I watched a young man who was brought into the courtroom from the jail in an orange jumpsuit trying to defend himself get angrier and more frustrated as he argued in vain. Whether he was right or wrong wasn’t so much what stood out to me, it was the anger that was just under the surface of his attempts to defend himself and explain his perspective. It was sad because while he wasn’t convincing from a legal perspective, he was convinced in his own heart and mind. He communicated so much more than the facts in his expression and tone which screamed of bottled up frustration and anger.
Anger is often a secondary emotion which covers up something deeper and is the driver; the real issue. That is typically hurt or fear under the surface or buried deep in the heart and the circumstances that are presenting themselves at the moment simply trigger an over-reaction fueled by the underlying issue.
So here was this young man who more than likely had a lifetime of disappointments, probably even generations of negative influence, that led up to this particular moment. I wonder . . . where was his father? I worked in a youth prison for a couple of years as a volunteer and the #1 issue that the young men in that facility had to deal with was the fact that their father had failed them. Almost 100% of the time, the boys would tell us that their father was either in prison, dead, beats them, does drugs with them, has never seen them, can’t be depended on, etc., etc. This was across racial and economic boundaries and almost without exception the boys, no matter what the abuse or neglect had been, could clearly articulate a desire to have a better dad situation. They were hurting and sought the very basic approval and acceptance from the man best equipped to give it to them. The void left hurt and fear (of more rejection, for example) which showed up as anger and played out in poverty often resulted in crime.
This doesn’t give any free passes to anyone nor does it mean that we don’t all face consequences for our choices. What it does suggest, though, is that the solutions to crime, juvenile delinquency and even some aspects of poverty on a larger scale are much more complex than simply jail and prison. Breakdown in our family system results in hurt and the hurt comes out. The consequences aren’t nearly as impressive to young people as they used to seem to be; in fact, there can be “street cred” earned through spending time locked up which is only additional evidence that it’s a societal problem with a downward trend.
This reality is not limited to people in legal trouble and is often found in seemingly “normal” suburban homes where the young people cry out for the same acceptance. That can take on many faces from both ends . . . fathers with the best of intentions working excessively to the detriment of their most important job, focused more on golf, fishing, porn, drinking or whatever else. Those patterns may testify to the dad’s inability to overcome their own father stories to share real connection with their children. Reactions from kids that include drug use, earlier and more dangerous sexual drives and other aberrant appetites.
The Answer looks like one restored relationship, one healed heart bridging the gap for one son to be able to finally feel the love of his Father and understand the purpose and model of the family in the first place.