For years into early adulthood I remember feeling this deep frustration toward my dad. I found myself in this sort of empty place because I couldn’t seem to find my place in the world. I wasn’t sure who I was, so I couldn’t be sure of what my hobbies were, who my friends should be, what goals I should have, and ultimately as a result, I wasn’t sure what I was made of or for. Out of fear from reaching the end of myself, I turned to anger and blame. The perfect candidate for me, and maybe many of you as well, to push that pain off of me and onto someone else was my dad. In my internal rage that no one knew about I was screaming “why didn’t you spend more time with me!” “Why didn’t you shape me better!” “Why didn’t you!” “Why didn’t you?” Pretty clear to see the trend I was focusing on. My dad never stood a chance from this view and I was locked up from this bitterness.
Have you ever been there before? Afraid and unsure of your identity or place? Do you have someone important in your life you are holding at a distance because of that pain?
As I got more mature from gaining more experiences and opportunities in life, I realize now how wrong I was about my dad. I hope you have found that about your person, or people, now, but if not I hope this helps you get there. See, my dad rode skateboards with me and played wiffle ball in the front yard with me and took me to rent games I liked to play (yeah, before the era of downloading games to your console and the Blockbuster demise). He was there, until “he wasn’t”. I remember feeling like he wasn’t there when I got older and more troubled. I got into things he was not experienced in. Anxiety, addictions, and deception to cover guilt were not his speciality, but I expected it to be. Because of that expectation, “he wasn’t there.” As I waited on him to absorb my fear and walk me through these uncertain issues, I missed him researching how to help. I missed him spreading himself thin to find the right resources, crying to family members, and his constant concern. I missed him caring about me.
As I reflect this month on caring about others, I know this is something so many of us deal with. Does our family really care about us? Do our friends really want us? Do we really have a place? Without proper direction, these questions lead us to inflated, imbalanced expectations and as a result, our relationships are damaged. When those relationships get damaged, our faith, hope, and love get damaged as well. So what should we expect from others?
Our expectations will vary by relationship. With my dad, I should have expected love from him, not to take the role of God. If I was seeking the question of “did he care for me?” I would have easily answered “yes” and satisfaction would have met me. Hope restored. But that’s not what I was seeking. Instead, I was seeking the question of “is my dad really all-knowing enough to take care of this for me? Can he walk me through this?” No, he could not, and I should not have expected that. My dad didn’t face those issues, so he had nothing to draw from. Why would I have expected him to carry me through something he knew nothing about? Knowledge alone cannot carry us through all things, but love can carry us through until we find the knowledge we need.
People cannot share what they do not have. This does not mean we should expect less of people. It means we should forgive more. It means we should find what is being offered; we should find what can be offered.
Are you expecting something from your parents they are not able to give? If you are like me above, check yourself to see if you are looking for what they can offer. Sometimes good parents get looked over from our own painful projections. If your parents left you, there is no excuse for an absent or an abusive parent, but it helps to forgive them if you can determine if they were able to draw from their own parents for guidance. Maybe their parents were absent or abusive. It doesn’t make it ok, but it enables you to forgive and seek a better life. You set yourself up to break that kind of generational curse if you get from a place of pain and anger, to a place of peace. That path is only found through forgiveness. This also applies to our friends, our spouses, our coaches, our teachers, and any others in a role we look up to.
I encourage you today to find what these people can offer. I hope that what you find is that they have been offering that all along.