I was 26 years old. A few weeks before I had heard the news that my father had incurable leukemia. And here we were standing in the kitchen and I’m hearing my dad say to me;
“Craig, there is a great regret that I have never put my arm around your shoulder and told you how much I love you!”
It was too much for me, hearing this for the first time in my life from a man who had brought us up with, “Men don’t cry!” And so I pushed my dad away by saying, “Its ok dad, we have more important things to talk about”… which … we didn’t!
When my boys were conceived I made the conscious decision that I was not going to wait till they were 26 to tell them that I loved them. So I would lay hands on their mums belly, and tell them that I loved and liked them very much. Once they were born I would put them on my knee and tell them that there are two things that I want you to know.
- Dad loves you very much!
- Dad likes you very much!
As they started to walk I would call them over to me, saying; “Come here, I have something very important to tell you, and then look them in the eyes and tell them that I both loved and liked them very much. As they grew older, they would say to me…“Dad..yeah yeah we know what you’re going to say!” I would then ask them what was it I was going to say and they would repeat it back to me. My reply to them is… “And don’t you forget it!”
Recently I have added a third statement to that short list…which is “I am proud of you!” Every time I ring the boys and every time I see or have my boys for the weekends or holidays I tell them and give them a big hug while doing it…
- I love you heaps!
- I like you heaps!
- I am very proud of you!
When my older son was 9 (they are now 11 & 8 ) he asked me why I told him these things. My answer to him was and still is today. “Son, I tell you this because it is true and my dad never told me these things until I was 26 and he was about to die.”
He said, “Dad, I’m sorry you had to wait so long for your dad to tell you these things, and I am glad you tell me you love, like and are proud of me.” He then gave me the best hug.
As a chaplain to homeless men, I often hear heartbreaking stories. I’m talking to men, many who are older than me, some who are younger. I often talk about issues of identity and tell them what I say to my sons. I then will say to the guys…“Guys I want you to know 2 things.”
- I want you to know that I like you very much!
- I want you to know that God likes you very much!
Often when they share with me the victories in their life, no matter how small…I tell them… I am proud of you! It really amazes me, though perhaps it shouldn’t; just how powerful an effect these short sentences have on people who perhaps for the first time in their lives are hearing that they are liked.
Many people struggle liking themselves. Deep down we wonder if others really like us. We struggle with issues of do we really like others. Deep down we struggle with the knowledge that God loves us….thinking that he only grudgingly does so…. What I want to say to you today and remind myself is that;
- God loves you!
- God likes you!
- God is proud of you!