Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at email@example.com.
My Dad is disrespectful to my mom almost every day, and it upsets me.
He often tells her to stop talking because he's tired of hearing her talk. She's not nagging; she is just sharing her thoughts or talking about her day. He complains to her about her being overweight and questions her portion sizes while they are eating... and most people consider her a slim woman. He also belittles her when he thinks anything she says is stupid, and he tells her she sounds stupid.
I am tempted to resent my dad. My mom doesn't like it either but she just figures that this is the way it is. We are all Christians and involved in church.
Do you have any thoughts/advice that could help?
I feel quite sorry for your mother and what she has to endure.
I know that her heart is breaking. I’m sure that on her wedding day she never imagined that her husband might turn out like he has. I am sorry for your mom.
I’m also feeling sorry for you. I’m sorry that you have to watch what’s going on. I hope that I can give you some thoughts and ideas that might help the situation.
Understanding where your father is coming from could be helpful.
As I read your email, my initial thought is that he is struggling with depression. You might look at his life and see if he’s unhappy in areas besides your mother. If he’s bored with life in general he may be demonstrating the symptoms of depression.
Depression can be both situational as well as chemical. Either way, it might be helpful to encourage him to find a good doctor (if he is receptive) and see if he needs any medical help. Sometimes a doctor recommends utilizing an anti-depressant to overcome depression’s stranglehold on emotions.
He may have a Christian friend (or pastor) he respects who could also encourage and help him. Sometimes wise counsel is better received from a peer than a family member. Counseling is recommended.
He may not admit he has a problem.
So what, as his daughter, can you do?
As you read my words, remember to be lovingly respectful when dealing with your dad. Your gentleness in handling this is important.
That being said, this is what I might suggest:
Your father is obviously an angry man. This tells us that he’s been hurt. When you get hurt, the following emotion is always anger. It’s good to consider where your father might be hurting.
Consider that your mother has become the lightning rod for your father’s anger. He may be transferring his anger onto her. Consider that he may be struggling with disappointment. Life hasn’t turned out the way he imagined. Most of us come to a time in life when we must face the fact that many of our dreams will not come true. How we handle broken dreams makes all the difference in the world.
Recognize that your father’s complaining is really mourning. Mourning can manifest itself in a number of ways. Criticizing, passive-aggressive behavior, giving others the silent treatment, or just being miserable in general can all be signs of mourning. Mourning and hurting are joined together at the hip.
Fortunately, Jesus has given us a model to use in healing someone’s hurts. If we can heal hurts, we can dissipate the anger. Then, there’s a good chance that your father will be a happier person and cease criticizing your mother as much—or hopefully not at all. You and your mother can work together to bring healing.
How do we heal hurts?
Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are they who mourn for they shall receive comfort.”
Hurts are healed by mourning and comforting. Notice that it takes two people to complete this process—one to mourn and one to comfort.
David Ferguson from Great Commandment Ministries has developed a list of our top 10 emotional needs. We can use these as guides to help heal the hurts of your father and of others as well.
When you see your dad hurting, comfort him. Comfort uses emotional words of sympathy and empathy. For example, “I’m so sorry you’re hurting. Life is not supposed to be this way.” Or, “You must have felt awful when he did that to you.” Or, “My heart aches for you when I see you hurting like this. I’m so sorry.”
If you sense that your father is feeling neglected, ignored or alone, give him some attention.
When you sense that your father is experiencing rejection, do some things or say some words that let him know that he is accepted.
When your father has been abused at work or elsewhere, show him some affection.
When you notice that your father has been criticized by others, show him some appreciation.
If your father is struggling with condemnation, give him some approval.
Perhaps he’s disappointed about something; he needs encouragement.
If he recently been ridiculed, he would probably enjoy some words of respect.
This proactive behavior is healing hurts by meeting needs.
By the way, your mother needs this sort of healing as much as does your father. The truth is, you need it, too.
If your father feels put off or awkward by your meeting these needs, then don’t stop. Take your time and go slowly. Your father, like many hurting people, may well have become a rock of emotional pain. Remember, comfort “tenderizes” rocks.
Your Dad might also observe your empathy and respond to his wife differently.
Remember, Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be told how to fix it.”
Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be given reasons and logic.”
He also didn’t say, “Blessed are those who mourn for they’ll be told why they shouldn’t feel that way.”
Neither did he say, “Blessed are those mourn for they’ll be told that others have it much worse.”
Finally, he didn’t say, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be told it’s not nearly as bad as you think.”
He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall receive comfort.”
Best I can tell, you’ll get a lot of practice and become quite skilled at healing hurts as you work on your father. Hopefully, your efforts and your prayers will impact your father and he’ll stop hurting your mother so deeply.
Tiffany, again let me express my sorrow regarding what’s occurring in your family. As I think about your plight, I find myself hurting for you. It just shouldn’t be this way. I know that your pain cuts deeply into your heart. I’m so sorry.
Let me know how things are coming along.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
Publication date: April 7, 2016