How to Effectively Draw the Heart of Your Son


Being both a father and a son, there are certain areas in which my “radar” is a bit more sensitive, areas that are more of “don’t press that button, please” because they raise my ire rather quickly and get me fired up.

Photo courtesy of chrisroll |
Photo courtesy of chrisroll |

Love and Mercy

Last week I was on a getaway with my wife for some time to rejuvenate and recalibrate. We enjoy going to see movies together for our dates and so we decided to hit the theater and see “Love and Mercy.”

“Love and Mercy” is a sort of docu-drama about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and his struggle with mental illness as he got into his early twenties. Much of the storyline focused on the relationship with his narcissistic psychologist, Dr. Eugene Landy, and his dominance and manipulation that he held over Brian as his legal guardian. 

My interest in this movie was more the relational side of how Brian went through some really tough episodes in his life (some of his own doing) and how a woman named Melinda entered his life and helped rescue him from Landy and provide some emotional and mental stability as he got into his forties.

It was also a good reminder of sin and its consequences.

As I stated before, I am both a father and a son, and there are certain movie elements that I just get weary of viewing.

Enter Murray Wilson, the father of Brian. It is evident from the beginning that there was tension between Brian and his father.

Please understand that I am not condoning the lifestyle or many of the choices of Brian Wilson. But it was clear that there was an overbearing relationship from the father to the son. 

An overbearing father

It is a scenario that I tire of seeing: a father who is harsh, demanding, and critical. A son who is crushed by the criticism of the father and in turn becomes passive because he just “can’t compete” or feels he can never please his dad. The hard reality is that the consequences of this type of relationship typically do not just keep to a childhood.

I have heard stories from others too many times of scenarios that mirror this one. And I actually left the movie emotionally drained and frustrated because of what I viewed between a father and his son…again. 

The older I get, the more I desire to never be this type of father with my own kids. It almost makes me physically ill when I see it. In a mindset of “I just want you to grow up and serve Jesus!” mentality, my own agenda can take over God’s agenda and avenues for grace can easily turn into avenues of harshness or criticism. 

What I end up meaning is “I just want you to grow up and be like me!”

My post today is a plea to fathers to evaluate and assess the type of relationship that they are fostering with their kids, especially their sons. I cannot articulate how important this area is for us as fathers, because the words of a father have great weight and force with their sons. They shape into manhood.

The prodigal son or the graceful father?

There is a powerful parable illustrated by Jesus in the Gospels. We have heard it over and over labeled as the “Prodigal Son,” but really it is a story that truly highlights one amazing grace-filled father.

Luke 15:11-32 depicts the story of this father who had two sons. One son had the mindset of “I wish you would go ahead and die, father, so that I can have my inheritance.” And the father gave his son what was requested. 

We know how the story ends – one day, this son came to his senses as he was living with the pigs and thought himself unworthy to be a son any longer. He would be content to just be a servant of his father. They certainly lived better than he was living.

The older son did all the right things that a son should do, but when he hears of his brother’s return, he was furious that his shameful brother was being shown grace and getting back into the family rather than being punished or rejected.

Worthiness based only on grace

One brother feels unworthy because of his behavior; the other brother feels worthy because of his behavior. Both attitudes wrong; both attitudes worthy of reshaping.

The highlight of the story is really on the father. The father could have put both sons in their place, highlighted their poor attitudes, and made sure they felt his displeasure.

To the prodigal, it could have been…

“You want to return home? Really? Do you know how repulsive your behavior is to me? How much it has embarrassed me as your father? Have I not worked hard for you? Do you not know how good you have it? I did not raise you this way!”

To the older brother, it could have been…

“Shut your mouth and get back to work. I am your dad and I will do what I want. Do you hear me? Look at me when I talk to you. I am tired of your complaining attitude to me. So what? You want some kind of reward for doing what you are asked? Don’t sass me! Your behavior is so frustrating to me!”

But neither scenario occurred. To each son, a different response was given, but each response was remarkably crafted of grace. A father’s words to his son have great influence and they either build or destroy. And the sins of the father can get passed on to the next generation if we are not careful. 

One poor father-son relationship begets another.

But what if opportunities to speak truth into the lives of our sons were not about what irritated me or how why what was done or said made me mad or frustrated?

A son pleasing to his father

What if our sons believed they could please us as fathers and that our son’s first thoughts of their fathers were grace and humility?

Dads, keep making times of correction about you and your displeasure and then watch your son’s heart drift into silence and withdrawal. And then watch it turn into passivity mingled with sudden outbursts of anger when he gets older. And then wonder why your son seems so disconnected.

God brought some things to light in my own life with my responses to my son when he was younger that when viewed for what they were, broke me. I was so concerned with truth that I lacked its counterpart…love.

Paul said in Ephesians…

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…

(Ephesians 4:15)

So I do not write today as one just viewing these things from afar. I have lived it and by God’s faithful grace, have grown and changed. Not to where I desire to be, but certainly not where I was.

Perhaps your view of God is what it needs to be and you overflow grace and humility to your son or daughter. Awesome. Model it to other men. We all need it.

But there may be some fathers reading this who are frustrated with their son because of his withdrawn and disconnected heart. Perhaps ask him, “Do I overflow grace to you? Am I harsh with you? Do you feel shut down by me?” Receive his words humbly.

I do not mean this unkindly or “casting the first stone,” but if you are an angry, harsh, no-grace-in-the-barrel type of father, the truth is that you are emasculating your son and sucking the breath right out of his life.

The freedom from repentance

It might be time for some humility, confession, and repentance. It’s freeing and liberating. You would not, perhaps, associate these words together, but humility, confession, and repentance are what God delights in.

I desire these words to describe me in my fathering:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

(Ephesians 4:29-32)

Question: How would you be described in this area?

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4 thoughts on “How to Effectively Draw the Heart of Your Son

  1. Excellent article.  I truly enjoy reading the articles that you are writing.Keep up the great work.Love you mom

  2. Top notch. I agree with you about being saddened with seeing bad example after bad example of father-son relationships in movies and in television shows.

    It does make the good relationships stand out. Reminds me of Titus 2 where Paul talks of how attractive our gospel-centered lives will be to the world because we follow the commands given in Titus 2. Titus 2:10b “…Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way.”

    A life given to self-control, self-discipline, humility, and submission will be a life filled with joy and incomprehensible peace from God; this life will be shocking and beautiful to those who do not have the gospel in their lives.

    • Good thoughts my friend. It does make you thankful for those relationships that are modeling grace. They seem to becoming more and more rare these days. Thankful for the power of the Gospel!

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