Former President Jimmy Carter was 70 years old when he wrote this poem about his father:
This is a pain I mostly hide,
But ties of blood or seed endure.
And even now I feel inside
The hunger for his outstretched hand.
A man’s embrace to take me in,
The need for just a word of praise.
Isn’t it extraordinary that even after a life of monumental achievements, President Carter still feels pain when he thinks of his father, who either could not feel or would not express love and approval? Unfortunately, there are many people in his shoes, left with bitter feelings and enduring wounds inflicted by their parents.
Yet not all bad parents are bad people. Caring parents can unintentionally injure children through excessive harshness or permissiveness, or through well-intended criticism and advice that comes out as relentless disapproval or oppressive negativity. Kids not only need to know they’re loved, they need to feel worthy of our love. They need to be valued not simply because they’re ours, but because of who they are.
It’s never too late to try to fix whatever’s broken:
- Express caring, pride, and approval more lavishly and often.
- Be less critical, more helpful, less controlling.
- Set aside your need to be right.
- Be less self-righteous and more respectful toward those you love.
- Be sincerely accountable and genuinely apologize, even if it’s not enough.
- It’s not always possible to fix things that are broken, but it’s worth a try.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.