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How I learned to love my dad

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

My four siblings and I had an argumentative relationship with our dad in our youth, which sometimes deteriorated into a battle of wills. We weren't as wise as our mother, who didn't argue with him but would carry on with her daily business.

In adulthood, I began a serious study of the Bible and "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy and discovered a new kind of love, a love that comes from God and that embraces all of us. To radiate, reflect, and express this love in daily living is a natural expression of our nature as children of God. It is actually our reason for being, and it is a love that must continue to show forth regardless of what's going on around us. This was a startling revelation.

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My relationship with my dad was a challenge. Arguing with him was not loving with the love that God was giving me to reflect and bore no resemblance to it.

I resolved to put into practice this new kind of loving, and remembered what Jesus said: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself" (Luke 10:27), and what the Ten Commandments say: "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee" (Ex. 20:12). To "honour" means to respect greatly, to regard highly, to treat with courtesy. My dad was certainly a very near neighbor, and he was just as worthy of my love as anyone else.

I was determined to act this way toward my dad. It was his nature to love, too; he had the same God as I did. God was giving us both this love to reflect.

But I was afraid of his temper outbursts. Although they had never harmed me, I hated the bad atmosphere they engendered. I took them to heart and often felt that I was in some way to blame. I was learning from my study that these aggressive outbursts were not from God and had no power to do anything to me, and that they were no part of him, either.

I resolved to change my thinking and behavior instead of continuing to see him as willful and having a short fuse. When staying at my parents' home, I started by not reacting to his negative conversation. I listened to him instead of reacting with my own opinions. I stayed cool. If he gave me orders, I didn't argue, but listened to God for a soft answer. I didn't allow him to control me, because God was in control of my life now. My dad ordered me to visit his relatives, and I answered humbly that I was not able to do this.

Then, the next morning at breakfast, he poured out all his workplace problems. I listened compassionately and just loved him. He had never confided in me before. Here was a new beginning; he was responding to this new kind of love. My view of him was maturing, too. When there was an outburst of temper, I would let the arguments fall to the ground and let love kick in. I kept seeing him as a child of God and appreciated his goodness and self-sacrifice.

He had been a successful businessman and a wonderful provider for his family. He had many other talents that I recognized. I took an interest in his plants and complimented him on his beautiful garden. I did him favors when he asked me and remembered to thank him for kindnesses.

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Some wonderful things happened. I discovered that the love I was expressing toward him came flowing back. He started bringing me morning tea; he would say, "Would the kids like some pancakes?" (which he would cook mid-afternoon); "Would you like to visit Mr. Quayle's sheepdogs? I'll babysit if you would like to go out ... or if you want to go to church." One day, he made scones for us. On another occasion, we went camping, and he showed up at the campsite with the car full of goodies, even wood and a bag of coal for lighting a fire. Had I been missing these lovingkindnesses all my life?

I reaped a harvest of rewards and eventually enjoyed a happy, peaceful relationship with my dad, with no fear attached.

We are all capable of expressing this love. So if you want more love in your life, just go on expressing it.