Summary: I don’t know any father or husband who doesn’t feel like he has failed on numerous occasions. This feeling of failure can cascade out of control and further prevent you from being the leader God wants you to be in the home.
We’ve All Failed
I don’t know any father or husband who doesn’t feel like he has failed on numerous occasions. This feeling of failure can cascade out of control and further prevent you from being the leader God wants you to be in the home. When we experience feelings of inadequacy, we sometimes engage in self-shame to reinforce our initial failure. While this shaming cycle may appear to help, it’s only another manifestation of indirect pride that says, “I’m no good and a complete failure” rather than “I’m a redeemed man, husband, and father who has simply made another mistake.”
While the voice of shame wants men, husbands, and fathers to ruminate perpetually in their failures, a man of God refuses to live in this state. By the power of the Spirit of God, he will instead get up and give it another go, attempting daily to live out his new and present identity in Christ—rejecting his former way of life one failure at a time. Sometimes it helps to have a strategy for those times we blow it.
Five Things to Keep in Mind When You Fail as a Father
One | Every father fails
While men tend not to talk about their failures much, especially regarding their children, we do fail—and sometimes frequently. This is because the call of being of a father is not one many men were prepared for. Most learn to be a better father through their failure. Here’s what this might look like:
• Anger that was deliberately hurtful
• Sharp or inflammatory statements that inflict pain
• Self-absorption that left a child needing relationship
• Insensitivity to a child’s present issues
• Under-involvement due to obsessive overworking
• Emotional or physical absence that alienates
Over the last few days, you were probably implicit in one of these actions. That’s because they are common failures. And when done perpetually, they have a damaging and sometimes long-lasting impact on children. But how can we overcome the failure and the effect of the failure?
Two | Be more aware of your areas of weakness
Every man has areas of vulnerability based on his unique wiring. Some struggle with impatience and anger. Others struggle to guard their attitudes and words, or to be present in the moment. And still others consistently put work ahead of family and marriage. A way to become more aware of those vulnerabilities is to reflect on them by journaling. Writing your thoughts down has a way of imprinting the problem and potential solutions to memory. Mapping out more positive outcomes might be more helpful than wallowing in regret, shame, and self-defeat. In essence, what you’re doing is making a plan for the next time you are faced with a similar situation. The more aware you are of your proclivities, the less likely you are to repeat the bad behaviors that are linked to them.
Three | Invite the Spirit’s work
Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you when you are tempted to go off the rails. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:26–27, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
There are two things you need to know about the Spirit of God who lives within you. First, the Spirit supports you in your weaknesses. And second, He mediates with the Father on your behalf. Because the Spirit’s ministry is to help us become more like Christ, He will remind us if we ask Him to help us in our areas of weakness. Ask Him each day to help you be aware of those situations where you can quickly go off the rails as a father; this will make a huge difference. And you will notice He will help as requested.
Four | Seek and model forgiveness
Your ego is your enemy. Asking forgiveness means that you have to admit to the one you wronged that you failed. Arrogance keeps us from admitting failure and makes us overly concerned about contrition being interpreted as weakness. Ironically, that’s not how others perceive us when we ask for forgiveness. They see the courage to ask forgiveness as an act of strength and humility—an action of a father who wants to change and grow.
In the egoless transaction of asking for and receiving forgiveness, relationships are healed, understanding increases, and the Spirit is overjoyed. Never underestimate the power of confession and forgiveness. Some of the great moments of fatherhood are found in the moments we seek our children’s forgiveness. While this is hard, there are few actions more healing than admitting our failure to them and seeking forgiveness from God with them.