Q: I hate Father's Day. My dad never said, "I love you," or told me he was proud of me. Eventually he abandoned our family completely. He was never a positive influence in my life -- why should I honor him?
Jim: I feel for you. My own history with my dad wasn't much different from yours, so I understand some of the angst you may feel around Father's Day. But we can still respect long-held traditions that teach us to honor our dads. That's because honoring your father is as much for you as it is for him -- maybe more so.
As you may know, I draw my values from the Bible, which was originally written in Hebrew and Greek. The ancient Greek word that means "honor" is often more specifically translated as "honoring that which is honorable." In other words, we aren't expected to respect our father for his abuse or his irresponsibility. But we should honor him for the positive things -- however few -- he represented. For some of us, that may be nothing more than the fact that he was responsible for giving us life.
And there's a personal benefit in that action. Honoring a dad who wasn't all he should have been requires us to forgive. From personal experience, I can attest that it's a long, challenging process. It certainly doesn't erase a lifetime of poor choices our fathers may have made. But it does release us from the emotional prison our resentment can keep us trapped in. And if your dad is still alive, it could be a first step on a journey of healing for both of you.
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Q: Usually when I want to express my love for my husband verbally or in writing, I list reasons why he means so much to me: He's a good dad, provides for our family, etc. But he doesn't seem to appreciate those compliments like he used to. Am I missing something?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Most of us, when asked to make a list of the reasons why we love our spouse, would probably start with "because": I love my wife because she's good to me ... because she's kind ... because she's considerate ... because she's romantic.
There's certainly nothing wrong with those things. But true, lasting love goes much deeper than that. Author Gary Thomas has noted that it's easy to love someone because they're always doing nice things for you and making you feel good about yourself. Anyone can love somebody like that.
Real life is different, though. Even the best spouse is going to let you down from time to time. All of us tend to be self-absorbed, forgetful and even mean-spirited. It's true of you and me, and it's true of the people we're married to. But if you can love a spouse who disappoints you, you aren't loving them because of anything -- you're loving them anyway.
Will a woman love her husband who doesn't express appreciation for the sacrifices she makes? Who takes her for granted? Can a man love a wife who isn't nearly as kind to him as he is to her? We all want to be loved anyway, in spite of our own faults, so shouldn't we treat the person closest to us the way we want to be treated?
One key to a healthy marriage is to get to the point where you and your spouse can say to each other, "I love you because ... and I love you anyway." If you can get that balance right, your marriage likely has what it takes to go the distance.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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