Family Talk: Someone to remind us who we are
If you search the internet for the phrase “remind us who we are,” you find a wide variety of things. Movies, traditional foods, even old clothes and photographs insist they are the best reminder.
I like it better when the answer is a person. Someone who knows us. Someone who grounds us. Someone who calls us out when we're wrong and reminds us when our actions suggest we've forgotten. Someone like Judah Smith's dad.
In his book, “How's Your Soul?,” Judah tells the story of when he was 18 years old and had been out with a group of friends. He stayed late talking, and when one of the girls, who was kind of cool, asked if someone could give her a ride home, Judah volunteered.
Judah and the girl ended up sitting in her driveway talking a very long time. Judah swears they were just talking, and the way he writes, I believe him.
Before he knew it, two hours had gone by, and by the time he got home, it was about 2 in the morning. As he tried to quietly enter his house, he heard a loud, bass voice in the darkness, “Good evening, son.” It was Judah's bigger-than-life dad, and he scared Judah to death. I'll let Judah take it from here:
Dad said, “Son, why don't you come over here and sit next to me.”
It wasn't a request. It was a command, which is indicative of my childhood. So I sat down next to Dad and he casually asked, “How was your evening?” My voice sounded like puberty had forgotten me. “Uh, it was good Dad. We hung out and then this girl wanted a ride home, so I gave her a ride home, you know?”
“Who was it?” he asked. So I said her name. He knew her and said, “Well that was nice of you. But you and I both know she isn't the girl for you.” I was like “Uh, well, I don't know Dad. She's kind of cool and we had a good talk.” It was one of those moments where your dad is talking, and you know he doesn't want any kind of interaction. He just wants to tell you what's going to happen for the rest of your life. He looked at me for a moment and I looked back. He said “You know, son, you're not the type of man who stays out late talking to girls you have no business talking to. That's not the way I raised you. That's not who you are. Son, be who you really are. Good night.”
That was a defining moment for me. I was on the verge of manhood and independence, and I realized I had someone in my life who had enough authority and concern and love to tell me what I needed to hear. To tell me, “Be who you really are.”
We all need people in our lives who can urge us to be who we really are. To be true to our commitments and our internal compass. More often than not, that person is someone in our family. You might even be that person. Or, maybe you're the one who should be listening to that person. Remember to be who you really are.
Jim Priest is CEO of Sunbeam Family Services and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.