Life Lessons as a Dad - Part 2

Another big lesson that I've learned as a dad is the importance of actively and naturally speaking words of encouragement to my kids. It has been said that, in order to thrive, people need a lot more affirmation for their good choices than they need correction for their poor choices. (As a pastoral counselor over many years, I have been made keenly aware of this deficiency in people's souls. This lack has led many people into being unable to receive almost any constructive criticism. They have a "knee-jerk" reaction to anything that comes close to correction. I believe that this is often because of the paralyzing feelings of extreme shame they came to associate with the overly-harsh corrections that they suffered at the hands of angry parents.)

In our culture, we reserve "eulogies" for people who have died. I wonder how many people have been allowed to peer over the balconies of heaven (please don't scrutinize the theology here too much!) and say, "Why didn't they say all those wonderful things about me when I was alive on the earth?" Actually, in Scripture, the word "eulogy" is used many times and it refers to verbally "blessing" a living person. We should be "eulogizing" one another every day--while we still have a chance to make a difference in each other's earthly pilgrimage. And make no mistake, our power to bless another can change a person's whole course of existence--even a stranger's. Still, I think that this power increases all the more when it is "verbalized", in action and word, from parents to their children--their very own flesh and blood. Parents wield a "terrible" power--for good or ill.

One of the Sullivant "traditions" that has naturally emerged in our family culture is to intentionally speak words of affirmation to a family member who's "special day" is being celebrated. Typically, we are sitting around our big table (after a true feast!) and, one by one, all the family members look the one being honored in the eye and tell that loved one something about her or him that they have come to respect or cherish or that has touched their heart. In all seriousness, some of the most profound things that I have ever heard told, have come from the lips of members of my own family speaking sincere words of blessing to other precious members of my family. (We have also had the joy of having friends, from time to time, "eavesdrop" in on one of these events and they have universally commented on the impact it has had on them.) After so many years of doing this, it is still very rare that tears do not flow freely at some point in this exercise of verbal affirmation.

It especially during these times that I remember that I am a wealthy man.


The kids (back to front) Luke, Steve, Rebekah, Sam, Mike and Lisa are pictured here in 2004. This was shortly after Luke and Rebekah were married. Amazing to realize they are all married now and we have grandkids galore!

Michael Sullivant