Justin Skeesuck and Patrick Gray have been friends since childhood. When Justin was a teenager, a car accident triggered a progressive neuromuscular disease that eventually would leave him without the use of his legs and hands. Justin, a married father of three, needs assistance to bathe, eat, and drink. One day, while he watched a show about Spain, he decided he wanted to complete the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage across rough terrain that even traverses difficult mountain ranges. The first person he thought he’d like to make the journey with was his longtime friend Patrick. When asked to do it, Patrick simply replied, “I’ll push you.” Over 34 grueling days, they completed the journey together, with the help of strangers they met along the way.
Justin and Patrick’s story is inspiring, but even more inspiring than their journey is their approach to life and relationships. Their book Imprints: The Evidence Our Lives Leave Behind is both motivating and challenging for any man who wants to leave a powerful legacy. At the core of your legacy is your relationships, especially with your spouse (if you are married) and kids. In their book, Justin and Patrick list five characteristics healthy relationships need in order to leave the imprint we want on the world. Does your relationship have them?
This doesn’t just mean being truthful, Justin and Patrick explained. It means having honorable intentions. That’s part of being honest. If we are communicating a difficult truth to someone with the intent to hurt them, then we aren’t being honorable, and therefore, we aren’t being honest. Ultimately, we need to be honest with our intentions in addition to being truthful in what we say. So when we communicate truths to our spouse, kids, and anyone else, we have to ask ourselves what our motives are in telling them this. Are my words being used to help them grow or just to hurt them?
Being vulnerable is scary and can make us feel weak, but vulnerability actually requires strength. In the book Imprints, a friend of the authors went so far as to say, “Only when someone knows all of me can they truly love me.” If we are going to have authentic and loving relationships with a spouse and our children, we need to be vulnerable with them. And if we want our kids to grow up to have healthy relationships, we need to model vulnerability more than anything.
That leaves us with two options. We either can ignore this and remain stagnant or we can receive and act on feedback from others. When we accept that we don’t have it all together and embrace accountability, we take a big step toward becoming the best versions of ourselves. This will lead to fuller healthy relationships.
If we are not intentional, the alternative is to grow apart. Whenever I ask someone how things are going, they almost always say one word: busy. We’re all busy and it’s easy to let the busyness of life push us around like a leaf in the breeze. If we are not intentional with those we love the most, we can wake up one day wondering where the years went and why our “loved ones” are so distant. Every day, we have an opportunity to grow closer in our relationships with a spouse and our kids. If we are not intentional, the alternative is to grow apart.
We all need people in our lives outside of our families who will give us support, encouragement, and sometimes an honest word to keep us on track. This is especially true during times of difficulty. Every family goes through some type of trial. Some go through many. We need the support of other families and friends to help us through those times. Where is your community? Your community (or the people you surround yourself with) dictates the type of person you’ll become in the next couple of years. If you have a negative one, find a new one. If you haven’t found one, pray for it. It’s that important.
Sound off: Which one of these is the most difficult for you?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think it means to be an honest person?”