Self-righteousness - The reason I stopped hating my dad

By: Rick Thomas -

My dad took his first drink when he was 21-years old. He took his last drink 21-years later. In-between his first and last drink he never stopped drinking. He was a mean drunk.

When he got drunk, he got angry, and if he was not sulking in a chair, he was yelling at his children. I do not recall hearing the word “love” in our home. Television and rock songs became my love tutors. To be genuinely loved by someone or to love someone was something normal families did. Not ours.

I never called my dad, “dad” or “father.” Those words were as absent as love.

From my first birth (Job 5:7) to my second birth (John 3:7), life was ongoing, uninterrupted dysfunction. My alcoholic father was only part of the story. Though I do not currently blame him for my angry teen years and the bad things I chose to do during that season of my life, there is no denying I was partly shaped and influenced by him.

Death and anger

The year was 1978.He died in his sleep. He was forty-two years old. The layman’s diagnosis was that he drank himself to death. I was nineteen years old when he died.

By the time I was twelve years old I stopped attending church. My mother had long lost the ability to make us go to church. Church was never relevant to us. It was just another place to find weed.

It is amazing how a kid could be so messed up and so angry in such a short period of time. The focal point of my hate was toward my father.

I arrived at my parent’s home just in time to see the EMS take him out, covered by a white sheet, on a gurney. Though the person I hated the most in life died, it did not remove my anger or make me sorry.

I remember his death like it was yesterday. It was that event that motivated me to say something that I had never said before–something that had never occurred to me.

It was at his funeral when I mumbled out these words: I love you. I was standing over his casket in McEwen Funeral Home in Monroe, North Carolina. I walked up to his casket and looked over the rim.

In that moment, I snapped out of my angry stupor. That is when I realized I had held on to my anger too long. When you are angry with someone, you do not think about them dying.

It was six years later when someone introduced me to another man who died too soon. When the Father opened my eyes to the death of His Son, everything changed. I became acutely aware how we live in a fallen world that is full of fallen people.

My dad was not the only unrighteous person in our family. I, too, chose an unrighteous path. The sin that was passed down to him was passed down to me. I was just like my father—there is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10-12).

I had no right standing before God. I found commonality with my father. The death of Christ began to take my perspective off what was done to me and placed it on what I had done to Jesus.

Death of sin

The truth is I am no different from my dad. There are no gradations of sinners in the LORD’s view. To go there in your thinking is to completely misunderstand the doctrine of sin and the doctrine of salvation.

For many years I spent more time thinking about what my dad did wrong to me than what I did wrong to God. That kind of thinking is self-induced poisoning of the soul.

As I began to come to terms with the Gospel, as it applied to my dysfunctional childhood, I began to see. The angry fog began to lift. I was a self-righteous victim—a deadly duo.

A self-righteous victim is more aware of and irritated by the sins of someone else, rather than being more conscious of and more grieved by their own sin.

As the Gospel began to come into view, I began to realize my dad was not the biggest sinner I knew (1 Timothy 1:15). Like Paul, my view of myself began to plummet.

The incremental lowering of my self-esteem freed me from the anger that poured out of my entitled heart. After I took my position with Paul, my dad, Hitler, and all the other evil people in the world, I began to experience Gospel freedom.

The Gospel

There is nothing that has ever happened to you or to me that is more evil than the sin we have committed against God. 

It was only by accepting that I was like him that I could be free from him. The more I resisted him, the more I resisted the truth about me. The more I tried to set myself apart from him, the farther I was distancing myself from the power of the Gospel.

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. – Mark 2:17 (ESV)

It no longer mattered who sinned the most. The real issue for me was whether I would humble my heart before Almighty God and plead for His forgiveness for the crimes I had committed against Him.

If there is a modicum of un-forgiveness in your heart for what has been done to you, then you are making two sad admissions:

  1. You do not understand the Gospel in a transformative way.
  2. You are unwilling to apply the Gospel to your specific situation.

If you think like this, then you are not free from your sin or the sins of others. You’re still bound. Your freedom will come through the door of the Gospel, not by your ongoing anger toward those who have hurt you.

Here is the Gospel truth: My dad was just like me. He was a sinner in need of a great God. He was hopeless, spiritually bankrupt, desperate, and entangled in sin. And so was I.That truth released me from my anger. 

My appeal to you is that if you have anger in your heart toward someone that you will be humble and honest enough to own your sin and to seek do what is right regarding that relationship.

Let the power of the Gospel rule your attitude and your actions. It was the Gospel that released me from the hatred I had for my father. It was the Gospel that motivated me to stop hating on him.