I am not a big celebrity guy. I would rather read a year old Sporting News than a freshly minted People magazine. But I did take note of the now infamous recorded outburst by actor Alec Baldwin directed at his daughter. Baldwin and former wife Kim Bassinger are engaged in a long and bitter custody battle over their eleven year old daughter. Sadly, similar battles are being fought much more anonymously all over the land today. As always with these humble ramblings, my intent is not to demonize the principles of this story, but to seek broader lessons for all of us.

By the grace of God I have been spared the heartbreak of divorce in my own marriage. I have counseled and consoled many who have suffered the agony of divorce. It is never easy. It is particularly difficult when children are in the equation. I wrote a blog about the myth of the “good divorce” earlier. A bit of background if you don’t know the story that is currently in the news. A very frustrated Alec Baldwin apparently made an effort to call his daughter at a particular time to talk. When she did not answer the phone Baldwin lost his temper and left an angry and unfortunate diatribe on the  voicemail. Baldwin called his daughter a “rude, thoughtless little pig” during his angry outburst.

At his website the actor apologized for the angry message. Regular readers of these ramblings know that I have a consistent theme when it comes to apologies or asking forgiveness. Leave your “but” out of it. Perhaps it is necessary to offer mitigating factors as an excuse when you are a celebrity. Baldwin felt that he had to explain his anger. “I am sorry for losing my temper with my child.”  So far, so good. “But I have been driven to the edge by parental alienation for many years". That changes the apology from I am sorry to not my fault. And that is the message that the child hears.

He also said he was "most saddened... because of what it does to a child" that the voicemail message appeared on celebrity websites. I have no insight into the personal situation between Baldwin and Bassinger. I do suspect that the message appearing on celebrity websites is not nearly as damaging as hearing words like that from your Dad.

I have said some mean things to my sons when I was angry. Fortunately it does not make news when a middling selling author gets angry. I regret every single word spoken in anger to them. I spent a lot of time saying “I’m sorry” and “please forgive me”. I hope I did not cancel my apology with excuses.

Nearly every parent in a custody battle says it is about the child. Too often the words and actions say otherwise. Again, my quoting of Baldwin is not to condemn him but to make a broader point. Baldwin's statement said: "Everyone who knows me privately knows that I have endured a great deal over the last several years in my custody litigation."

The message is that this is a whole lot about him. I would suggest that the child has endured the most in this litigation because she does not have the maturity or experience to process it. When a child is born it is no longer about you. It is (or should be) about the nurturing of that child.

Scripture has much wisdom about the father’s role in molding a child to fulfill their unique design. Too often the only biblical truth communicated is the discipline verses. And I do believe that loving discipline is a must. We are quick to remind our kids that they are to “honor” their father and mother. But we conveniently overlook the verse that follows: 

Fathers, don't exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master. (Eph 6 – The Message)

It is quite a bit easier to “honor” a Dad who takes a child by the hand and teaches them about the love and grace of Jesus.  Paul later reminds the fathers in Colossae about how to treat their children.