QUESTION: My challenge is my attitude about people not paying their “fair share.” My children’s father and I have been divorced for many years. Since the divorce, we’ve had several celebrations including our daughter’s and son’s graduations from college, a rehearsal dinner for our son’s wedding, etc. I paid for receptions for all of these events that he attended and didn’t offer to help with the expenses. Perhaps you’ll ask, “Did you ask him?” Once I did ask him to help with a wedding dinner for our daughter, and his response was “I already gave them $3,000 for a wedding present.”
I doubt this wealthy man will ever pay up. What I need help with is letting this go once and for all. If I didn’t plan and pay for the events, there wouldn’t be any if left up to him.
~ Willingly Generous Mom
Dear Willingly Generous Mom,
Your children are very fortunate to have such a generous hearted mother. Give yourself a pat on the back for being able to help them out and to mark their special occasions in the celebratory way that you do. It is important to mark these days as they are important moments in a life and will be remembered, standing out as milestones along the way. I hear that you are upset because your ex-husband, the children’s father, is not on the same page as you. I ask you sincerely, “Does he have to be?” Every individual has an individual point of view. You said he gave a wedding present of a generous financial gift so it’s not as if he has chosen to not help out or to acknowledge the occasion. He has just done it differently. Yet you follow this information with, “I doubt this wealthy man will ever pay up.”
I wonder what amount you feel would have been adequate and who is the qualified judge of this? It makes me sad to hear the disappointed expectation that seems to be ongoing for you … an expectation that leads to the same result over and over. You know how painful it has been and you also acknowledge that you need to let it go once and for all. I would highly recommend the work of Byron Katie to you, which is all about releasing other people from our beliefs about what they should be doing.
In her first book, “Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life,” she writes, “It’s not the problem that causes our suffering; it’s our thinking about the problem.” The truth is your ex-husband is free to do what ever he deems appropriate just as you too enjoy the freedom to do what you want to do and take joy in doing. You have appointed yourself the judge of what is correct for another and you can relieve yourself of that duty. You will forever find the effort to change another frustrating, so just stop and take back your power. Focus on the joy you get from doing what you have chosen to do and you will be a lot happier. Leave aside the judging and comparisons; these rob you of your joy. Your power is the power to choose your focus and your thoughts. You create a good life for yourself and your children; that is all that matters.
Be glad in it, celebrate it and enjoy it. You deserve it and can give this gift to yourself now. It’s up to you and only you.
Dear Willingly Generous Mom,
I think your ex is a hopeless case as far as paying his fair share is concerned, and in my opinion you should move on with your life. As you tell the story, he has had ample opportunity to do the right thing in the past and he hasn’t. What makes you think he’ll change in the future?
What you can do is do things with your grown children separately from him and have them over to your place instead of booking an expensive restaurant and expecting him to come through with half of the expense.
I am on your side and have total sympathy for your position. In my own family I have a cousin who is very slow to pay, and my choice is to grin and bear it at family gatherings that include him, or else not attend any family gatherings at which he’ll be in attendance. It’s a terrible choice, I know. But some of our relatives or ex-relatives are simply jerks, and we either take them at their miserly worst or avoid them altogether.
Sorry, but having the same blood in our veins does not mean we think alike. Think about politics: do all of your relatives vote the same way? I’m going to guess not. It’s the same way with matters financial: some of our relatives are stingy and some are not. Again, I’m sorry to say this, but the father of your children sounds like a skinflint and a bum. Accept the skinflint/bum as he is, or move on. Life is too short to spend time worrying about what we think someone else should do.
The Rev. Skip Lindeman
QUESTION: A young couple, I’ll call them Joan and Tom, who have two children moved next door to us a couple of months ago. Joan and I often have coffee after she’s dropped the children off at preschool. Joan told me that even though she’s not interested in attending church because of some bad experiences she had, she would like her children to have some religious instruction. I offered to take her children to the church my husband and I have been attending for 35 years. We had it all set up, and then Tom said he didn’t want his kids going to church and learning about hell, fire and damnation.
I told him that wasn’t what we teach in Sunday school, but that didn’t convince him. Should I just leave this alone or keep trying?
~ Helpful or Not?
Dear Helpful or Not?
Bless you for being open to listen to this woman and assist in taking her children to church. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do when a parent says they do not want their children attending church, or any other activity, at the last minute. In fact, pushing the issue will most likely cause a rift in the neighborly relationship and end continued friendship – as individuals most often defer to their spouse. I know it is painful and you want to help. And you can. You can pray. God is much bigger than our small attempts. But to try to press the issue, even gently, may seem pushy or forceful to the father. I have seen issues like this too many times.
My advice? Show complete respect for the father’s wishes, continue to be friendly, do not revisit the topic and pray. The best chance of anything changing will be the pleasant surprise of answered prayer. And you may never see that. It could come in these children’s adulthood.
Dear Helpful or Not?
I have so many responses to your letter! Space won’t permit me to say all I’m thinking. First, thank you for offering to take the children to church. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.”
Second, why won’t Joan’s children have the same church experience that she had? Would she really want to subject her children to what she experienced? How much sense does it make for Joan to say, “I’ll never go but my children should”? That’s like saying, “I got food poisoning at that restaurant but I’ll take my kids there.”
Or perhaps the circumstances at Joan’s church were unique to her. If that’s the case, then Joan should go to a different church with her kids. Maybe your church! Or is what’s good for Joan’s kids somehow bad for her? You see the illogic here.
Third, the dad. I’m the perfect guy to speak to this since: 1) I grew up not liking church, 2) I’m a dad too, and 3) I have preached on hell before.
There are lots of closed-minded dads out there. Thank God my dad was not one of them. He would have been 87 today. He made sure I knew that God loved me. He made sure I knew that I was a sinner and that my sins separated me from God. He made sure I knew that Jesus paid the penalty for all my sins on the cross. He made sure I knew that Jesus rose again. He made sure I knew that by receiving Jesus and believing in him, that awful things like hell, fire and damnation would have no part of my future.
Oddly enough, I support this short-sighted dad’s decision. He’s the dad. The dreadful mistake is his to make. And Jesus spoke to this kind of dad long ago.
“If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)
God pursues children to love them, teach them, bless them and save them. Sometimes grown-ups get in the way. You’ve done your part to help. Thank you and keep up the good work! Let’s pray for those kids … and then for the parents.
Rev. Jon T. Karn