Prior to founding Revive Family my focus was on providing for my family AKA, financial success. I believed being a great father involved protecting my daughters, teaching them how to behave, and being a success in order to provide the activities, lessons, and experiences that would lead to their success. Unaware of the condition of my heart, I had no idea the series of events that were about to unfold would highlight the importance of my heart.
Just about the time we began to see behavior issues in our oldest daughter Heather, we entered a period when everything fell apart in my life.
It began when my dad left my mom after a long-term hidden affair and shut down our family business. To justify his decision, my father vehemently accused me of never having loved him. The confusion and pain this caused was intense. I had always been closer to him than my mom, looked up to him and sought to be like him. In an instant my life was turned upside down.
While this was unfolding, Deedee and I lost a rapidly growing college ministry that we had founded. We were mentoring college students individually, holding weekly social activities and helping them develop confidence and a vision for their future. Then we discovered a pastor’s son was doing and dealing drugs at group events. His father did not want anyone else in the church to find out so he discredited us and the group was destroyed. My sense of disillusionment and loss rivaled that caused by my father’s actions. In many ways he had been an anchor for me and my wife Deedee.
A Business is Born
On the heels of this, I founded a company that began to grow. It looked like my long sought after significant success was at my fingertips. Everything finally seemed to be settling down when three events shook the country and brought my company to an end. Losing millions of dollars of investors’ money and most of my own buried me and added to my preexisting negative core values. The experience of failure was literally crippling.
If that was not enough, we found our marriage began to fall apart in the midst of what seemed to be never ending stress, pain, and loss. There were actually days Deedee got in the car and left leaving the girls asking me, “Is mommy coming back.?” My sense of falling short and buried pain just kept building.
In spite of this relentless onslaught, my driven nature just kept pushing forward in spite of increasing depression. After all, I had a family to take care of. What I did not realize was that my pushing forward resulted in finishing off a vital part of me that had been partially shut down since I was a kid. As a result, people began to see me as arrogant, black and white, and distant. Men who cared would come to challenge me in these areas because of what they saw in my behavior without perceiving what was going on within me. As I sat across the table from several of these men, I was shocked and hurt by what they said. I literally had no awareness of how I was coming across. I remember thinking to myself, “How can you see me as arrogant, controlling or hard?” I am bleeding to death on the inside and have lost any sense of the confidence I once had. I was buried in so many negative feelings and pain deep within that I could not take any more negativity. Unconsciously a defense barrier had gone up that made me hard to prevent more pain.
This of course, did not help me with my oldest daughter who had begun distancing herself, was push back, and arguing about everything beginning around age seven. By age nine things were worse and we were locked in a battle over behavior, lying, and angry behavior.
Business died, a Child is born
Within months of losing my company and selling our home, our third child, Paul was born, only to have adversity strike again. At just seven days old he was taken by helicopter for emergency surgery on Christmas Eve! In spite of the miraculous outcome of my son’s surgery, I focused solely on the negative. The outcome for Paul was far better than the Arizona’s top pediatric surgeon thought possible, but because of my negative core values, I was convinced everything I touched turned to mud.
The compounding effect of these events piled onto the negative core beliefs I adopted as a kid and I was crushed., Depression gripped me with a stranglehold. Every day I literally felt like I had a 15 pound weight in the center of my chest. It was difficult to get out of bed and take on the simplest tasks. I was convinced everything in my life was falling apart and I saw no way to recover.
Time to Get Help
That was when I did something I thought I would never do. I called a professional counselor who asked me why I wanted to come in to see her. I said, “Everything I touch turns to mud.” She said, “that cannot be true.” I had become so negative about myself that I told her, “You have not met me yet!”
After our first session, she said she was surprised I had kept going. She said that many people gave up after just one or two major events. Nine weeks into counseling. She said I was the hardest nut she has ever had to crack. I was surprised and a bit offended because I had not held back; I had shared so much of my life and inner thoughts with her. When I mentioned this, she agreed and said this was the longest she had ever gone without giving an assignment in her 20 year career. Then she said, “I think you are finally ready to hear me.”
She went on to say, “Your heart is shut down.” My initial thought was that I did not buy this line of thinking because it’s all about the mind and it’s right thinking, making good decisions, and doing the right things that lead to success. In fact, I would later realize that this thought pretty much summed up how I was approaching my children and why I was losing my oldest.
The counselor then went on to teach me about grieving. She helped me see that when all the issues began hitting my life, the people around me did not allow me to grieve. They wanted me to be okay, be in a good mood and to just forgive my dad right away allowing no time for a healthy outlet of my pain. When I left her office that day, she gave me an assignment, to feel bad. Honestly, I was livid inside. $150 an hour for for feel bad kept running through my head as I left her office. I started driving down the highway only to break done crying so hard I had to pull over on the shoulder and begin to grieve.
While I know the thought of tears are hard for many of us and especially dads, I can honestly say that the tears I shed that day were the beginning of healing and getting stronger inside, which led to better relationships, more patience, and understanding. Tears were not the weakness and negative I had been led to believe. They were in fact the beginning point for the answer I was seeking, to become the person and father I wanted to be.
Let the Healing Begin
As I began to allow myself to grieve, my wife saw changes in me, giving her the courage to join me in counseling. This began the healing in our relationship as we came to see how my negative core values played into our communication and relationship issues. We went against the grain and extended undeserved trust to each other. This in turn led to true forgiveness for the major mistakes we both had made. Our mistakes were a result of the pain building within each of us that we stuffed and avoided. They had led to our adopting unhealthy coping mechanisms that resulted in our own escape behaviors. This is a cycle I see happening in so many kids’ lives today.
Both Deedee and I had turned to unhealthy avenues to release our pain and frustration. I turned to the temporary fix found in pornography and the euphoric releases of dopamine. Deedee stuffed her feelings until she blew, unleashing her anger in an unbridled manner that released her pain and resentment of unresolved issues in her past and in our relationship for a period of time. Because of all we had experienced in terms of financial loss, issues with our oldest daughter and the way we failed each other, turning and facing the root of the issues in my heart was the answer.
Unfortunately this wise counselor who understood the heart died while both Deedee and I were working with her. The reason she understood the heart was the result of her experience with cancer. She had come very close to death and actually had half of the lymph nodes on the left side of her body removed. Her battle and ongoing challenges had forced her to look beyond the mind, which so easily fails us, to the heart. This is the reason she was such a deep and effective counselor.
While I wish I had more time with Pat, I am glad she was not in the office with me when she experienced a fatal heart attack while counseling a client. I fear that might have finished me off at such a fragile point in my healing process. It would have confirmed to me that everything I touched turned to mud!
My Quest to Heal
Over the next five years my quest to heal and overcome my negative core values blended perfectly with the research I began with children across the country. I sought answers to the breakdown in the traditional parenting paradigm I was experiencing with my children. The time I spent with students served to expand my heart and compassion, along with my ability to hear, understand, and help others. In fact I am confident that apart from the painful experiences I went through, I would have never really listened to what kids were telling me in my research. My search for real answers with our daughter Heather and my pursuit of light and healing in my own life and heart, helped me understand the kids’ hurts and poor decisions that I encountered in my face to face research.
I am equally confident that without the students’ honesty and the transparency of their hearts, I would never have been able to find a healthier way to lead my family. The combination of my own heart awakening and the insights from thousands of children helped me come alongside my own children and see their hearts revived as well.
While it was a difficult journey to discover how to address my negative core values and see my own heart revive, it resulted in an amazing change in me, my family, and in all our children’s lives!
Today in society we focus on right thoughts, decisions, and behavior. The outcome in our lives, families, and kids has not been positive. My journey led me to see that the status of our hearts is vital to leading our families and having meaningful lives.
Read next week’s blog “A Change of Heart for Parents” as it explains why open hearts are so important for parenting today’s kids.
How’s your family’s heart are there situations you’re facing that could use a change of heart? Click here to join us for our free webinar.
There’s Hope. Revive Family can help.