Behind the (Bad) Behavior
Every act displayed in public has a back story; we can't take what we see at its face value.
This I have to remind myself, because I forget, or I mistakenly focus on what I see, based on GMRC (Good Manners and Right Conduct), which my generation takes seriously.
Often, if not always, we react to what our eyes witness because we are not privy to the back story.
This happened at one university graduation I attended. Faces on occasions such as this are usually bright—it is, after all, a happy occasion.
But . . .
A limping father with a cane went up the stage two paces behind his son (who was to receive a medal for academic excellence). Because of his cane and the condition of his foot, the father was taking a mighty long time getting the medal out of the little box.
His son, irritation and impatience written all over his face, grabbed the medal from his dad's hand and quickly put the medal around his neck himself. Then he stormed down the stage.
Right there on stage, before the audience, the father—his face unreadable—threw the medal box before he limped down the stairs following his son.
I was stupefied, to say the least. A son shamed his father before a crowd of peers, professors, and guests! This was the same reaction of the mothers to my left and right in the faculty row.
The quick-witted emcee said something lighthearted to save the embarrassing episode. Everything went well after that, but the father-son debacle never left my mind.
When I shared the story with my family later, I got varied responses:
“He must be a battered child, and that was his way of revenge.”
“That couldn't have been his father; more like his stepdad.”
“They had a fight before that and the son carried it on.”
“A son takes after his father's temperament. Testiness is inherited.”
I will never find out what was behind the son's bad behavior, but my thoughts go back to what I was taught in childhood, “Respect your elders.” I grew up at a time when elders had all the say in a household and in Sunday School I learned, “Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord.” Colossians 3:20 (NLT)
Yet, after listening to other points of view, I go back to this verse, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
In a perfect world, fathers are role models to their sons and they are best of buddies.
A son gives due respect to his father, in private or in public, and vice versa.
But this is a spaced-out world which, without trust in God's grace, can go the way of the unfortunate father-son stunt at that one graduation day.