Taking the pressure off dads

  • by Jim Grunseth

When I was 27, my father and I were arguing about something trivial one day. I don’t even remember what it was. My mom stood about 10 feet away, ringing her hands in anxiety.

All my life, my dad had showed his love for us by providing for us, working hard, and being dependable. But he let my mom meet my emotional needs. Dad seemed aloof, preoccupied, and focused on whether or not we were performing well in school and in the community.

If for some reason I failed to measure up at school, or at home, he would abruptly say, “What’s your problem? Let’s get with it!” I so badly wanted his approval. I wanted to know that he loved me and was proud of me just for being me.

I did not understand his language of love.

And so that day when we were arguing, he had shouted, “Jim! What is it that you want from me?!” 

And I simply blurted out, “Dad, I just want you to hold me!”

I couldn’t believe what I had just said. What would happen now? How would he respond?

Jim (left) shakes hands with his dad after his graduation from West Point on June 5, 1974.

My father walked across the kitchen and gave me a big old WWII Vet Bear Hug. Our friendship began.

From then on, I knew he loved me, and that he was proud of me. I was his son and that was enough. We began going out for breakfast together once a week. Our conversations were never deeply emotional or profoundly spiritual. We were just together, enjoying each other’s company over coffee and blueberry pancakes. I can still remember how good those pancakes tasted.

In the same way, my heavenly Father loves me whether I feel it or not. He loves me whether I measure up or not. I’m loved forever!

This is so hard to experience at an emotional level. We are marinated in our performance-soaked culture. We are taught to do more, be better, and achieve the best.

Dads feel this pressure in a very real way. You can help take the pressure off this Father’s Day.

Reach out to your father with hugs and powerful words like these:

  • “You don’t have to improve.”
  • “You don’t have to become better.”
  • “You don’t have to measure up.”
  • “You don’t have to earn favor through performance.”
  • “I love you just the way you are and if you get worse, I will never waiver on my love and acceptance for you.”
  • “You’re my dad (or you’re my son or daughter) and that is good enough.”

If you are a father, you can say the same powerful phrases to relieve pressure for your children, too.

Jesus commands us to “… Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Choose right now to pursue the people in your life, rapidly forgive as Jesus forgave you, and show kindness and loyalty. Believe in them.

For dads:

For sons and daughters: