This month, I'm discussing love. As easy as it is to say we love others, it's much more difficult to put into practice, mostly because we are prideful people.
In my book I Am Not the King, I discuss the rocky relationship I've had with my father. I won't belabor that here, but I would like to discuss how I learned to love my dad after going several years without speaking to him.
8 Ways I Learned to Love My Dad
Every relationship has its issues. Parent-child relationships can be particularly thorny, especially if one or both of them have unreasonable expectations of the other. Here are 8 ways I learned to love my Dad for who he is rather than who I wish he was.
I stopped expecting perfection - My Dad isn't perfect. No father, except God, is. When I stopped expecting my father to be perfect, it became a lot easier to love him. It became easier to overlook his shortcomings, and much easier to forget the disappointments.
I learned to forgive him - Forgiving my father was a necessary step in moving past the pain he inflicted on me and our family. When I stopped holding a grudge and forgave my father instead, that was the turning point in our relationship. Forgiveness doesn't mean someone wasn't wrong. It means we refuse to seek revenge or withhold affections on account of those wrongs. It took me a long time, and multiple conscious decisions, to forgive me father for mistakes he has made.
I realized I am a lot like him - Good people can do very bad things. The day I realized I have some of the same tendencies as my father, a similar temperament, and many of the environmentally conditioned ways of thinking about things, that was the day I realized I could forgive him and get on with living.
I matured enough to recognize that all parents make mistakes - It took getting married and having in-laws for me to understand that every family has its quirks. All parents make mistakes. Some are more serious than others. But watching the way my mother-in-law has treated my wife made me realize that my father was about as human as a man can get. All parents make mistakes and should be forgiven.
I accepted him for who he is - There is much to like about my father. He has a great sense of humor, which I picked up. He is a hard worker with an unmatchable work ethic. He always provided for his family financially even if he couldn't emotionally. A product of a different time, I learned to accept my father for who he is rather than what I wanted him to be.
I quit trying to change him - The day I quit trying to change my father was the day I felt a heavily load drop off my shoulders. I lightened up and our relationship became so much better.
I prayed - I prayed and prayed that my father would change. Instead, God changed me from the inside out. My prayers were selfish, but God took them and turned them into an agent of change that allowed me to forgive my father, consider the anthropological forces at work in our relationship, and meditate on the dynamics of those forces so that I could better navigate our relationship in a world pressing against us. Prayer made me a better man even if it didn't change my father.
I recognized the power of God in our relationship - When I began to take on a God's-eye view of living, I began to see my relationship with my father with new perspective. That doesn't mean I don't make mistakes, nor does it mean that I can see all things with perfect precision, but by seeking to understand life and relationships from God's point of view, I realized that it isn't all about me. My father has three children and a wife. Managing each of those relationships during the 1970s when so many cultural changes were pushing against his worldview, I could see his challenges from a brand new light. That doesn't mean I agree with every decision he made, but I could understand them better. A relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ changed how I view relationships in general and especially my relationship with my father.
Are you struggling to love someone in your family? Maybe if you stopped holding a grudge, forgave them for their wrongs, and accepting them for who they are, you might find a way to love them in spite of themselves (and in spite of yourself). Quit trying to change them and pray about it. If you do pray, keep praying until you no longer feel the need to change them or punish them. God's grace is deeper than you think.
Allen Taylor is the author of I Am Not the King.
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