Speak Now Or Forever Withhold Your Pride

Speak now or forever withhold your pride

By Lisa Earle McLeod

I recently attended a memorial service for the father of a friend of mine. It’s kind of a middle-aged rite of passage, attending your friends’ parents’ funerals, that is. In this case, the friend who lost her father was my oldest dearest friend. A girlfriend I first bonded with during a chance encounter on the kindergarten naughty bench. After a forty year friendship, we knew the whole story about each other’s parents – the good, the bad and the ugly; the struggles and the joys, and everything else that goes along with navigating a relationship with people who were far from perfect, but who did the best they could at the time. And now we were here – my friend, her two brothers, a handful of old neighbors, a few assorted acquaintances and me – all gathered to memorialize her dad – Mr. P. Her mother had passed away a few years earlier, so it was official: the kids were now grown-ups. So it fell to them to plan the service, and they each took the opportunity to say a few words about their dad. They shared funny stories about his constant frugality and his elaborate packing system for family camping trips. They also spoke with sincere gratitude about how he financed their college educations by growing boxwoods from seedlings in their backyard, a ten-year project that only the most patient of gardeners would attempt. Yet as they each took their turn at the podium, I noticed a theme; one I often hear at men’s funerals. Like many men his age, Mr. P was a gruff, tough guy who wasn’t great with words or feelings. A man who truly cared about his children, but who was more comfortable planting the boxwoods, than openly telling them how much love was behind it. To their credit, his three adult children had matured enough to see the intentions behind their father’s actions. They understood that men of his generation weren’t schooled in the language of emotions, and that he hadn’t had Dr. Phil or the self-help industry coaching him along. But it was still a loss. Because even though you may be able to see that your parents loved you, sometimes, you need to hear the words, especially from your dad. There’s not a human being alive who doesn’t want their father to be proud of them. It’s almost a primal instinct. It doesn’t matter how old you are, we’ve all got an eager-to-please little kid inside us hopin’ and prayin’ for the day when our dad puts his hand on our shoulder, looks us in the eye and says, “I love you and I’m proud of you.” Your mom can be the most nurturing person on the planet, but you still need that validation from your dad. During his later years, Mr. P did tell his kids how he felt about them. Facing illness and with his wife no longer around to play chief relationship manager, he was brave enough to put his feeling into words. I only wish he had done so earlier and more often. So if you’re a guy like Mr. P, don’t wait; summon up your courage and tell your kids how you feel about them right now. And if your dad isn’t comfortable with emotions, make it easier for him by sharing yours first. Because nothing validates your existence more than hearing your father say, “You sure do make your dad proud.”

Lisa Earle McLeod is a syndicated columnist, author, keynote speaker and business consultant who specializes in helping individuals and organizations create happiness and success. Her latest book is Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear – For more info – <>

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