My son is a master negotiator. A natural at age six. I’m 100% convinced he could’ve ended the NFL labor negotiations back in May. He makes William Shatner look like an amateur.
Last night, he came at me full force with his verbal ninjitsu.
He wanted to sleep in our room.
As any parent knows, this is not an unprecedented request, and occasionally we oblige with a sleeping bag on the floor by our bed. But without fail, like some David Blaine illusion, he inevitably appears between my wife and I before morning.
Last night I needed some sleep. Real sleep. And I just wasn’t up for a 2AM roundhouse to the schnoz (when Austin sleeps, his ninjitsu isn’t only verbal).
Sorry kid. No slumber party tonight. We bought you a bed for a reason. Go use it.
He wasn’t buying. So after three rounds of failed negotiations and a near government shutdown, I had to bring the big guns. “Get out. Go to your room. I don’t want to see you again tonight.”
As he stomped angrily into the blackness of our upstairs hallway, a wave of guilt engulfed me like a cat 5 hurricane. Everything in me wanted to rush to his room. To make sure he was OK. To offer to lay next to his bed (playing Words with Friends) until he fell asleep.
I didn’t want him to be mad at me. I didn’t want him to be upset. I didn’t want him to be uncomfortable. After all, that’s love. Right?
Or was it really something much, much different? In that moment, my concern wasn’t really for Austin. It was all about me.
Did I handle that right?
Am I damaging his psyche?
Should I resolve the tension?
Am I a good father?
More often than I’d like to admit, my decisions as a dad, as a pastor, as a leader, are less about my love for those I’m responsible for, and more about protecting a fragile ego. Conflict doesn’t just challenge my stance on a certain situation, it can creep into the core of my identity. How I see myself.
We can’t truly love others when the unspoken motive is really protecting self.
Luckily, I’ve begun to recognize this. To identify it. To call it out. To repent of it. To allow Jesus access to those broken places.
And as I get healthier, I’m becoming more and more able to healthily lead others. To be a pastor. A husband. A daddy. To love well, because it’s actually about them and not just about me.
Does your obsession with self ever mask itself as caring for others?