My older son is brave. Brave enough, in fact, that he takes the risk of telling me when I’ve hurt his feelings. Sometimes it’s said in a whisper, with me pulled close and his little hand cupping my ear to ensure I hear his words.
He has years of experience with me and my mistakes and how I handle them, multiple occasions when I’ve apologized and asked for his forgiveness. Yet there is no guarantee that THIS time, when he tells me I’ve wounded him, I will respond with humility. With sorrow at having caused a rift in our relationship or diminished his sense of security with me. Each time presents a new risk, a fresh exposure to rejection or ridicule.
A couple of weeks ago, this son of mine felt sick. It had been a long day for all involved. Much complaining ensued, bath time dragged on, and I got snappy. Insistent, demanding, naggy. More than once. Finally, as I rushed him to get the toys out of the bathtub, he started to cry. Then he told me those words: I had hurt his feelings.
Every time I have to face the consequences of the hurtful words I’ve hurled at my children, I am filled with regret. With wondering just how I could have believed giving vent to my frustration by lashing out would actually make me feel better. So, I pulled my son into my lap, and we talked.
I talk a lot in this kind of situation, probably too much, actually. But it is vitally important for me to get the words out, to be certain they’ve heard, these two boys of mine.
I always say some variation of these words…
1. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.
2. It was MY fault I got angry, not yours. It’s my job to exercise self-control and not let my frustration take control.
3. I was quick to get angry, and that was wrong. God’s Word tells me to be slow to anger (in James 1:19).
This particular time, I affirmed my son’s courage at confronting me with the truth–I had hurt him–and told him that I wanted him to keep being brave at doing this. That even when he’s much older and realizes that something I’ve done in the past has caused him hurt, I want him to talk to me about it. Because I don’t want anything to be left undone and unsettled in our relationship. I want him to find me trustworthy with his heart.
I invited my son to confront me because I want him to understand authentic relationships–and to practice them. Because I want him to experience authenticity in our family and to seek that out in his life. And I aim to practice being as brave in my relationships as he is.