This is the question my son Aiden habitually asks. It’s great because I’d been teaching my twin boys words like frustration, exasperated, bewildered and even annoyed. I selected these words because they described my emotional state at the time they began learning two basic emotions: happy and sad. Unfortunately, those two emotions rarely captured what I felt. So, I expanded their vocabulary. And as children will do they began to ask, “Daddy, are you frustrated?” And I would reply, “Yes!” It felt good that I could teach my sons to more accurately capture my emotional state.
However, I was blind to two things: 1) I was showing a great deal “anger” related emotions and 2) I was teaching my sons that “anger” was more prevalent in my life than “happiness.” So, a couple of months ago I tuned into Aiden constantly asking am I happy – a question which was mostly posed when I was mad because one or both of my sons had done something “wrong.” I will return to this concept of being “wrong” shortly.
I became so aware of his inquiry that it began to annoy and frustrate me. And I started snapping at him, asking him why he kept ask me that question. In my arrogance, I thought, how dare a child ask me, an “adult” if I’m happy. Here’s something else I missed-I WASN’T HAPPY! I was taking on the “pains” of parenting and holding on to the pain associated with my children’s “wrong doings.” Please understand I’m not talking about children who jump off of furniture, throw tantrums, talk back, curse, break things, set things on fire, refuse to go to sleep, are disobedient-no I’m talking about five-year-olds who as they develop make “mistakes” another word I’ll say more about shortly. Children who, because of their accurate interpretation of my “angered-state”, wanted to hide their mishaps because they didn’t want to see my angered countenance. Let’s be real, like many children my son’s want to please me and to see me frown or utter words that promote “guilt” and “shame” are not their idea of a “happy” time.
Two weeks ago I returned from a seven day spiritual trip. I didn’t go to a mountain top, or a spa or a spiritual retreat center. I jumped on a plane and flew to a beach where I could lay in the sun and let my “inner-child” tune into my God-voice and determine what I would do and when I would do it without debating with my “adult-self.” What an experience. What a breakthrough! I got it! GOD was asking me about my happiness or lack of it. Happiness is the very thing I’ve been committed to experiencing with greater frequency. And for me, as with others I know, parenting can bring about some challenging even overwhelming moments. What became clear was I was “punishing” my sons for being “wrong.” When in reality they merely make “mistakes” which call for “correction.” Boy did this revelation shift my way of thinking about parenting. Additionally, I was immediately released from my childhood experiences of doing the “wrong” thing.
When this “ah-ha” moment hit I smiled and had experienced joy and happiness which are with me as I type this blog. I looked forward to coming home, sitting down with Marshall and Aiden and sharing. So, let’s fast forward to ten days ago, when I said, “Aiden thank you for allowing God to speak through you and make me aware of my anger. Daddy apologizes for having you both feel guilty or shameful when you would do something “bad.” So, starting right now I will not say you did something “bad.” I will say you made a mistake which needs to be corrected. Now you won’t have to feel like you did anything bad or that either of you is a bad person. And daddy won’t show anger because I won’t need you to be perfect.” With that my sons hugged me and smiled. And since that time, I have over heard them using the words mistake and correction. They have also come to me with greater frequency to tell me about their mistakes. My responses are calmer, my face isn’t scrunched up and I’m not replaying the incident. This allows me to ask them how to correct their mistake and most times they know or provide correction with a smile and a hug or High-5. WHAT A HUGE DIFFERENCE in their reaction to my response.
So, from my son’s to you, I ask you a simple childlike question, ARE YOU HAPPY? Happiness is a choice! It’s about re-framing the meaning or interpretation given to past events so that you can see them in the light of LOVE! ARE YOU HAPPY? If yes, celebrate! If no, get clear about why. Being unhappy is to experience resistance, pain, stress, even despair! If your answer is no, what do you need to forgive? Who do you need to forgive? When will you forgive? Forgiveness is essential to the experience of happiness. Forgiveness releases us from our attachments to people, old thoughts, behaviors, unresolved issues, old self-concepts, and old hurts! You can choose to feel happy at this very moment and you may not need to fly to the beach to get clear.
Sure my “shift” is less than three weeks old. However, my desire to feel and express happiness is stronger than my desire to live from a place of pain and hurt. Remember, I said earlier that I’d already made a commitment to experience happiness with greater frequency. And yes, I’m back in parenting mode and I’m still allowing Lil’ Bobby to guild my experience. He reminds me that my son’s simply make mistakes and they need guidance and loving correction not punishment and alienation. The same thing Lil’ Bobby needs. Three days ago Lil’ Bobby encouraged me to share my breakthrough with my mother and my ex-wife to ensure the boys experience “correction” rather than “punishment” in those relationships. The idea was warmly received. As a matter of fact, they reflected on their own emotional state and use of words-WOW!
So, if your answer to the question is no, I invite you to identify the ways in which you punish yourself! What would life be like for you RIGHT NOW if you freed yourself from guilt and shame? What would it be like not to judge yourself? While on the beach, I began to notice the number of judgments I made in just 10 minutes-INCREDIBLE! I continue to monitor my judgments. Remember, my anger towards my sons was the manifestation of my judgments: You are wrong, you are bad, get it right, you make me look bad, and you inconvenience me with your wrong-doings. Those were my judgments and stemmed from my childhood. Now, I immediately offer my judgments up to God for healing, clarification and/or meaning. This prevents me from making up things in my head which would only serve to reinforce old beliefs and hurts.
Since, I believe God is all knowing and that my attempts at knowing more than God has never worked, I now give my thoughts to Him and wait for a response. My stress level has dropped tremendously. The numbers of conversations I have with myself have been reduced significantly. My energy has increased and so has my patience and understanding. All of this contributes to my state of happiness. In choosing to let go of the anger I uncover happiness. Twelve years ago my anger was apparent to my father who instructed me to let go of my anger and be God’s man. Keep in mind, the judgments we render about others reflect the things about ourselves we don’t like, haven’t forgiven, haven’t dealt with or may not be aware of. My judgments blocked my happiness, creativity, peace and my ability to fully receive and give love. My judgments also blocked correction and hinder change.
What’s blocking your happiness? What’s blocking the happiness of your family and friends? Are the people closest to you happy? Typically we associate or hang with people who think and act the way we do. If you are not happy, do you really want to be? And if you are leading others, what might they think and feel when they look into the face and see someone who is REGULARLY frustrated, exasperated, bewildered and annoyed? What do they make up about you? What do they make up about themselves? You are responsible for you happiness!Not the truth-Just a thought! I welcome yours! Okay! This is a thought that is true!Share the gift you are with the world! (1Peter 4:10)
(After Thought: The message in church today was entitled, “Be completely open to correction and change!” There are no accidents.)