Buried in the archaic curiosity of the King James translation is a gem: “…godly sorrow worketh repentance … not to be repented of…”. [2 Cor 7:10]

Repentance that sticks.

Consider that when God sorrows, it’s not the self-serving, feeling-sorry-for-myself kind of sorrow that leads to death.  God sorrows for others.

There’s the key to deep and lasting repentance: you must enter into the suffering of others.  In this case, the suffering your sinfulness has caused those around you: your spouse, your family, your coworkers, your friends.

A decade ago I was in a workshop participating in exercises and discussions designed to help me see my impact on those I claim to love.  Like most everyone I know, I’d made a practice of overlooking how my preference to look good, feel good, be right, and be in control had affected those closest to me.  There was so much frustration and sadness and hurt and resignation that I just didn’t see.

Didn’t want to see.

Until… one particularly powerful exercise about the value of life.

In an instant I saw myself as an analyst, with lab coat and clipboard, standing on the sidelines of my own life, carefully studying its complexities.  Once I understood, I’d lay down my clipboard and lab coat, walk off the sidelines and into “the game” of life.

Trouble is, while I’m on the sidelines, I’m not in the game.

And, without me, people I love were suffering. 

Most poignant, when our kids hit adolescence, the game-changers came with such ferocity and velocity that – for years – I couldn’t figure it out. So… I stayed out of the game.  Annie, essentially, parented all six kids through the turbulence and discontinuous change of their adolescence– alone. 

In the awful hours that followed, I drank deeply from the cup of their suffering.

Slowly, thoroughly I considered each child and what it would’ve been like for them to traverse the stormy uncertainties from child to adult without their dad… without my love, assurance, encouragement, tenderness, confidence, collaboration, sensitivity, and wisdom.

Not that I’d actually gone anywhere. I’d mastered the art of being present without being present. 

Then, I imagined what it must have been like, instead, to get a steady diet of my disappointments, judgments, distance, comparisons with my [idealized] recollections of my own adolescence, demands, and ever-present distraction. 

I chose to enter into the loneliness, confusion, isolation, frustration, loss, sorrow, fear, perplexity, discouragement, de-valuing, and opposition they likely experienced because of the way I’d chosen to be. 

I let myself feel everything.

Deeply. Influentially. Unrelentingly. Sickeningly.

It broke me.

It devastated me.

It undid me.

THANK GOD!

Coaching Distinctions #11