When I was in fourth grade I fell off my bike and took a really hard fall which left a gaping bloody wound on my left elbow. I was doing things that my parents definitely wouldn’t have approved of, so I hid the huge wound. Even though it was the middle of the summer I wore long-sleeved shirts so my make-shift bandages wouldn’t show. Then wound started to fester and smell.
Fortunately for me, my Grandma Torbeck noticed it. I confessed to her what actually happened. She then uncovered the wound. It was filled with puss and smelled like a dead animal. She cleaned the wound with something that burned like fire. I can remember few things in my life that hurt so badly, but the wound began to heal.
More than fifty years later I still have the scar on my elbow as a sign of:
- My poor decisions
- My hiding my bad decisions
- My grandma’s painful but essential job of cleaning the wound
- The power of the body to heal, yet leave a reminder of the event. I was fortunate. The longer I delayed telling the truth the worse the infection became, and eventually the implications could have been very serious.
Paradoxically, surrendering is a vital part of being mature, and an important thing to model for my son. I want to be clear that by “surrender” I don’t mean giving up. In war, those who are losing the battle and determine that they will fight to the death are making a conscious decision to die. It makes for a great movie plot, but this strategy isn’t going to work well for today. Those who have accurate insight and then decide that surrender is the best path forward, will “live to see another day”, and maybe even “fight another battle.”
Surrender, as in surrendering my will, is a vital part of being a real man, and it’s vitally important that my kids see me stand up for what’s right, even if it means admitting my mistakes, regardless of how serious. I realize that I can be bull-headed, driven by my ego, fear, or any one of another dozen character defects. This is a natural part of being a male. This can be driven by my desire to be seen as strong, sincere, smart, or in charge. If I have an ounce of self-awareness, I realize that I actually have a frail ego and a desire to be respected.
When I was a boy I wasn’t taught that vulnerability is a strength, yet it is. Some of the most important things in my life exist today because I found the courage to say, “I need to surrender. I’ve made a mistake and I’m sorry. Here’s what happened…and I promise to do whatever is necessary to prove that it’s not going to happen again.”
Just think of the implications for your personal life and professional life, and today in society if men would surrender with a true sense of humility, honesty and courage.
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This blog is an edited excerpt from Tender Lions: Building the Vital Relationship Between Father and Son