self justifying

3 Damaging Ways Dads Justify Themselves

“We lie best when we lie to ourselves,” wrote Stephen King. It’s scary to think about what we lie to ourselves about as dads. On my worst day, I might see my wife working hard and think, “I worked hard earlier, so I can put my feet up now.” Truth is, maybe I’ve been slacking lately and need to pitch in and ease my wife’s workload.

A lot of us lie to ourselves to justify taking a break. Researchers call this making “self-serving justifications.” Self-justifying can take many forms. But every form is selfish. Here are 3 damaging ways dads justify themselves.

1. We justify our misbehavior.

Maybe you justify an angry outburst because your kid broke a rule. Or maybe your wife isn’t interested in sex, so you justify looking at porn. Maybe you’re stressed out more than usual, so you justify drinking more than you should. But when we justify any wrong behavior, the wreckage left behind is usually our closest relationships. One angry outburst is too many, but a lifestyle of outbursts that you keep justifying “because you didn’t listen to me” will break trust and ultimately have your kids not feeling safe around you. Stop justifying your behavior and instead, address it head-on by finding out what’s causing it. Once you know what’s driving your behavior, it’s easier to make a change.

2. We justify our comfort.

The older I get and the harder I work, the more I start to let the thoughts creep in that “I deserve this or that.” I recently started shopping for a car for my almost 16-year-old daughter. I caught myself thinking, “She doesn’t need automatic windows. She can roll her windows up manually like I did when I was her age.” Do you hear it? “I deserve automatic windows.” There’s an attitude of entitlement to constant comfort. Before you pass this example off as insignificant, consider how comfort creeps in on you. You work hard. Maybe you can’t retire just yet, but you deserve the car you want—because it’s been years since you’ve treated yourself to a new one. When you justify your comfort, you’ll overspend on things you want. You’ll fight hard for the bigger TV rather than the thing your wife or family really needs. Resist the creep of justified comfort so your kids see a picture of discipline and servant leadership.

When you justify things as being just the way it is, nothing will ever change.

3. We justify our passivity.

Ever met a guy who complains about everything but never talks about the solution? Like justifying our comfort, there’s an attitude that says the problems are all “out there” or have to do with others. This guy will complain and be ornery about people and circumstances all while only putting in minimum effort. You do damage to your relationships when you deny your role in helping change things. You have the power to change yourself and the situations around you. When you justify things as being just the way it is, nothing will ever change. Take responsibility for your role in situations and conversations. Watch how you talk about people and problems. Be sure you never complain without offering solutions.

 Sound off: In what ways do you self-justify as a dad?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What does it mean to have a sense of entitlement? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?”