My Apology, Your Band Aid

            One of the greatest challenges of child-rearing is “getting it right”. While the goal of raising happy, healthy children absent any blunders or mistakes is a noble one, it sadly is not realistic. The truth is, parents frequently fall short of the parental ideal depicted in 1950’s sitcom reruns. Life is complicated, and its pressures often lead us in directions that result in feelings of parental failure and frustration.

            For instance, how many times have we snapped at our children when the issue was more about our state of mind than their behavior? How many times has our stress or impatience delivered a sterner response than was warranted by an adolescent’s lack of wisdom and experience? The self-imposed expectation of “right” reactions in all scenarios can be overwhelming. But what if our focus changed from “getting it right” to simply making things better when we don’t. When our honest communication following a misstep bandages an emotional wound we never intended.

            My sisters and I grew up in a home of rigid, harsh discipline, my father’s uncensored anger the driving force. While we never verbally questioned the unreasonableness of his parental rule, our frustration on occasion would betray our faces and expose our feelings of unfairness. To that, a barrage of “because” would commence – the most reiterated, “because I said so”. To complicate matters, my mother was emotionally detached, herself falling into unhealthy, reactionary patterns. Sadly in this scenario, getting it right was not a consideration, and the unattended heart wounds that were left to fester and cause damage were abundant.

            From adolescence, my sister and I determined we would not be like our parents. We never wanted our children to be trapped in unfairness and frustration, never understanding the significance of the “offense” or the “whys” behind disciplinary measures. Committed to a different style of parenting, we promised ourselves that our children would experience reason rather than reaction, a sense of nurturing rather than oppression.

            Fast forward to adulthood and it became clear that the pressures of life, with regularity, interfere with “getting it right.” Not to the degree of our childhood experiences thankfully, but undesired nonetheless. So what then? How do we address unintended wounds after unachieved goals? How do we mend breaches between the young ones entrusted to our care and our mistakes?

            Quite simply, we humbly and honestly offer a band aid – an apology when warranted, and an explanation when needed. Neither action compromises our authority, and will most likely inspire forgiveness after “not” getting it right.

            I remember a specific incident when my sister reacted to one of her children in a particularly harsh way. The issue itself wasn’t major, but since it was a new challenge in their relationship, it felt monumental. Hours later and in tears, she confessed to me how her reaction had been unreasonable to the offense. Her son had not acted out of defiance or rebelliousness, he was merely maneuvering a path he had never walked before and made a decision based on his not-yet mature reasoning.

            After explaining her undesired reaction to the situation, I asked her what happened next. She shared they both went their separate ways, but after several minutes she knocked on her son’s door for a follow-up – her normal procedure. 

            “Then what?” I  asked. She responded that she sat on his bed, apologized for her delivery, and in a calmer manner honestly shared the reasons for her concerns.

            “Then what?” I prompted. She shared he apologized for his reaction and agreed that her concerns did make sense. They then hugged, apologized to each other again for the miscommunication, and she left his room, both saying “I love you” before the door closed.

            “Then that’s what he’ll remember,” I assured her. Not the blow up, but the purposed decision to address the frustration the confrontation produced. Effects that had the potential to linger and cause emotional division, were soothed through humility and honesty. When her son emerged from his room minutes later, there was no residual anger or tension, because the band aid had been applied and healing had already begun.

            Today, my sister enjoys a very loving and rewarding relationship with her four grown children because she implemented the practice of bandaging unintended wounds. And over the years I’ve watched as her children have exercised the same principles with each other, with their significant others, and now with their own children.

            Some of our family’s fondest memories, when we belly-laugh around the table, are those moments of stupid mistakes and reactionary blunders. But the hurt is not the theme of their stories, it’s the bond and acknowledgement of growth that takes center stage.

            I’ve learned there are several steps to successful bandaging. The first requirement: assessment. After a blow-up occurs, when lines have been drawn and opposite corners occupied, you must assess your reaction based on the offense. Was the reaction dismissive, angry, impatient, or unreasonable? If yes, then consider the response that would have been more appropriate – the response you would have preferred if the roles were reversed.

            Next comes humility. As parents, there’s a self-imposed expectation that we must be the authority of getting it right in all things. But that is not realistic, and, it’s okay to admit that truth. When the dust settles following an unfortunate confrontation, approach your child with a spirit of reconciliation. Be thoughtful of your words, formulating them slowly with the intent of bringing healing to the relational tear. Be careful here not to view the response and message as one in the same. Consider only the method of the delivery. The message of concern may be valid, but the faulty expression should be the focus.

            Honestly apologize for your response, convey why it wasn’t the best, and why it probably happened. For instance: I’m sorry I snapped at you. I’ve been under a lot of pressure at work, but it wasn’t fair to take it out on you. Or, I apologize for my reaction. Sometimes I’m not a good listener, and I need to do better so I can hear you.  

            At this point resist the desire to preach or emphasize their “part” in the confrontation. Allow silence to marinate your words, hopefully prompting acceptance of your apology. Chances are your child is just as anxious to relieve the tension as you are, and will express their forgiveness, removing the largest boulder from the road to reconciliation.

            Once forgiven, prepare to honestly share your concerns about their choice or indiscretion. Start this part of the conversation addressing the consequences you fear may follow their decision. Don’t belittle them or defend your “rightness”, rather speak from the wisdom of your years, and your desire for their happiness and well-being.

            “Getting it right” will always be a challenge, and our unsuccessful attempts will accentuate that truth over and over again. But if we redirect our focus to “making it better” when relational wounds do occur, applying band aids of humility, honesty, and patience, then healing will become the theme of the story.



I attended a memorial service recently.  It was not an overly sad occasion – the departed in her mid-eighties, having lived a full and happy life. She raised two children, and was grandma to 6 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. Her family described her as caring and devoted; her friends and neighbors remembered her hospitality and the pot of coffee that was always ready for morning and afternoon chats. For those whose lives intertwined with hers, she was remembered as a good listener, and a generous woman with her time, attention, and kindness.

The service was typical in every way, until the pastor stood to speak.  Usually in those settings the left-behind are encouraged to take comfort in their memories, and to consider their own eternal destinations, but this pastor began his commentary by challenging each person with one simple statement –

“You know, just as our departed did, everyone here is writing their own eulogy.”

I think in that moment he captured everyone’s attention, because we became very aware that how the departed conducted her life – her choices to be kind and giving, supportive and dependable – supplied all of the meaningful sentiment for that gathering. She had been writing a story spanning 85 years, and it was one of which she could be extremely proud.

As we go through each day, I believe it’s important for us to remember that our character and actions, the words we speak and the goodness we express, are writing the story that will be shared at our departure. Family and friends may speak on our behalf, but we ourselves will have provided them with the content.

I for one want the themes of my story to be thoughtfulness, generosity, devotion, helpfulness, and humor, to name a few. I want each chapter to inspire good memories that will be recalled and shared with generations to come. I want to write an amazing eulogy now, ensuring that there won’t be enough words to adequately describe how I blessed those who shared life with me.    


Healing Hands

(an excerpt from “Life’s Journey”)

Many years ago I had a dog that wandered beyond the perimeter of the backyard into a field overgrown with weeds. As I watched her make her way back into the yard, I noticed she was limping, favoring her back paw. Understanding she probably picked up a rock or thorn in her travels, I sympathetically called her to me so I could remedy the irritation. But my normally obedient and responsive dog began to slowly and purposefully circle beyond my reach. As I continued to call her to me and attempted to move closer, she deliberately circled further out, avoiding all contact. I was frustrated by her response because clearly my desire was to relieve her of pain – she knew I loved her, she knew I wanted to help, so why then did she continue to avoid me?

Finally, knowing what was best for her, I sternly commanded her to lie down. Hesitantly she obeyed, but as I made my way toward her I sensed her desperate desire to ignore the command and again move out of reach. As I began to lay her on her side I was met with resistance and defensiveness, and as I began to examine her paw I received a response I had never experienced before – my dog growled at me. Though I had always been a loving and caring master to my friend, in that moment her pain was so great she could not allow herself to be vulnerable to me.  She was resigned to experiencing ongoing, continual pain rather than risk the anticipated pain of removing the irritant. To her benefit, the love I felt for my friend would not allow me to leave her in pain. As I soothed her fears, assuring her of my concern and promising only my best, she became vulnerable, opening herself to my healing hands. After I removed the deeply imbedded thorn the relief and liberation was apparent as her walk was renewed and her enthusiasm returned.

Just as my canine companion was required to be vulnerable in order to exchange her hardship for my help, on life’s journey I have been required to be vulnerable to a loving and caring God in order to experience forward motion. Certainly there were times I circled far beyond His reach, deliberately avoiding exposure of my wounds and the touch of His healing hand. I am aware of many occasions when I growled at God’s desire to address the source of my pain. Simply put, I was afraid. But when the thought of living with ongoing, continual pain scared me even more, when the prospect of limping through life finally became too much to bear, when I accepted the possibility that He did not want me to remain in pain, I was able to assume the risk of vulnerability in exchange for a renewed and fulfilling journey.

If you are walking in pain, I promise that God wants to bring healing and relief to your burden. You may be afraid that it will hurt too much to let Him touch the tender spots, but once His hands have finished their work, I know you will experience all the hope a loving God intends. Perhaps now is the time to ask for the touch of His healing hands.

Dear Younger Me

Most everyone has heard the saying – if I knew then what I know now – a line usually followed by a barrage of what-might-have-been regrets filling our minds.

I wondered the other day what advice 60 year-old me would have given 20 year-old me as I stood on the doorstep of adulthood decisions – choices that would shape and impact my life’s journey.

I pondered my successes and triumphs, and was pleased with those accomplishments. I also mulled over my mistakes and failures, as well as missed opportunities. Sadly, when stacked side by side, my successes didn’t measure up to the missteps I’d made along the way – decisions and compromise that took me down unnecessary paths of hardship and regret.

After weighing the if onlys and what might have beens, I decided the advice I would have given younger me was – you get one chance to get it right the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we can get through this life error-free, but I do think a purposed approach to decisions and crossroads can keep us on the path of steady ground rather than slogging through the trenches in knee-deep mud.

God has equipped us with tools to get it right the first time. We call them “nudges” or “impressions” or “conscience”. There are moments on our journey when conscience will tap us on the shoulder and plead it’s case – nagging us in the quiet moments or causing our heart to pound wildly when it knows we are about to abandon its truth. Innately human beings know good decisions from bad, and understand right from wrong, and God never misses an opportunity to emphasize the “right” ones on our behalf.

Because He desires that we live the best life possible, God continually nudges us in an effort to reveal the direction that will bring the greatest benefit to our journey. But nudges and impressions and conscience must be recognized, then received, then responded to in order to experience their effectiveness.

Taking some time to imagine where I could have been emotionally, relationally, professionally, and spiritually if I had responded to the nudges right away throughout my early life, has challenged me to waste no more time on getting it right the first time in this stage of life. With God’s help – His grace and favor active in my heart and mind – I will do just that.

Several years ago Christian band Mercy Me released the song, “Dear Younger Me”. Take a moment to listen, and ask yourself, what advice would you give younger you. Then ask, is the current you willing to listen, and ready to respond to God’s helpful and valuable nudges.



When my nephews played Little League baseball, I regularly attended their Saturday games. The two fields they played on were on the direct path to the snack bar, so sitting on the bleachers I observed the continual trek of players and coaches, parents and siblings, heading to the hot dog grill and snow cone machine.

One spring afternoon I watched as a young girl – maybe 7 years old – walked by with her puppy on a leash. He was quite young and rambunctious, and she was doing her best to manage him well, but his interest in the crowd was apparent.

Sliding off the bleachers, I walked over to the girl and asked if I could pet her puppy. She agreed, and as I reached down to scratch behind his ears, I asked what kind of dog he was. She sweetly announced, “He’s a mixed-up German Shepard.” I smiled, amused by the matter-of-factness of her response.

Of course I understood he was a German Shepard mix, but the simplicity of her child’s-perspective made the explanation pure and uncomplicated.

I’ve thought of that encounter numerous times over the years, and have shared the story with many. I’ve often pondered how much fun our days could be if our approach to life was simplified whenever possible. If when an impromptu tickle monster chase ensues, the dishwashing is postponed. If when our sons/grandsons build a fort with the sofa cushions, we grab a flashlight to join them on the adventure. If when our daughters/granddaughters set the tea party table, we don a silly hat and sip pretend tea while making real memories.

And may we also be mindful of the kid within. May an occasional Friday night find us at the local Dairy Queen reminiscing over childhood memories, instead of watching the week’s news in review. Once in a while, may we gather friends at the park, tossing a Frisbee instead of contemplating what tomorrow’s schedule will bring.

On its own, life can be complicated enough. But when chances present themselves – may we try to simplify. May we enjoy, may we laugh, and for the moments we’re given, may we live uncomplicated.

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