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5 Reasons It’s Good to Fail as a Parent

Saturday was a bad day. Well, actually about half an hour of Saturday was bad. The brief spurt between the end of my son’s basketball game and our departure for family pictures was 30 minutes of unadulterated chaos. The majority of the disaster revolved around two things–my son’s meltdown and my failure to react well to it. In the course of 30 minutes I acted in some ways I never want to as a father–being impatient, threatening punishment, and yelling. While I hate that I reacted in those ways, I do think there are some redemptive things that can come out of such parenting failures. 

The opportunity to model responsibility.

When I fail in one respect or another as a dad I have the opportunity to take responsibility for my actions. I could have gone to my son and given him all the “reasons” I didn’t react the way I should have. I could have pushed the blame onto him for melting down (because an 8-year-old should be more mature than a 35-year-old, right?). We live in a society that often seeks every course of action other than taking responsibility for our actions. I don’t want my son to grow up to be one of those people. Times like Saturday allow me to go to him and clearly take responsibility for my actions.

The opportunity to engage conflict in healthy ways.

I have hated conflict for as long as I can remember. I have always avoided conflict. That’s not a good thing. When conflict is avoided or mishandled it leads to a negative impact on relationships. When it is engaged and worked through it actually adds depth and character to relationships. It makes them stronger. I’ve been learning that, especially in the past five years, and this was another opportunity to grow as a person and model positive conflict resolution for my son.

The opportunity for my son to extend forgiveness.

I won’t be the only one who does something wrong to my son in his life. I also won’t be the only one who wants to be forgiven. I want to be a person who can forgive others and I want that for my kids too. My failure gave my son the opportunity to practice forgiving. I hope this leads to an ability to forgive others as well–even those who don’t particularly care to be forgiven.

The opportunity to be forgiven.

I would rather extend forgiveness to someone than receive it myself. When I mess up with my kids, my wife, or others I love I have an especially hard time forgiving myself. But I need to be able to receive forgiveness from others. It is an important part of deep relationships and is a core component of my faith.

The opportunity to see the strength of our relationship.

Later on Saturday we had some good times together. As we were riding in the car together I was struck by the beauty of relationships that can withstand some meltdowns and failures. Our relationship is no worse off because of his meltdown or my failure in response–if anything it’s probably better. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of this and it made me long to continue becoming the kind of parent, husband, and friend who can fail and be failed by others.

The Weight (and Joy) of Responsibility

Lately I’ve been thinking about bags of gold. Not because I have real ones or because I’m dreaming of getting rich or because I fear the end of the world and the complete devaluation of currency–no, it’s because of a parable of Jesus. The one where he talks about the master who leaves for a long time, but before he does he gives his servants some of his money to invest however they see fit. Two of the servants do a bang-up job and the master praises them when he returns. The third just hides the money and gives it back to the master. The master isn’t so excited about that approach.

The point of the parable is that God entrusts us with things and wants us to be good stewards of them. There is a weight to responsibility. To whom much is given, much is required. I feel I’ve been given much in many ways, but recently I’ve been especially confronted with two, both having to do with kids.

The first is my own kids. I am the father and one of the primary influencers of two actual human beings. I do not control them, but I believe I will be held accountable for how well I love, encourage, support, empower, and at times correct them. I want them to know me as someone who is on their side, not by their side nagging. I want them to see that I am passionate about Jesus, their mom, them, and each moment of life I’m given. I could focus on the ways I fail, and I certainly think about those, but I’m more challenged to take hold of my responsibility by living a life of love, joy, and hope in front of them on a daily basis. You can’t fake that.

The second place I’ve been feeling the weight of responsibility is at our church. One of the great parts of Trailhead is that over half of our church is under the age of 18. There are a lot of kids running around! As a pastor I feel the weight of responsibility for helping those kids experience the love of Jesus, discover how to follow him, and to empower them as full participants in the community of faith. It is a joy to work at this alongside a bunch of talented, godly adults. It is something I so desperately want to do well. There is so much on the line.

I wouldn’t give up either of these responsibilities. There is weight to them but there is also so much joy. I love the purpose and challenge that come from each of them. Both of these responsibilities push me to continue growing as a person and follower of Jesus and to think creatively about how to steward these gifts well. 

God has given us all responsibilities. These are gifts and opportunities. Like the first two servants in Jesus’ parable, I hope we meet them with intention, creativity, and joy on a daily basis.