Why are we so conflicted over our fathers? When I spoke recently at our church Men’s breakfast, I asked for examples of “good” things they remembered about their father. There were a surprisingly few hands and ideas. When I asked for examples of what they would have wanted differently from their fathers, numerous hands went up.
What seemed to have happened:
Our father is our first (and most influential) role model, especially as it relates to being a man. Problem is, it is sometimes hard to decide when to stop taking his advice. For example, maybe you really would like to be a lot less dictatorial around the house, but that’s the model you grew up with so it’s hard (it feels almost disloyal) to change. Even if you have gotten feedback from your wife, “You’re just like your father, a control freak” it may be hard to make the connection and the change.
The suggested approach/Language to use:
It is time for self talk. Just relax and tell yourself it’s ok to make your own decisions–in fact, you might have to lovingly tell him you want to do things differently (assuming he is still alive and involved in your life). Believe it or not, this is very hard to for a lot of men. Even if you feel you MUST tell him what you are doing, you probably are influenced by him entirely too much for an adult.
The skinny (what’s really going on here):
It can feel very scary striking out in a different (emotional) direction than we have been accustomed to. But if you have wrestled with this issue and gotten some feedback similar to that above, you know it is the right thing to do. Give yourself permission to break free of the automated habits of the past and try a different tack. Tell your wife what you are up to–she will likely applaud your efforts and be very supportive. She’ll also understand when you fall back into old ways, assuming you don’t stay there!
What to work on this week:
Get in the habit of thinking about your actions and WHY you are doing things the way you do. Live your life more deliberately by thinking reflectively about your behavior and noticing how other men are behaving in similar circumstances. Keep a journal if it helps to remind yourself of the things you’re trying to change. And when you feel you are successful, give yourself a special treat.
Jerry Hancock, Executive Director Of Men In Balance, Inc.