DEAR JENNIFER


Dear Jennifer,

I want to be a spiritual leader in my family. When our kids were young, I read books and the Bible to them, prayed with them, took them to church, hugged them and told them I love them often. I was more romantic with my wife when we were in the military. We read marriage books, went to marriage retreats, and often went to counseling, even when there wasn't an issue that needed addressing.

However, as the kids got older, my desire to be the spiritual leader felt more like an intrusion rather than a welcomed family role. I tried not to be the type of person that Lorded over my family with what the Bible says, nevertheless, it is how my family perceived me. I have mostly been perceived as a negative person by my family. If I point out my perspective, my words land negatively. Now, I rarely read the Bible with my wife and grown kids that are still at home, all of whom are professing Christians.

I never intended to come across as a horrible person, however, I am an ugly emotional individual. I feel as if I must keep my spiritual convictions as well as my everyday concerns to myself, otherwise, I am rocking the boat and offending my family. This causes me to drink because it's easier to just have fun and numb the pain of having to keep my mouth shut. I know God uses our spouse to help us grow into the person He wants us to become, and I know I am a horrible person. It’s hard to discover just how horrible I am on a daily basis.

Any thoughts?

~Robert H.

Dear Robert,

Yes, I have lots of thoughts here because there is SO MUCH going on in this message. First, it’s normal to go through dry spells with your faith and spirituality. If you’re feeling that your role as spiritual leader of your family is more of an intrusion than a welcomed family role, an honor or privilege, then this has nothing to do with your role as leader and everything to do with where your heart and faith are - this is an internal job. I recommend talking with a Priest on these matters.

If your family views you as having Lorded over them, then realize this has noting to do with your faith, spirituality or religion and everything to do with controlling tendencies. Being a spiritual leader does not mean enforcing laws, controlling your family, their beliefs or actions. Leadership means encouragement and leading as an example - it doesn’t mean force. Don’t confuse leadership with dictatorship.

You wrote, “I know I am a horrible person. It’s hard to discover just how horrible I am on a daily basis.” You also described yourself as an “ugly emotional person.” THIS RIGHT HERE is your root problem. Not spiritual beliefs or practices but THIS. You cannot be a leader to ANYone, not even yourself, if you’re feeing and believing this. This is a negative and unloving view of yourself. If you don’t love yourself, you’re unable to fully love your wife and children. If you cannot accept yourself as a beautiful human being (despite your flaws and weaknesses), you’re unlikely to accept your wife and children as they are either (hence their feelings of dictatorship instead of leadership).

I understand your desire to keep your spiritual convictions and everyday concerns to yourself in a time like this, especially if you’re offending your family - this is another reason to speak with a Priest. You need support and encouragement of your own. I understand where you’re coming from, but let me be clear on something…

This is NOT causing you to drink like you stated. YOU are causing yourself to drink. Your lack of true leadership is causing you to drink, not the situation you’re in. You stated you drink because it’s easier to have fun and numb your pain - this is being weak - this is running from the very solution you need to step up to - like a real leader would.

Let me explain what a true leader is in a home - a true leader is a man who steps up to face his weaknesses and does something constructive about it - a man who recognizes the problem (or seeks help from someone to recognize the problem if he can’t see it clearly), he then creates a plan that will bring about positive change, and then he takes action to make it happen. A leader doesn’t turn to the bottle to have fun or numb his pain and run away from the problem, that’s what a boy does. A leader puts the bottle down, talks to a Priest or mentor, works through his internal battle, and loves his wife and children, as they are - without trying to control them.

From this note, I see a man who is trying to change his family because they aren’t who or what he wants them to be. Is this a judgmental nature? Is this control? Is this unconditional love? Whatever you’re going through, be it doubt, fear, self hatred, lack of self forgiveness, fatigue or overwhelm, whatever the reason, you shouldn’t involve your family in your internal fight - at least don’t involve them in a negative way that creates conflict and family divide. Instead, ask them to pray for you, go talk with a Priest and join a men’s group.

You say that if you point out your perspective, your words land negatively - maybe it’s not your words but your delivery. People have different communicative styles - so maybe it would behoove you and your wife to take a course in communication - not because either of you communicate in a wrong way, but because you have different styles and need to learn how to communicate together in an effective way that works for both of you. I’m happy to help with this if you’re interested.

Sending my love and support,

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