My father was an alcoholic and a horse gambler. And, while he was a natural athlete and coached little league with an unmatched passion, my father never made the time to teach me how to play baseball . . . or even have a father-son catch. Due to a lifetime of poor choices, Dad missed out on the bulk of my childhood. In the end, he lived a hard life, lost everything that was dear to his heart, and died alone in an abandoned warehouse.
In spite of his faults, I don’t ever recall my father speaking harshly to me. Never once did he call me a “loser” . . . or lecture me on how I’d never amount to anything. Admittedly, I carry around with me the disappointment of how different–and better–my childhood might have been had Dad been sober, a provider, and a man of his word. At the same time, I’m thankful that I don’t bear the scars of this kind of verbal abuse. I recently shared my story in a new book called Finding Home.
Dr. Dobson and I talked about it on the Focus on the Family broadcast which prompted a moving email from a woman. She, along with her thirteen-year-old son, were listening or, as she writes, were “captivated.” Evidently, they took real encouragement from the brokenness of my past–especially the part how God transformed those painful pages of my life into a story that only He could write.
You see, this woman had been divorced for a number of years. When her son was visiting his dad, this angry, bitter man unleashed a torrential downpour of hatred and rage upon the boy. Without rehearsing the terrible names he used to rip into his son, suffice it to say that the hostility was intense, and inexcusable. In the end, the dad said, “I disown you as my son.” What incredibly painful words for a thirteen-year-old boy to hear.
Imagine being thirteen, that age of transition from young boy to a young man. A time filled with uncertainty, not to mention the emotional, hormonal, and physical changes that can be utterly confusing and unsettling even in the best of times. To hear your father vent–not just once, but over an extended three-day period–had to have done serious damage to this youth.
I’m thankful my story provided this woman and her precious son with a ray of hope as well as the good news that God hasn’t finished writing his story yet. As I read her email, I was also reminded of a verse from the book of James in the Bible which says, “the tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Isn’t that the truth. Words can wound, deeply. Proverbs puts it this way, “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”
Seems to me that one of the greatest gifts we can give the next generation are words that bring healing and give life. Perhaps the best place to start is how we speak to one another in the home.