I could have titled this article The amazing things that happen when a father says “sorry”, but having the courage to say sorry and exercise forgiveness will work for anyone: dad, mum, male or female.
Some years ago, at my daughter’s engagement party, I had the honour of giving a short speech. Recently I wrote about the fact that “in families, change is the only constant”.
What I didn’t tell you was that in my speech, I commented in an unflattering fashion about the fact that my daughter is a musician and my future son-in-law was an artist, and that both occupations are a road to the poorhouse. I further commented that it would cause major challenges for them and would make life hard.
Now I know that you are not impressed with my lack of encouraging words, but it happens that I did speak from experience, having travelled all over Australia and around the world playing music for well over a decade. Musicians are one step below single mothers on the poverty line. What I said about the impoverishing effect of being a musician is true.
I can also speak from a certain amount of experience on the art front, as someone who could have become a full-time artist, had I chosen to do so. I have numerous friends who are artists, and so I understand the challenges of pursuing a career in art firsthand. Being an artist and trying to make a living from it is a hard row to hoe.
At the time of my speech, I had a sinking feeling that I should not have said what I said, but I pushed it to the back of my mind, as one does. It is so easy to live in delusion!
The following week, I attended the Hillsong Conference in Sydney, one of the largest in the southern hemisphere. The Hillsong Conference is a Christian conference with a strong musical and creative direction with strong teaching in the areas of leadership, self development and spiritual matters, as well as family and relationships.
Joyce Meyer, who has a program on TV, spoke about the importance of forgiveness and having the courage to say sorry, as keys to physical health and sustaining healthy relationships. Her message was extremely challenging.
Joyce had grown up with a father who sexually abused her as a young girl, and she found it a great challenge to forgive him. Her mother was compliant in the abuse process, so she had a challenge to forgive her mother as well. Many years later, when her parents aged, she bought them a house in the city in which she lived, so she could better look after them and be closer to them.
At first, she was going to furnish the house with secondhand furniture, but instead she bought new furniture for them. Up until this stage, her father had never properly said sorry for his shocking behaviour and betrayal of his daughter. It was three years after she had bought the house for her parents that her father broke down and finally apologised for his evil behaviour. Their relationship was mended.
The reality was that her relationship with her father was mended the day she decided to buy the house for her parents. The reality, as Joyce pointed out, is that unforgiveness and holding onto feelings of hostility doesn’t do anyone any good. Wrong is still wrong, but unforgiveness and bitterness will destroy you, often before it ever destroys the offending party.
“There’s a lot of research on the negative effects of hostility” says Stanford University psychologist Fred Luskin, author of Forgive for Good.
“It makes you much more likely to have heart disease. It increases your risk of stress-related disorder. It raises your blood pressure. Wanting to hurt someone is like pouring Draino into your insides.”
Joyce Meyer’s words about forgiveness, saying sorry and the power of your words really impacted and challenged me. All week, the conviction grew that I had to make a public apology to my daughter and future son-in-law about my negative comments on their chosen profession.
One thing I have learnt as a father is that when you make a public mistake, you should give a public apology. It was and still is my rule, but it is a hard one to keep. We all have an ego. No one likes to admit they are wrong!
A father’s words are powerful — period. A father has to be very careful about what he says. A father can also make mistakes. But more importantly, a father has to learn to apologise quickly.
So, the following week, at our weekly family meal, I told them both that I was wrong to say what I said. I told them that I should have been more positive. I should have said publicly that they will both do well and succeed financially at what they do, and that their needs will be met. And then I asked for their forgiveness. I was blessed to receive it!
Amazingly, within a week my future son-in-law rang me to tell me how they had received a miraculous provision of a 3-bedroom house with a garage, to rent at a ridiculous price from a family member for when they were going to get married.
He was particularly excited about the garage, as this would enable him to set up a professional art studio. I have no doubt that my apology and setting the record straight, so to speak, was part of the chain reaction of positive happenings in their lives and future.
“Amazing things happen” when a father says sorry.
The sky’s the limit on this one. All of us have said things we shouldn’t have said. All of us have been hurt by things that shouldn’t have been said to us. So now is the time to look up The Five Languages of Apology, by Dr Gary Chapman and Dr Jennifer Thomas.
Then you can start to rebuild some broken relationships, forgive and forget, and get rid of the damage that the Draino has done to your insides. I guarantee you will feel better for it, and will be amazed at the miracles that start to happen.
Yours for the miraculous power of apology,