Spiritually Speaking

QUESTION: Our daughter just completed her first year of college. She gets good grades and doesn’t drink or use drugs. She came home for Christmas with a tattoo on her ankle. It’s not large and is of a Christian cross. Her father was very angry and made a scene. She left our home and went to stay with a friend. To me, he’s making too much of this. How can I convince him that these kinds of things shouldn’t affect family relationships?

– In the Middle



Dear In The Middle,

Let’s start with some confessions. I tend to be old fashioned like dad. I am a dad. And I have a daughter in college. And I don’t want her coming home with a tattoo. How about that for some common ground? And let’s go a step further. Have you read in the Bible what the Old Testament says about tattoos? Leviticus 19:28 says: “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”

Now, if you’re an Israelite intent on following all 613 of the laws of Moses, the tattoo prohibition from Leviticus makes sense. God wanted his chosen people to be different from the pagan nations around them. Tattoos were something they did. But I suspect you are not Israelites intent on following all 613 of the laws of Moses. So this Bible verse makes much less sense in this case.

Wanting to see this issue through an additional pair of eyes, I’ve consulted my daughter on this one. Immediately I was confronted by the generational difference in viewpoint on this subject. While my daughter was respectful of my view, she was no shrinking violet. It’s clear we just disagree. I respect her very much. It’s just a generational thing.

This was not Dad’s best hour – making a scene. Sending his daughter away, sort of. I hope you all have made peace by now. That’s a bigger transgression than a tattoo, isn’t it? Beyond that, consider the tattoo itself. Where it is. The size it is. What it is.

First, where it is, on her ankle. Nowhere ostentatious. Nowhere intimate. Somewhere subtle. Classy. Its placement says a lot about her. Maybe you raised her right.

Second, the size it is. It’s small. Not gaudy. Not garish. Understated. It doesn’t shout at you, “I got a tattoo!” You’ve seen those. Your daughter didn’t do that.

Third, and most important, what it is. It’s a cross. It’s not vulgar. It’s not sexual. It doesn’t promote violence or praise antifa. It’s not political. It’s not Islamic or Hindu or Buddhist. It’s Christian. How do you feel about that? Your daughter, who has heard the phrase “Think before you ink” decided to make permanent the symbol of Christ on her ankle. Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, your daughter bears permanent testimony to him on her body. Mom, Dad, this is the Cadillac of tattoos. Give thanks for the wise restraint of your daughter. Then give thanks for your daughter.

I’ll close with the words of Paul, the apostle, from Galatians 6:14:

“As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Rev. Jon T. Karn




Dear In The Middle,

Speaking as a parent who has had family members suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, you and your husband are so lucky and have so many blessings to count. Drug- and alcohol-free with good grades! Hooray! However, people feel what they feel and you can’t change that but you can point out things. Tattoos have been in fashion for decades and are a normal part of culture now. Have him notice the tattoos that many young people are sporting today. Most of them are not artful and some are awful, covering whole parts of their arms and or legs. Point out your good parenting skills to have raised such a wonderful daughter. And one with good taste! A small Christian cross is a beautiful and peaceful symbol and certainly nothing to break up a family over.

Carolyn Young, LCSW




QUESTION: This is probably the worst Christmas I’ve ever had because of family discord. All of a sudden my son let lose a barrage of unkind remarks saying I’ve never been close to him and his brother. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Although I’m divorced from their father, I’ve done everything I can do stay in touch and help them whenever I can. They’re now in their 30s.

I can’t even express my deep sadness over his remarks. How does one get over a situation like this?

~ Sad Mom



Dear Sad Mom,

I am sorry for the hurt you are feeling.
The best way to get over a situation like this is to walk through it. What that means is that it has to be dealt with and discussed. Ignoring it, not reaching out, pouting – none of these behaviors heal.
I understand that you feel you have been there for your children and you probably were! But everyone has a lens they see life through and your son may have a completely different version of how life was – and they need to have their side heard if you are to mend your relationships.
Often a barrage of unkind words and letting your hurt out, then having the other person being non defensive and hearing your complaints, is what actually mends relationships. You must listen to your sons words; set aside the tone and anger. His truth is in his words. Humbly try to see his point of view. Then apologize for how he feels and how he saw his childhood.

His feelings are real to him. This is the only way to mend very important relationships. It is worth the humility and the effort. You will quite possibly be happier than ever as a family.

Kimberlie Zakarian LMFT




Dear Sad Mom –

I can certainly understand how the “sting” of your son’s remarks has put a damper on your Christmas season. However, you have a choice to make: whether to let your son’s beliefs and remarks overshadow and diminish your joy this Christmas season or not.

You have said you have done all that you can do to love him and stay connected and close to him. No parent is a perfect parent. We do the best we can with what we are and have to work with. We can’t go back and change the past. Nor can we or should we try to “make it up to them” now or in the future as it will never be enough to make up for what they perceive as neglect or lack of love.

Obviously, your son has had unfulfilled, unexpressed and possibly unrealistic expectations of you throughout the years. Your son is now an adult and needs to take responsibility for his own attitudes and behaviors. He has a choice to make as to whether he will forgive you and try to build an adult relationship with you from this point on or still react and relate to you out of his childhood hurts.

You may have already done this in the past but I would encourage you to go before God in prayer, asking Him to show you any place that you need to forgive and release yourself from any guilt you still carry regarding your children. Also freshly release your son from any anger, unforgiveness, or negative judgments you’ve made about him. If you feel it will help, you can ask him to forgive you again. Whether he chooses to forgive and release you from his negative judgments is his choice.

As you enter this new year and new decade, you need to move forward rather than looking backward. Hopefully your son will choose to do the same.

Praying for a fresh start of relationship for you and your family in 2020.

Pastor Tim Beck