Tonight I have fatherly love on my mind. Not the kind a father gives his children, instead the type of love a child craves from his father. I have always craved acceptance and approval of my father, and have felt that he gave neither. Recently, I’ve noticed how much my own children crave my acceptance and approval, and how I’m also not giving them what they want.
I can see they crave some outright blessing, whether that’s a verbal “how amazing of you to do that, you make me proud” or a show of gratitude. Like my father, I find myself not giving those blessings, not because they don’t exist, but because a father’s love is already beyond approval – it’s unconditional. Besides that – that blessing would only last a moment, and they will continue to seek it. Even when my children do things that embarrass me, I accept and approve them. Not because I apply a blessing to their action, but because the biggest joy I can imagine is them being happy, content, successful, capable of being loved and showing love.
Father’s don’t have an agenda except that we want everything that is good for them. When I perceive one of my boys doing something that is going to steal their own happiness or success from them, in my heart, I disapprove, because of my love. It is a father’s love that causes this disapproval.
My relationship with my father has been broken for many, many years now. There is some pain, and there is some joy. For many years I really disliked what I thought he did to me (or rather, what he didn’t do). When I became a father, I vowed to be the man he never was. Because of this I’ve stayed away from jobs that required me being gone for extended periods, I’ve coached them and been to almost all of the games and practices. I cook, clean, work incredibly hard, and try to teach them everything I know. I’ve tried my very, very hardest to be the very best father I can be. Yet, here we are – them craving my acceptance and approval, and me (seemingly) providing neither.
Tonight I was thinking “where have I gone wrong?” Now, I think – that’s the nature of fathers and sons. A father loves more than a son can imagine. A son thinks of love as a one-dimensional object that is displayed toward them, not on them and around them. When I discipline my children or have difficult discussions with them, it is never for my benefit, but for theirs. I think this is perceived as disapproval and non-acceptance. Isn’t that a shame that I thought this, and that my children think this also?
Now I think about how I can change that dynamic – how can I show them that I approve of them while I care about them probably more than they care for themselves? As a 45 year old man, with a father in his 70’s, I find myself doing things that I think would impress my dad – isn’t that just silly? Is that God’s way to instill in us to love ourselves as much as a father loves his son? To be clear, I’ve never done much to impress my father. He’s much more accomplished than I will be at his age in many ways. I’m constantly amazed at how smart he is, even today. Just last week I was blown away by a correspondence with him and thought “he’s so incredibly smart, I can never be that smart!” That is indeed, the summation of a father-son relationship. That is God’s way to tell me “you can and you will do better”.
The epitome of a father’s love is that he’s willing to sacrifice being loved (or even liked) if that means encouraging his son to do better, to be stronger, to fight harder. A mother’s love is a sympathetic love, a father’s love is a love that builds courage. Both sympathetic and warrior love encourage a child in a different way. As a son, my mother’s love taught me to be kind, giving and loving. My father’s love taught me to be courageous, brave and to fight for the life I didn’t know I wanted.
When I see my children seek my approval I know they seeking something I can never give them, because absolutely nothing is ever going to give them what they deserve. One small step can derail a life, every single choice matters, every thought, every action – and part of me is satisfied they will think of me and ask themselves if I approve. What they’re really asking is “is this what is best for me?” However, I know they will despise me for it, maybe even hate me and may even cause them to rebel. That’s what I did. But, they will continue to strive and fight for what is right, and that’s the kind of love I want to give them, a warrior’s love.