I had an important realization this week. One of those moments where it was like “Man, I’m an idiot! How didn’t I see this before? It’s so obvious… now.” For most of my self-aware life a constant theme has been wanting to make my parents proud of me, especially my dad. This desire became even stronger after he passed away when I was 25. One of the most memorable things my dad said to me was when I was eight years old and he yelled across the yard in frustration: “You’re lazy! You’re lazy and useless!” Let me be clear, my dad was a wonderful man. He was incredibly generous with his time, talents, and money. At his funeral he had a line up of people out the funeral home doors at all four viewings because he had touched so many lives through his work, church life, volunteering, and singing in several choirs. At home he was an incredible provider sacrificing many of his wants for his families’. When he called me lazy and useles it was crushing, but truth be told… it wasn’t necessarily wrong. After a day of slaving away in the hot sun while I was inside doing nothing, my dad asked me to do something for him and I complained. Yes, I’m aware he didn’t handle the situation properly… it did scar me… but I can see why he did it, especially when he was so tired (anger is a greater risk when we’re tired, hungry, anxious, and not sober, which is why it can be wise to try to prevent these things). I’m sure this moment is connected to why I now struggle with being a workaholic, but there are other factors that pushed me to this like my competitive spirit and people-pleasing mentality. Regardless, the point is I have spent the greater part of my life wondering if my dad was or would be proud of me. Certain occasions like graduations were a time I could tell he was proud…. and no, that’s not why I kept going to school for more degrees; that’s just a coincidence… a very unfortunate coincidence because I never intended to do so much schooling. This desire to feel like my dad would be proud of me did leave me loving the movie Robots where the son makes his father proud of him, and it’s why I balled my eyes when the dad in the movie Woodlawn says to his son that he’s proud of him. I’ve ended up re-watching the latter many time in order to feel the sense of hope that scene gives me. To continue this level of openness, this desire to make my dad proud extends further to wanting to make God proud. I know we all fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), but I’ve wanted to feel like I am living in a way that He is proud to call me His own, especially when the more God gives the more He expects (Luke 12:48), and He’s given me a lot like great parents.
And here’s what I realized: My dad and God, they are already proud of me. They were proud of me the moment I was born. I didn’t have to earn anything. Seeing my brother with his daughter and all my friends with their children, dads are already proud of their kids because they are their kids. There’s nothing to be earned. It’s already given. What’s crazy is I’ve been so worried about being good enough for my dad and God when I already was. For anyone who has a parent who isn’t proud of them, unless you’re evil, your parent isn’t proud of you because they suck. If you don’t grow up to be a decent person, the parent sucked. That’s not an excuse for you to be a jerk, but it does mean that if you’re a decent person and your parents aren’t proud of you, that’s on them and not you. A real parent is already proud of you. If anything, a lot of parents end up putting too much pressure on themselves to make their kids proud of them. Thus, both parents and kids would be better off showing appreciation to each other rather than earn anything.
When I think about it now, all that time I spent trying to make my dad proud was really me looking for a reason to like myself and be proud of my own accomplishments. I needed to feel validated in some way to feel like I’m okay. Ultimately, what we all need to remember is that a real parent (not a sucky one) is more worried about their child living a life that’s full of fulfillment and happiness. Instead of being afraid of not being good enough, I need to pursue activities that bring fulfillment while being grateful for all I have in order to be happier, which is really what they want for me. A real parent isn’t worried about their child having fame, fortune, or status. It’s about living a life that’s good. This week may you realize how proud your parents are of you (or that they’re the screw up and not you) and use this to feel the happiness a real parent wants for their child.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people