A Father’s Discipline

“Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
    but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” – Proverbs 13:24

My dad has a lot of great stories. One that he’s told me many times and has stuck with me throughout my life is about his brief participation in the Watts Riots of 1965. Long story short, my 15-year old dad and his cousins decided to do a bit of looting during the riots when my grandfather caught them pushing a grocery cart full of candy down the street. They found the wrath of God by my grandfather’s hand that day, and have walked the straight and narrow path ever since. The lesson learned that day was so strong it has resonated through a couple of generations of men in my family. In 1992, riots and looting broke out after the acquittal of the officers who brutally beat Rodney King. I received a couple of invitations to go out and loot, and it was easy for me to say, “Nah! I’m good!”

I was hard-headed, so my father had plenty of opportunities to teach me valuable lessons through discipline growing up. I remember slipping a pack of bubble gum into my pocket at a young age while standing in a grocery store line. As soon as my hand was securely in my pocket, I felt my ear being ripped off the side of my head! It was my dad, lifting me by my ear as he leaned over to whisper into it, “Put that back, or I will call the police to come to arrest you myself!” The message was received loud and clear! However, young and dumb are synonymous. So, I would need more reinforcement at different times in life. My elementary school sent a permission slip home for parents to permit the principal to spank their child if necessary. My dad checked the “NO” box and said, “If you need your butt whooped, I’ll come down there and do it myself.”  I still remember the terror of hearing my 5th-grade teacher say to my parents, “Brian is talking too much in class!” Acting up in school never went over well. Anyone close to me has probably heard me tell the story of the “Beef Jerky Fiasco.” (That’s a story for another post.) I know, now, from Proverbs 23:13, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.” But back then, I thought my life was going to end in the 6th grade.

It’s funny how perspective changes when you become a father. At age 46, now the father of 3 adult children, I fully understand what my father, his father before him, and King Solomon, the wisest man ever to live knew. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him” (Prov. 22:15). The rod was not spared in our family, first, because of love. My grandfather loved my father. My father loves me, and I love my kids. It doesn’t feel like love at the time to the one receiving the discipline. Discipline never does. However, discipline applied correctly is a life-saving maneuver. For example, when your young child runs into the street or tries to stick a fork in the electrical outlet, you spank them as a deterrent from putting his/her life in danger. Proverbs 5:23 says, “He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly, he is led astray.” My grandfather, my father, and I know that black men in America cannot afford folly.

Folly equals death. If not the death of the body, it can easily be the death of your dreams. Folly is fatal. It was the rod that kept me on the path: to college, to God, to a family, and to live with purpose. The alternative: the road to prison. Yes, I had growing pains. Yes, I made stupid decisions and have had to live with the consequences. But today, my life is shaped more by the discipline of my father than the folly of my youth. For that, I am eternally grateful! Yes, I’m finally old enough and wise enough to say, “Thank you for spanking me, Dad!” I love you! Happy Father’s Day!

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