Take a moment to imagine yourself as an observer of a stadium filled with 50,000 men, all of them with families. A question is then posed by the moderator to this massive group: “By a show of hands, how many of you dads and husbands have agonized over one or both of these questions—
- “Where did I go wrong?”
- “Will my child be permanently damaged because of what I did…or failed to do?”
It is my belief that EVERY HAND in that stadium would be raised. Every…single…hand. Both of my hands would be raised! How about you?
- Have you ever been that guy, laying in bed at 3 a.m., chugging down the warm glass of regret…replaying over and over in the theater of your mind your actions and words towards your wife and kids, wishing you could take them back? For me, it’s too many times to count.
- Have you ever felt like you were the “failure dad” or “failure husband” in the group, and that everyone else seemed to be doing better than you? My hand is up again!
Parental guilt it is so prevalent that one psychologist called it “a silent epidemic.” That co-worker that looks like he has it all together? Nope. He’s battling it too.
We ALL struggle with feelings of guilt and failure…whether it be from anger, overreaction, permissiveness, inconsistency with discipline, or you name it…and it can stop you in your tracks.
But it doesn’t have to.
I want to expose 2 more toxic beliefs that will paralyze you if not extracted, and two empowering perspectives that will set you free. Let’s get to work.
Toxic Belief #5: “I’m going to make too many mistakes!”
I’m going to get rid of the elephant in the room immediately: Despite your best intentions and greatest efforts, you’re going to wound and disappoint your wife and kids…many times. You’re going to drop the ball. You know it is true. It is unavoidable.
BUT…you can’t let this reality keep you from diving in and giving your dead-level best as a dad and husband. You can’t allow fear and then guilt to push you to the fringes of your family and into insignificance. THAT would be a mistake…a big mistake! Your most precious people need you to enthusiastically engage with them, and this will mean making mistakes. And that is okay.
Check this out. Someone once told me: “You’ve got to be willing to be the disaster before you can be the master.” Let me say it again: “You’ve got to be willing to be the disaster before you can be the master.” Aahh…that’s good. Does that make sense to you, my friend? This is a journey…and you don’t start as a master.
Here are 2 keys to moving from “disaster” to “master”:
#1 Work on Yourself. Everyday. Brother, this skill of being a husband and father requires you to focus on yourself first, and work on yourself daily. Where are you struggling? Where are you tripping up over and over? That place is your mission. It might involve reading, journaling, joining a group, getting a coach, meeting with a pastor or mentor. Whatever. But it has to be a top priority every day to improve in that area.
#2 Make Amends. Quickly. The other day I snapped at my wife, and allowed myself to say some really crude and harsh things to her. Of course, I felt justified because of the way she was talking to me. I was just “putting her in her place.” I stomped up to my office, rationalizing my behavior and arguing with my conscience. But I knew what I needed to do. Aagghh! What a wrestling match with my pride. A few minutes later, I slunk back down to the scene of the crime and asked her to forgive my ugliness. Victory. Relationship restored.
We can’t quarantine our wife and kids from our mistakes and the pain they cause, but we can certainly ease the pain and accelerate the healing by our sincere remorse and prompt apologies. This act of humility will go along way towards curbing the impact of our negative actions…and will also help prevent us from repeating them over and over.
I love what life coach, Steve Chandler says: “Do it badly, do it slowly, do it fearfully…do it any way you have to do it, but DO IT!” Being a disaster on your way to becoming a master is the price of admission. Just DO it! Jump on in and get dirty.
Here is an empowering belief for you to repeat over and over until it gets into your soul: “I’m willing to be the disaster in order to become the master!”
Relax and take a deep breath, my brother. We’re all on this journey together.
Toxic Belief #6: “I Have to Find the Best Way!”
For years I put immense pressure on myself to be “the perfect dad” and to raise “the perfect kids” and to have “the perfect marriage.” What was the outcome? I became an angry, semi-psychotic, control-freak that created mass mayhem in my family! Exactly the opposite of what I had hoped to create!
Perfectionism…“trying to find the best way”…is often portrayed as a desire for excellence. But is it, really? Not in my case, for sure.
Here are some insights into perfectionism:
- Perfectionism is not the same as having high standards. It is really a cover up for fear, feelings of inadequacy, people-pleasing and a desire to look successful.
- A perfectionist will stumble and then feel disappointed both in HOW they DID and WHO they ARE. Their identity and value as a person is in question.
- Studies have shown that perfectionism creates depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and a whole host of health problems and disorders.
- Ultimately, perfectionists have a higher suicide rate and die earlier in life.
And, I will add: (While we are alive) we drive ourselves and our families crazy!
I can’t see any upside from perfectionism. So…here is a “Perfectionism-Busting” principle that is a much better way:
“Be okay with B- work.”
Brooke Castillo, one of my mentors, teaches about perfection this way:
“B- work is better than no work. I must be OK with B- work that gets finished rather than A+ work that doesn’t. My completion rate and productivity will skyrocket if I learn to be OK with B- work. Perfectionism is for scared people. Be willing to do B- work to get it done, and then refine it later.”
- “B- work will skyrocket your productivity at home.” Oh, I hear the perfectionists objecting already, but as a recovering perfectionistic husband and dad I can say with confidence that “B-“ without all the pressure, anxiety and mayhem is so much better than trying to manipulate and control your way to “A+” with conflict, confusion and chaos. Let go of “A+”. It is likely killing you and your family.
- “Do…and then refine.” Take the pressure off of yourself, my perfectionistic brother. Take the pressure off of your wife and kids. Celebrate your family’s “B-‘s.” You can always adjust and refine. There’ll be plenty more opportunities, rest assured.
Here is a new and empowering belief: “I can let go of A+. B- is just fine for now.”
Tying it all together
If I am willing to just dive in and “DO IT” as a husband and father, even if it is messy, and dump my irrational need for perfection, I will exponentially increase my chances of winning at home.
In Part 4 of this series, I will wrap up with 2 mindsets that have absolutely crippled me in the past, but no longer, and will end with a powerful and personal encouragement as you take bold, intentional steps to grow.
What kind of guilt have you felt as a husband or father? How have you deal with that guilt? Please share your thoughts in the comments section, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.