I think one of the greatest gifts that a dad or mom can give to a child is to communicate a "well done".
I’ve had many conversations with men (in particular) and some women who long for a "well done" as an adult. Many of these people grew up in homes of regular criticism and constant evaluation. Some of these people received subtle and not so subtle messages indicating they just didn’t measure up.
"Yeah, that’s good, but what about…"
"That will never work"
"You’ll never make any money in that line of work"
"Why can’t you be like your friend who…"
"Why, by the time I was your age, I had already…"
Perhaps the most deadly response some parents give to their children is silence. They don’t say the wrong thing. They just say nothing at critical moments. Silence. This is a deadly silence that forces the child to fill in the blanks.
Let me quickly say that some parents have never known how to affirm their children. Perhaps their parents never affirmed them. They are now doing the best they know how as parents. Nevertheless, this lack of affirmation may create quite a gap. I’ve noticed this in particular with fathers and sons.
I think this is what lies in the hearts of us who seem anxious to prove something. For some of us, we think that if we can just achieve enough as adults, we will finally get a "well done" from dad. So, we may desperately pursue success in order to get this. (Ironically, this often comes at a great cost to our own families).
Others may just be trying to prove their adequacy to those around them. These are often people who turn most any situation into a moment that says, "Hey, look at me." I remember being with a person, years ago, who became strangely quite if, in a gathering of people, the attention was on someone else. He had a way of shifting conversation and attention back to himself. "Yea, it’s like the time I…"
I wonder how emptiness is transferred over to ones view of God? I suspect it would be easy to conclude that God’s love is dependent on "measuring up." As Scot McKnight suggests in The Jesus Creed, it is one thing to verbally affirm that God loves me. It is quite another matter to absorb that truth in my life.
I wonder how many people (men in particular) are desperately trying to measure up and who hope that someone will say the words that they have always longed to hear from some of the most significant people in their lives.
Maybe, that is a gift that will one day come from THE Father, himself. "Well done, good and faithful servant…" (Matthew 25:14ff.)