Donna (not her real name) is fifteen years old, a Christian, and argues frequently with her dad. She affirms that she loves her dad. She says that she wants his affirmation, attention, and a close enjoyable relationship with him. At the same time, she harbors a continued sense of failure to please him. She perceives him to be angry at her. She is growing increasingly angry at him.
If you perceive yourself to frequently fail to live up to the standards of a parent, consider the following:
Remember that the Lord’s lovingkindness is as high as the heavens toward those who fear Him (Ps. 103:11). Evaluate whether you are one who fears God. If you aren’t, turn to Him in repentance so that you might become a recipient of His lovingkindness that is as high as the heavens. If you are, take Him at His Word. You have the love of the God of the universe, the One who loves perfectly. He sacrificed His Son for you so that you might receive His forgiveness. You are in intimate relationship with Him even if you don’t feel it. As a perfect Father, He showers you with good, both physical and spiritual.
Remember that the Lord’s “sovereignty rules over all” (Ps. 103:19). If you are one who fears the Lord, then you can rest in the fact that since God sovereignly rules over all, having your dad for a dad is neither an accident nor intended for harm. Romans 8:28 says that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God.” Since God is in control and has a good purpose, He is trustworthy. Determine to trust Him, that in giving you the dad you have He intends it for your benefit. Refuse to fret. Apply yourself to pleasing God within your situation, trusting Him to use even the unpleasant interactions for your good as you submit to Him.
Consider the consequences of your responses. What good comes from arguing? What evil comes from it? For example:
- The arguer hurts others with harsh words (Prov. 15:1).
- The arguer has a contentious heart, never satisfied unless he has his own way (Prov. 19:13).
- The arguer keeps himself ignorant and foolish because he refuses to listen (Prov. 1:22).
- Arguing earns punishment, but the teachable person listens and learns (Prov. 21:11).
- Each unrepented argument heaps guilt onto the rest of the consequences.
This is only a smidgeon of the unpleasant consequences that pour their complications into the lap of the arguer because habitual anger produces many sins. “An angry man stirs up dissension and…commits many sins” (Prov. 29:22). He commits many sins because he does not control himself; therefore, many areas of his life go out of control (Prov. 29:11). It isn’t just with dad that Donna is out of control. She needs to evaluate whether she practices self-control in her conversation with friends, in her choice of friends, in her thoughts of criticism of others, in her thoughts about sex and romance, in her church attendance and daily devotions, regarding how she handles money, time, food, etc.
Evaluate your heart. Matthew 15:18 says that the things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart. Good or evil is brought forth from the good or evil treasure of the heart (Matt. 12:35). If you want a parent’s affirmation or attention so much that you choose anger when you don’t get it, then you have made affirmation of yourself or attention for yourself more important than pleasing the Lord. Your anger is selfish, not God-glorifying. If you are willing to disobey God by dishonoring your parents, by complaining, and by arguing, then you treasure your way, not God’s way. By contrast, “consider Him who has endured such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:3). Jesus suffered death rather than disobey His Father’s will that He be unjustly reviled, beaten, and crucified. It is not wrong to want your parents’ affirmation, but it is wrong to demand it. Make it your greater desire to please the Lord even if you never receive that affirmation.
Plan God-pleasing Responses. When tempted to argue, stop and ask permission for time to think. Proverbs 15:28 says that “the heart of the righteous ponders how to answer.” Go to your room or a quiet place. Pray and get your heart right before God. On paper, list what each person said in the conversation. Evaluate your responses, whether you argued, manipulated, complained, whined, etc. Repent. Then consult Scripture and plan a godly, wise response. Attack the problem, not the person. Avoid manipulation. If needed, ask your parents for help with your planning.
The next post Anger Over Disappointing Dad (Part 2) – Practical Applications contains biblical actions a person can take when dealing with perceptions of failing to meet parental expectations.