Five Things to Say to Your Adult Children

RunawayBoyOnRRTracksWhen my two kids hit their college years, they ran from our house like Jessie Owens at the Berlin Olympics.

And I don’t blame them. I’m pretty sure they were running from me. It wasn’t because I’d nearly snuffed out their young lives with my horrific cooking. But more because I was a Control-a-holic. Not that I would have admitted it or even recognized it back then.

I thought I was being a good mother.

A mother who happened to believe her kids should agree with her, think like her, never question her about the hard stuff, and never smoke, drink, chew or listed to that “other” music.

I panicked when they talked too much like Democrats and became old enough to make their own choices about alcohol. I panicked about their friends about things I imagined they might be doing when they were out of the house.

But I was afraid to trust God with my kids.

Deep down I feared they’d get really angry and confront God with all the messy questions I’d never been allowed to ask. No one in my growing-up churches ever questioned God. My children–our children–were raised in churches that majored on the minors and totally missed the majors. But I’m in no position to blame my churches because I missed so many of “the majors” in my own life–majors in parenting, loving my children, my husband and my God.

As parents, we probably all recognize and even regret our imperfections, mistakes and shortcomings.Those things are in the past, and we can’t change them. But we don’t have to be bound to the past. Here are five things I want to say to my kids today:

  1. I’m proud of you and love you unconditionally.

    I’m sorry for the parental mess-ups. I think my love came out looking more like a checklist than love way too often. I’m sorry I didn’t do it better but I promise I tried with everything I had. I thank heaven you’ve turned out to be God’s unique, charming, amazing version of you. I will always love you, no matter how tough things may get.

  2. Ask for wisdom or counsel, but don’t ask for permission.

    Shortly after my son got married, he and his wife came to visit Dan and me. The four of us headed out for a day of family sightseeing and had arrived at our local zoo when my son asked me if it was okay if he smoked a cigar. I thought it was a sweet gesture, knowing he’d asked out of respect. But he was now a man and head of his own household. He didn’t need to ask his mother’s permission. I gently told him so and said that if he had concerns he should ask his wife. His dad and I were happy to offer wisdom and counsel, but he no longer needed our permission to make decisions, even when he was in our presence.

  3. I am always praying God’s best for your life.

    Years passed when my husband and I saw very little of our son and daughter. In her late teens and early twenties, our daughter was living in remote and often dangerous locations all over the world. In many instances, her life was at risk and her calls would begin with words like, “I’m calling you, so you know I’m alive, but I need to tell you…” Our faith was stretched, to say the least. At times I wanted to ask God if somebody else’s child could do this kind of mission work. But deep down, I always knew Jessica was doing what God had called her and equipped her to do.

    No matter if your adult child is living like a sinner or living like a saint, they need to know you support them. This doesn’t mean you must always support their choices. But they know you unswervingly desire the best for them and love them. You are always praying God’s best for their life and prosperity.

  4. I’m always here for you.

    I’m always here to help. I won’t erase the consequences of your actions, but I will help you face them with integrity and courage. I will help you face sorrow when it comes. I will love you enough to tell you when you are acting in ways that hurt or disrespect others and help you grow through your inevitable weaknesses. I will listen when you confront me about mine and work to be transparent and dedicated to my own spiritual and personal growth. I will try to be here for you in a way that shows the heart and humility of Jesus.

  5. Please be patient. God’s not finished with me yet.

    I’m imperfect. Parts of me are still broken and raggedy. I will still disappoint you and mess up. Maturity in years doesn’t always equal maturity in all areas of life. You probably know some of those areas better than I do. You may even be able to help me understand myself better and we could talk about those things sometime. If there’s something you think needs to be set right between us, I’d like you to bring it to me. I love you, and I want us to have the best relationship possible. Maybe you’ve been more than patient already. Thank you. Just know that I don’t want to give up on us. You’re too important to me.

I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to say many of these things to my adult kids over the years. And I’ve been blessed with amazing, life-infusing responses. What about you? What have you said to your adult children or parent/s that has made a positive difference in your relationship?

 

 

 

Confidence in the Real You

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When I was young, I lived for my father’s approval. 

Dad was a strong Christian, a great provider, and a morally unwavering and faithful husband who doted on our mother. But he wasn’t perfect. No earthly father is perfect. For many years into my adulthood, most of my achievements were driven by the desire for my father’s approval.

The inner child inside me was longing to hear him say, “That’s wonderful, Shelly, but you don’t have to do anything for me to love you. I love you just the way you are.”

This desire for belonging and inherent value is wired into all of us–men and women alike.

And if we don’t have a clear understanding of the difference between self-worth and self-esteem, we will struggle for a lifetime.

Self-worth is the unchanging reality of my value and worth. Talking about self-worth is like saying that a five dollar bill is worth five bucks. My feelings don’t influence the value of the money in my purse (now wouldn’t that be fun?). If it did, I might try paying for a Caribbean cruise with a $10 bill. Our self-worth is fixed and set by God. As my friend Pastor Dawn Damon says, “The most important thing about me is I am who God says I am.”

I can’t change my self-worth by impressing God because my value is based on what Jesus did for me. I’m already priceless.

I can stop living for approval.

Self-esteem is the value we place on ourselves, based on the things we do and how we feel about ourselves.

Our understanding of our true self-worth as Christians should determine our self-esteem. 

We are who God says we are. God sees His children as flawless. We’re joint heirs with Jesus Christ. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have a bragfest when they talk about us because they see us as perfect kids.

Can you imagine? But it’s true. God DELIGHTS in His children.

Unfortunately, we often refuse to believe or accept this. We can’t seem to find a way to get off the well-beaten path of approval-seeking. We struggle for the approval of parents, friends, church leaders, bosses or fellow employees, those in our social circle, people we admire or want to impress…the list could go on and on.

This was me for a very long time. And sometimes it still is because I make the mistake of listening to negative emotions and self-talk. We struggle with self-esteem because we believed the lie that we need other people’s approval to measure up. But this is because we don’t understand and claim our self-worth. When we recognize that we are immeasurably treasured, loved, valued, and accepted apart from performance, we can free ourselves from the approval of others.

I still live for my father’s approval–my Heavenly Father. But it’s not to gain His grace or favor. It’s because I’m grateful for everything He’s done for me.

I invite you to listen to a candid and heart-changing discussion about self-worth and self-esteem this evening at 8:00 ET on FreedomGirlsSisterhood Radio with Pastor Dawn Damon, Wanda Sanchez, and myself. You can also read more on this topic in my book The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk.

 

Sweet Fellowship

cows-1264545_960_720This past weekend I was blessed to speak to a Bible study group hosted by Hopkins United Methodist Church, located in a beautiful farming community south of Grand Rapids, Michigan. My dear friend, publicist, co-author, and partner-in-crime Wanda Sanchez accompanied me, and we somehow managed to meander to the wrong address and arrive at the lovely home of our host on Gun Lake.

Our miscalculation, I’m sure, was due to our distraction by the beautiful countryside and our loud singing to radio tunes.

When we finally arrived at the church (on time, since we’d left early), we sensed within the first five minutes that we were not fulfilling a speaking commitment that day. We would be fellowshipping with new friends from the Hopkins community.

But what makes the difference? What is the essence of true fellowship? How does it differ from sharing culture, values, opinions, location, time, or common ground with someone?

1. One quality of fellowship is partnership. Philemon 6:6

“I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ” (NIV).

The word for “fellowship” in the Greek is koinonia, which means communion, partnership, or togetherness. It means having things in common or to share a partnership. The moment Wanda and I met the women and men from the group we met on Saturday, we felt a shared bond. I’ve had this experience with Facebook friends–an immediate bond of love and commonality of spirit, even though we’ve never met and don’t necessarily know a lot of personal details about one another.

Unfortunately, you may attend a church for years and never feel fellowship. Or you may step onto a plane and feel the bond immediately with a seat mate. Fellowship is a manifestation of the work of the Holy Spirit. It springs up apart from denomination, race, gender, class, culture, or diversity in age. Some of my sweetesst fellowship is with a dear friend named Gladys, who is a 93 year-old missionary who was a close friend of my deceased parents.

2. A second quality of fellowship is unity. John 17:23

” I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (ESV).

Unfortunately, one of the things churches, Christian organizations and Christian groups are least known for is unity. Churches split, organizations unethically fire and dismiss leaders and employees, and groups factionalize, fragment, and fracture like shattering glass. The Bible study group that I spoke to on Saturday had been together for decades. The membership was represented by women and men from the age of ninety-three down to their early thirties. It was refreshing to see men and women laughing and serving together. During our brunch, the room was so filled with laughter that at times it was hard for me to concentrate.

Jesus would have loved it! I know I did. I know that I’ve been disheartened enough to leave several Christian groups because of criticism tests toward husbands, in-laws, pastors (of any kind), parents, mothers, fathers, the elderly, the pierced the tattooed, the addicted, the wrongly attired, the musically conservative, the musically liberal, and on and on. And, sadly, I know I’ve taken part in far too many of those conversations myself to put myself above others.

But the truth is, we’re called to unity. God doesn’t just suggest it. For a great resource on this topic, read Real Love: Where Bible and Life Meet by Thaddeus Barnum.

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3. A third quality of fellowship is service. Heb. 6:10

” God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them (NIV).

It’s no secret that I haven’t been well for the past few years. I have to be careful about the speaking commitments that I accept. I’m fairly unable to speak any later than 5:00 in the evening, so I typically ask churches and organizations if they can accommodate me for a brunch or luncheon. My health also forces me to make other requests–for seating, limited walking, assistance with books, etc. I’ve had to adjust to asking for special accommodations, but I’ve also been blessed to discover that God’s people delight to serve.

When we’re united in a bond of Christ, we’re delighted to have the opportunity to serve and accommodate the needs of others. We don’t find it necessary to evaluate the judge those needs according to a personal set of criteria. The Spirit of God moves and we respond.

4. A fourth quality of fellowship is transparency. 2 Cor 1:12

“For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity[a] and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.Fellowship requires that we be honest about who we are and how we struggle” (ESV). We don’t worry about pretense or putting on a facade of perfection in front of others. This can be a struggle. And popular culture makes it even more difficult.

For instance, social media can make it possible for people to hide their worst and feel that it’s necessary to keep up with what they falsely perceive to be the “best.” Many young moms state that they struggle with pressure to keep up other young moms:

Modern Moms Looking for Perfection in All the Wrong Places

Parenting in a Fakebook World: How Social Media is Affecting Your Parenting

Don’t Let Social Media Make You Feel Like a Bad Mom

But social media is not our measuring stick of performance. Our boast is who we are in God, who He has made us to be in Him, and who He promises to make us become. We can be transparent because we are forgiven and flawless in His sight.

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Fellowship takes work. It comes at a price. It’s not a passive act of showing up and expecting to enjoy the company of others. It’s making ourselves available to serve and to commit to active partnership with those in the family of God. Fellowship requires transparence and a commitment to unity–things that require sacrifice and work on our part.

How has fellowship affected your life? How are you involved in fellowship?

One-for-All Love

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I was doing my devotions this morning and was so blessed, I just had to write a blog.

I’ve always understand that God lives in me. I’ve understood that I’m made in the image of God.

I’ve understood that I’m joint-heir with Jesus and that the same Holy Spirit that empower Jesus empowers me.

But this morning I was reading John 17. There I saw that God and Jesus shared the very likeness so that Jesus could accomplish God’s plan in the world. John 17:11 states that Jesus is no longer in the world, but we, His children are. He desires that we BE ONE, just as Jesus as God are one.

Our unity as brothers and sisters should reflect the unity and love of the Father and the Son.

To put it in very simple terms my actions and words should convey “One for all, and all for one” love.

If you pay attention when you read the Bible, you see that Jesus only ever says positive things about the Father. The Father only ever says positive things about the Son.

I’ve known very few people like this in my life–people who always believe the best first about others, who refuse to listen to gossip, who don’t speculate about what they don’t know, who don’t thrive on the type of voyeurism that has become part of our media culture and mentality.

The truly mind-boggling thing is that God’s very image is manifested in His Son, which is manifested in us (John 17:21).

Through our unity and love, we have the same power to glorify God as Jesus.

Okay people, can I get an Amen! or a Hallelujah!? Today, you can choose to love people in a way that glorifies God here on earth with the same power as Jesus Christ. Nothing prevents you from exercising that power but your own self-choice. I can choose.

As God’s children, we have POWER to change the world. Today. Wherever we are.

Think about that today before you speak.

Before you spend your money.

Before you ignore that prompting.

Before you say “yes” to that urge.

Before you dishonor your body. Or your spouse/future spouse. Or your friend. Or the person you see as your enemy. Or your employer.

“So that the world may that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:23).

 

 

Courage to be Perfectly Imperfect You

Photo credit: jacobabshire.com

Photo credit: jacobabshire.com

 

What does being courageous look like to you? Enduring a painful divorce? Walking through a frightening diagnosis and illness? Facing the death of a loved one? Finally walking through the pain of your abusive past?

We all can claim our personal fears and imperfections. Finding a voice was one of my greatest struggles. As a child, I wasn’t given the opportunity to freely express my opinions, to disagree, or to ask questions. I was often told what I was supposed to think and given no opportunity to state my fears or defend myself against accusations.

Like many people, I learned to protect myself by pleasing others.

So as I moved through my adult years, one aspect of courage for me has been to learn to be comfortable being the perfectly imperfect me. What does this mean? First and foremost, I’m a child of God. Everything about me is rooted in my security as His own child, chosen and loved.

Because I’m God’s child I find courage in Him:

1. My purpose, identity, and confidence are secure.

This gives me courage to set a course and direction that may oppose culture, popular thinking, or the advice or friends and loved ones. Living out God’s purpose for my life may require sacrifice and suffering, may mean laying down my life for others, but I find courage as I lean on God’s direction in my life and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Living a life of godly integrity and Christlike love surpasses pleasing others to protect myself.

We live in a post-Christian culture. I am who God says I am and I know my purpose here on earth because I believe what God says and trust who He is.

2. I no longer fear failure.

Courage wisely tells us that “failure” is an opportunity for learning, growth, and God’s redirection in my life. For instance, the loss of a job is an opportunity for ministry in a new environment or reevaluation of how to better apply my skill set. It’s also an opportunity to evaluate how I fit into my previous work environment and whether or not I was the best match for that position and why. This process is an opportunity for growth.

God builds purpose into every element of our lives. Nothing is wasted if we have a heart that’s willing to be taught. Failure is simply a matter of perspective and certainly nothing to fear, since we all fail.(For instance,I never got off the knot in “climb the rope” in gym class, and it really hasn’t affected my life much. Except I’ll probably never be an aerialist, and we can all thank God for that.)

3. I can admit I’m imperfect.

I cry easily. My house isn’t as clean as I’d like it to be. I don’t floss my teeth. I’m twenty pounds overweight. I’m not as patient with my husband as he deserves.

As imperfect as I am, God sees me as flawless.

The list of my imperfections and sins is longer and messier than I could or should write about in a blog.

But my sins are forgiven and covered by the blood of Jesus. I don’t have to pretend I’m perfect or be ashamed because I’m not.I can live in freedom and gratitude. Because I understand the amazing grace and mercy I’ve been granted, I’m motivated to live in a cycle of faith and repentance, extending forgiveness and grace freely to others.

My goal is to never stop being overwhelmed by God’s goodness, mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness.

4. I can drop the pretense. 

I know I’m not okay and neither are you. We’re, hopefully, both sinners saved by grace. I can drop the pretense. I’m a mess and you’re a mess. We just struggle with different messes and are in different places in our struggles. Our churches are filled with broken, forgiven people. As my former pastor says, his job was to try to get as many of them to heaven in the best shape possible.

It’s our job to try to help one another get to heaven in the best shape possible.

5. To help one another, we need to have the courage to be vulnerable.

This means talking about our brokenness and imperfections, our struggles and pain. This means dropping the pretense.

This takes courage to trust people. Courage to be seen as we are. Courage to explore the dark spaces of our souls, places we often keep hidden even from ourselves. It was refreshing to talk about this kind of courage on April 11, 2016 with Pastor Dawn Damon and Wanda Sanchez on FreedomGirlsSisterhood Radio. I encourage you to tune in and listen to the conversation.

I’d also love to have you share a time when you acted courageously. What fear did you have to face?

 

 

 

 

 

Gossip and Speculation: The Silent Seduction

ConversationAndBubbles“You won’t wear that ring in public, will you?” My mother examined the three modest diamonds set into the new antique-style ring I’d just picked up from the jeweler.

“Why wouldn’t I wear it?” I was surprised by her question. “The stones were gifts from people I love, and it didn’t cost me much to have them set. I can hardly believe I own something so beautiful.”

Dan and I lived on a Christian school administrator’s salary. Groceries, a mortgage, and bills would always beat out jewelry. I’d saved for years to pay to have the gifted diamonds set.

“People know you can’t afford a ring like that. What are they going to think?”

I hoped they’d think I was blessed to own a beautiful ring. I can still remember my outrage at my mother’s question.

But looking back, I understand that my outrage was youthful naivete.As humans with a fallen, sinful nature, we struggle with pride.

One facet of our struggle with pride is judging others for things we know nothing about. 

You know, a family member goes on a cruise that we can’t afford, and we automatically assume they’re spending big bucks (which we judge to be “bad”). We swell with a rush of pride that we don’t spend our money in such frivolous ways and may even drop an offhanded comment or two to a few people about “So-and-So” being off on “another one of their high-priced vacations again.”

You know. Not REAL gossip. Just enough of an insidious dig to cause someone to question their character.

At the heart of gossip lies a killer’s heart: “Did you hear…” Gouge out a little piece of someone’s pride, their reputation, their dignity, their honor.

One.

Little piece.

Of gossip.

At a time.

I became angry the day my mother questioned me about my beautiful ring because I didn’t understand a central truth about my heart.

Like everyone, I sometimes use my tongue to decimate those I claim to love.

I gossip because I put myself first.

I gossip because I want to be noticed.

I gossip because I want to always be right.

I gossip because I don’t love you enough to treat you the way I want to be treated.

I gossip because I’m willing to push you into the mud to make myself feel better than you.

I speculate because pride pushes me to believe the worst about you so I can feel better about myself.

I speculate because it inflates my skewed sense of self-righteousness.

Gossip and speculation are driven by pride–our sinful desire to makes ourselves feel and look better than other people. 

Romans 1:29-30 states God’s opinion of gossip pretty clearly: “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents.”

It’s pretty clear that God hates proud, self-motivated language.

Romans 1:29-30 shows us that He ranks it right up there beside murder and depravity. Perhaps this is because gossip is the first to mar God’s creation.Satan introduced gossip into the world shortly after Adam and Eve were created. He distorted the truth about God and spread rumors when he told Adam and Eve that God had lied to them. He made them question God’s motives and doubt God’s love. Satan’s twisted words introduced literal and spiritual death into the world. (Gen. 2:16-17)

When Eve repeated God’s words a chapter later, she added the phrase, “lest you die” (Genesis 3:3). Satan’s rumor had already begun to seep into her thoughts and erode her opinion about God. She was beginning to believe God was unfair.

Beginning to believe…in other words, she was beginning to believe that lies were truth. To the point that she didn’t even recognize the fact that she had twisted God’s words.

And we, just like Eve, tend to believe anything we repeat enough times.

Our words carry the power of life and death. But we typically speak without evaluating our true motives. 

This is because we seldom think before we speak. Philippians 4:8 should serve as our guide for both our thoughts and our speech:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true,

whatever is honorable,

whatever is just,

whatever is pure,

whatever is lovely,

whatever is commendable,

if there is any excellence,

if there is anything worthy of praise,

think [and speak] about these things.

Overcoming Gossip

Gossip is one of Satan’s most powerful spiritual weapons. To overcome gossip, we must fight using spiritual weapons through the power of the Holy Spirit. The first step is to understand that Satan’s goal is to justify your actions, to accuse others, and to judge. Satan wants you to look for every opportunity to tell yourself that you’re better than “those people.” Gossip and speculation are two of his most powerful tools.

Of course, God’s agenda is for you to repent of prideful actions, not judge, not accuse, and not justify gossip or idle talk about others. Before repeating anything about anyone, ask yourself if you have the facts. Then ask yourself if you could repeat the information in the presence of the person involved and if they would allow you to pass it on. Finally, ask yourself if repeating the information is helpful or potentially hurtful.

Our ultimate goal as Christians is to love others as we desire to be loved. If we remember to speak of others as we would like to be spoken about, we will have no question about what to say and when to say it.

For more information on gossip, listen to the podcast on “Brain Gossip” featuring Pastor Dawn Damon and author Wanda Sanchez. You may also want to read a more in-depth explanation of self-talk from a biblical perspective in my book The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk.

Oh, and by the way, I’m still wearing my favorite diamond ring.

 

What about you? Have you been hurt by gossip? How did it affect your life?

Diagnosis for My Heart: Dad, Asperger’s, and Me

SteppingStones-taking-a-stepI’ve referred to my father a number of times as having Asperger’s Syndrome. In my posts (and in my speaking and writing, I do not always mentioned that my father did not receive a formal diagnosis of Asberger’s but I still refer to him as having had it). I’d like to explain why.

First of all, I see my use of the term as accurate and a formal diagnosis irrelevant. It’s not an indictment of character or integrity to have Asperger’s or mental illness. My intent in mentioning the term is always to explain the relationship I had with my father and how learning about the condition brought healing to my relationship with him.

I didn’t understand or enjoy my Dad until well unto my adulthood. Learning he’d spent a lifetime struggling to understand his world gave me new insight and compassion for him. 

Following list of symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome is taken from WebMD. Each is a precise descriptor of my father.

  • Have a hard time relating to others. It doesn’t mean that they avoid social contact. But they lack instincts and skills to help them express their thoughts and feelings and notice others’ feelings.
  • Like fixed routines. Change is hard for them.
  • May not recognize verbal and nonverbal cues or understand social norms.
  • Appear to lack empathy.
  • Their preference for rules and honesty may lead them to excel in the classroom and as citizens.
  • Attention to detail and focused interests
  • Fascination with technology, and a common career choice is engineering.

I’m not sure Dad knew he had a hard time relating to others as much as other people regarded him as a bit “off” or socially awkward. Dad was a brilliant man, and quite social. But he would say things that were outright insulting, and he just didn’t understand why everyone else was upset because what he was saying was true. The family often shuddered when we were with him in public because we never knew what he might say to a stranger. He was blatantly critical of overweight people and anyone who didn’t measure up to his particular standards.For instance, he often told family members, “It must be nice to have so much money you can abuse your car by ignoring your tire pressure.” But he was generous to a fault and always giving to others and cared for Mom sacrifically and devotedly–refusing to leave her side until her death.

My father was well in his eighties when I first learned about Asperger’s Syndrome. Taking him for an exam and formal diagnosis would have served no purpose for him. But when I read about the condition, my heart pounded. It answered questions that had haunted me since I’d been a child.

I’d always thought my father to be cold and heartless.

Why didn’t he tell me he loved me? Why didn’t he hug me? Hold me on his lap? Let me explain things or ask me how I felt? See that his words stung like a slap? Understand that the way he talked insulted people? Always had to talk about his pet subjects? Always had to sound like he was smarter than everyone else?

I’d stared at the symptoms on the page, and suddenly, my dad transformed before my eyes. Suddenly, he made sense.

Dad hadn’t known how to tell me he loved me. He’d always wanted to say it but didn’t know how.

And he hadn’t seen or understood how lonely I was. How much I was hurting as a child. How many times he’d hurt me.

He didn’t know he was being rude to people. He didn’t understand.

So many other things about my father came into focus.

Asperger’s fit. Everything about my father suddenly came into focus.

My heart shifted and opened up. I never saw my dad the same way again.

I vowed to never leave my father or hang up the phone without telling him I loved him. If he couldn’t say the words, I’d say them for him.

When my dad passed away in January at the age of 92, he’d still only spoken the words “I love you” to me once. When I was 19– the night I was sexually assaulted by a rapist–a bittersweet way to hear the words. But it didn’t matter. In my heart, Dad had said “I love you” over and over to me because now I understood.

Perhaps you’ve struggled with relationships because you have some of the same symptoms of my father. Don’t waste your life drowning in guilt. Be honest and talk about it with your loved ones. You have a true limitation, and those who love you need to understand it. And if you know someone you think has Asperger’s, address the issue. If that person is your child or teen, consult a physician or mental health profession. If it’s you, I’d offer the same advice. Acknowledge their limitations and offer compassionate support. And if you’ve been hurt by someone with Aspberger’s, open your heart to forgiveness. Seek healing for the wounding, understanding that we cannot hold others responsible to give us what they do not have.