At the time I (Bill) was writing 7 Simple Skills for Every Man, I had…
I was talking with a friend yesterday who reminded me that sometimes the best choice is the abnormal choice. The normal tendency in life is to repeat what you learned from your parents in some way. We are all so attached to our parents during our most formative years that their influence sinks deep in our souls and takes root. When the influence is healthy, it is a great asset in our lives because we find doing the right thing to be simple and straightforward. If, however, the influence is dysfunctional, it can be agonizing as we enthusiastically do things we would never encourage other people to do.
I saw the power of the family in 1 Kings 22 this morning. “Jehoshaphat son of Asa became king of Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel. Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-five years. His mother’s name was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. In everything he followed the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD” (verses 41-3). He had a strong family and his parents were worthy to be followed. He had a long and healthy reign in Judah as he did what his family had done.
On the other hand, “Ahaziah son of Ahab became king of Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, because he followed the ways of his father and mother and of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin” (verses 51-2). Ahaziah had a strong family but his parents were self-serving and corrupt. He had a short and disastrous reign in Israel as he did what his family had done.
In both cases, these men followed their families’ example because this is the normal thing to do. Reading this took me back to the time when I realized I had to honestly evaluate my parents and their influence in my life. As with most parents, they are a combination of stellar traits and silly deficiencies. My dad is a hard working man who loved his job and kept his promises. These are traits I treasure since they were easy for me to learn by watching his example. At the same time, my dad avoids conflict, resists opportunities to lead and lacks urgency in his personal growth and physical condition. These are traits I do not want to repeat in my life. I used to try to change him as a way of developing healthier characteristics in me and I have finally grown to the point where I am content to just work on me. My mom is a remarkably creative, astonishingly energetic woman. I have been inspired by these gifts in her but they were hard to appreciate growing up. They were overshadowed by fears that isolated her from others and ruled every decision in our family. The fear was so stifling that her talents have been hidden from most of the world. I love the fact that a creative, energetic approach to life comes easily to me but I am still amazed at how many times I think it is bad news when the phone rings.
For me to keep moving forward in my life, I need to embrace the positive influence of my family while making the abnormal choice to do something different in the areas of their shortcomings. By the way, if my kids are reading this, you have my full permission to evaluate me as an influence in your life. I hope I have left a positive example that you find helpful but I am aware of my imperfections. I would be a very proud dad if you benefit from what I did well and courageously made the abnormal choices to add even more value to your lives as you recognize areas in which I still need growth.