I have theories. Lots of theories. Some have been proven wrong, like the theory that bell bottoms will never go out of style and the word “groovy” will be used by everyone forever. It’s such a good word . . . But I also have more substantial theories, the parts of which have been borrowed and then assembled like Tinker Toys. (click here for an example of Tinker Toys. They are really groovy!) These parts of theories come from spending lots of time having long conversations with a lot of men, mostly fathers of young children. Other parts of my theory-tinker-toy-set come from reading Scripture, Eugene Peterson, and other really smart guys with impressive facial hair. A couple of these theories help me peek into the inner vault of the human soul—really.
Theory #137—Every reasonably healthy human has a singular primal need—to be deeply known and to still be loved.
Theory #83—Every reasonably healthy human has a deep primal fear—to be known and violently rejected.
So, you can see what a horrible mess we’re in. Our deepest, primal needs are typically overwhelmed and placed out of reach by our deepest primal fear. And from what do most of us suffer? The scars and dark memories of past rejections, some of which can be categorized as abusive. Many of us have been hurt so badly that we expect rejection. It is like the dragon in a fairy tale. You live in fear of it all the time, but there is nothing anyone can do about it. To live with the expectation of rejection is devastating and soul-crushing. If only there were someone who could slay this dragon . . .
There is nearly mythical power residing in all fathers—good ones, bad ones, fussy and demanding, or negligent and absent ones. This super power is, in my opinion, (think theory #163) God-given and, therefore, unavoidable. You cannot choose to NOT have this power.
If you procreate, you have this power. It is the power to shape your child’s perspective of the world. For good or for bad, dads wield this power.
If the dad abandons his family, or stays but is uninterested, the dad will infect his son, confirming the boy’s greatest fear that he is not worthy of attention, let alone of love. For this boy, the world ahead is dark and fraught with expectations of future rejection.
If the dad is loving, safe, and interested, the child will assume he is lovable, worth protecting, and a person who is downright interesting. Rejection will be a possibility in this broken world, but it will not be an expectation. This kid will also be so much more open to the overtures of a Heavenly Father. So, as a father of a teenage son, you must convince your boy that you love him. Not just when he performs well, like hitting home runs, making first chair, etc. Performance-based love is life-sucking. If I did an amazing thing today and you gave me approval and love, it only puts enormous pressure on me because I’m not sure I can ever duplicate this victory. Now I’m more stressed and possibly becoming more hopeless even as I continue to perform. On the other hand, telling your boy you love him for something that he already IS—that is the opposite of rejection. It is life-affirming.
“Son, I love how you think so creatively about things.
“Pal, I am so impressed by the way you always take care of your friends.”
“Jeff, when you draw, I feel like I can see your thoughts. Don’t ever stop drawing.”
“I love the way you love to learn. I wish I were more like that.”
“Son, you have the best heart I have ever seen. This world needs more kids like you.”
These things that are really true about your kids are probably things they don’t even value in themselves. These things need to be told, assured, and loved for them. This will be invigorating and life-affirming.
“What?” Your kid will think, “This thing I do easily and mostly without thinking is valuable and needed and even rare??!!! That is soooo groovy.”
I want to encourage you to use your native super powers to bless your kid with your attention, love, and admiration of something that is really true. Prove to him that you are one of the people who really deeply knows him and really deeply loves him, too. Not just one conversation—do this a lot. It can slay the dragon of “expected rejection.” It will be healing and perhaps a bit shocking. I remember a few things people told me as a boy that jarred me and absolutely changed my trajectory in life. These are not small crumbs left behind. These affirmations of love and confidence, of joy and admiration, of something you already are . . . they are likely to be conversations that will be remembered and retold to his kids and grandkids for generations after you are gone. And like me, your child will be able to believe that there are other people out there who will like him, accept him, and even love him simply because he is worthy of love. That would be (say it with me . . . ) so groovy.
Dave Carl is the Family Ministry Pastor at Stonebriar Community Church and is responsible for the ministry focusing on children birth through graduation and the parents who love. With a ministry philosophy based on Luke 10:27 his primary focus is to give parents the skills to raise kids who truly love Jesus and want to serve others. Dave has a passion for ministering to families in crisis in our community. He has spent several years pouring into fathers and husbands and helping them learn that they need community, were designed to guard and protect, and that they really can be the spiritual leaders of their family.
Dave and his wife Cathy of 20 plus years have three children with one married, one in college and one in high school. Dave is an avid woodworker and loves to write. He see’s all stories in the form of pictures in his head and he would love to connect with you!