To My Dear Sons,
Years ago, I dragged Abba to a comedy show to see a friend of mine perform. The opening act was beyond not funny, for one reason. When the comedian found that his audience wasn’t warming up to him, he began to insult us. His entire act turned into a barrage of “humorous” insults directed at the audience. By the time my very funny friend came on, he could only get a lukewarm response, because the other fellow had turned us all into a bunch of people who wanted to punch a comic in the nose.
Many times in your lives, you will be faced with the reality that people don’t measure up to your expectations. A coworker might make a promise, and fail to follow through. Your spouse may not make as much money or land as prestigious a job as you had hoped for. Your children may fail to bring home those bright, shiny “A”s that incomprehensibly increase a parent’s sense of self-worth.
Here is a little secret. Whether or not your expectations of that other person are justified, you will not change one thing about him by calling him names. No one has ever improved himself or used his talents more skillfully for the benefit of someone who insulted, degraded, or otherwise deflated him.
Abba and I have shaken our heads sadly at marriages that have crumbled because the spouses didn’t see their marriage as a partnership. They tried to change each other from the people who stood together under the chupah. And if they felt let down, they were very vocal — and sometimes very public — with their disappointment.
Each of you knows at least one kid who has never felt that he measured up to his parents preconceived notions about who he was supposed to be. Did their dissatisfaction with him make him a success? Or did he become a success, finally, because of someone outside his family who refused to give up on him, and who saw his unique gifts?
Nothing in this world is perfect. It is not designed to be. Remembering that your spouse and your children and you are works-in-progress can save your relationships, and can help all of you to grow into your very best selves. Insult only destroys. Try your best to remind the people you love of their character traits that add light to your world. And remember to treat yourself with the same kindness and forbearance.