Mr. Crews’ email is filled with a self righteous smugness. There’s no sense of admitting his own faults or his own bad choices or what he’s learned from his own mistakes. There’s no compassion or mercy or grace. No one wants to open up to those who think they know it all and haven’t ever made mistakes of their own. No one is drawn to share their struggles with those who haven’t struggled.

3. No Christian parent should ever be as grace-less as Mr. Crews’ email because every Christian parent knows that they have received grace and mercy from their heavenly Father. The good news is that no matter how often we fail God, he loves us and is patient and kind to sinners. God has never “had enough” of us but instead continues to extend mercy and grace. He never rejects us or leaves us or forsakes us.

Having received the mercy of the Lord, having been forgiven of our own sins, having experienced God’s patience, let’s extend patience to not only our kids, but also to others as well.

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