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Eric Christiansen: A dad’s perspective for the new year

Chairman of the Boards

Posted: December 25, 2008 3:45 p.m.
Updated: December 26, 2008 4:30 a.m.

I went running this morning and it was intolerably cold as the wind was whipping up an artic chill. My face hurt and my legs burned. I so want to be in shape, but darn if it does not require some pain and constant work. I was just commiserating with a friend wondering why Ben and Jerry's could not replace dark green vegetables as a viable source of nutrition.

It is a fact of life that the things that are the best for us often require time, work and patience. Sometimes, like this morning, I detest the process of running, but, halfway into the run I begin to like it. Later, as I sit in my warm, cozy office and reflect on the nice five-mile run I've just taken, I realize I love to run. I then come to realize that I've made an investment of time and toil in my health and future.

"Faith without works is dead."

I am a strong believer in the power of prayer, but, along with that I believe action must be taken. About seven years ago, I began to dream about skateboarding again. About getting vertical and feeling the same rush as when I was 18. More recently, I have wanted to get in shape, setting the goal of running my first 5K. It was not until I got out and took some lumps that any of these happened.

Basically you cannot win the lottery without buying the ticket. For example, if I am going on a trip, there are actions I must take - first buy an airplane ticket, pack my bags, get myself to the airport and finally step on to the plane. I pray for a safe trip to my destination and have faith the pilot will get me to where I need to go. It is only then I can sit back and wait.

"Into action ... "
I really don't believe in New Year's resolutions, but I do believe in constant improvement. I understand that I may never be "perfect." It is progress that I strive for. One of my goals is to be a better dad and to have more patience in times of crisis or controversy.

I pray for this. But how do I get there? I need to take concrete steps. I reach out and ask for advice from fathers I respect. Or perhaps take the anger class offered at church. These opportunities for action are a direct answer to prayer. As an aside, I want to offer a gem of what I learned this year. When in the heat of the moment, always look your children directly in the eyes. This simple step has de-escalated many a conflagration.

"It's not old behavior if I am still doing it."

This year I realized I have been carrying a 100-pound sack filled with my past. I realized this sack has caused thinking and actions that have been holding me back from becoming the man I want to be.

Where did this thinking come from? One of the many factors revealed to me is that my father was constantly critical of me. Upon my dad's passing I took it upon myself to be critical of myself.

This was fine for me to do, but if my wife or others are ever critical of me - heaven help them. I would see my father's face in these situations. What to do? I had to ask for help.

One of my oldest friends and mentor had come to the same place in his life. He was able to hand me some spiritual tools to apply to this. One action was to come to an honest understanding of my dad. This involves the action of writing and realizing that my dad did his best. He not only provided for us but also did many incredible things.

At the top of this list, he passed on to me an incredible love of the sea and today I pass this on to my children. It is a great paradox that through honoring my father I am being healed. This process was the answer to my prayers.

"With a little help from my friends ... "

I would be amiss not to mention one crucial part in my continued growth - the ability to reach out and ask other men for help. Every man has other men they admire for various reasons. It is exactly these men we must approach and ask for help. It is a humbling experience to deliberately ask another man for help and conversely the subject is actually quite flattered and eager to help.

I have mentors in all areas of my life - church, business, parenting and recovery.

Without their guidance, my life, career and family would not be what it is today. It makes sense to stand on the shoulders of others who have already been there.

May your New Year be filled with faith, hope and love.

Eric Christiansen lives in Santa Clarita with his wife and three kids. His column reflects his own opinions and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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