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July 11 2013

Scrolled letters by Robin Dance

I can still hear my dad’s parting advice when he dropped me off at college:

“Everybody’s not going to like you and you’re not going to like everybody.”

That was his way–direct, matter of fact, minimal.  I was a middle child, the family peacekeeper, a slave to Nice with a need to be liked.  He knew how easily my heart bruised, that another’s indifference could crush my spirit; he gave me those words as a shield, a skin thickener, a deflector for the daggers sure to come.

It may not have jived with my Christian sensibilities, but those words were a balm to future wounds.  It is the way things were.  Are.  An accurate depiction of my reality….

Honestly, I struggled then as I do now with the “like” vs “love” comparison.  So much of what I know about love comes from 1 Corinthians 13; it’s:

  • patient
  • kind
  • not jealous
  • humble
  • not self-seeking
  • not a record keeper

Love celebrates truth, it bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things.

No scripture comes to mind about liking people, liking God.

Maybe it’s too simplistic, but my father’s words forced me to consider the distinction between liking and loving others; what it means practically speaking–

Loving others is action oriented towards honoring or serving them without expectation of reciprocation; liking others focuses on memy feelings and expectations and an odd sense of entitlement for something.


I’ve thought about Daddy’s counsel for 30 years; thirty years.

Out of all the advice, instruction and encouragement my father gave me during my childhood and youth, that is what I remember?  Of course I recall plenty of other things, but that one sentence has lingered longer than I’m sure he ever thought it would.  Is it a hard reality my heart has needed to hear over and over?  Is it a troublesome truth I just have to live with?  Is it plain wrong?

I feel like there’s an answer I’m supposed to say, but it’s in opposition to the way life really is….

I wish that wasn’t the case.


Remembering my own past compels me to consider the future of my children.

I have a daughter in college and a son who just graduated high school; my baby is 16.

What counsel of mine will they recall 30 years from now?  I’m not talking about easy Sunday school answers, but important, real, life-affecting counsel that will serve them for all of their years….

And I’ll ask you the same question I’m asking myself, hoping that thinking about it now and being intentional will make a future difference:

If I could choose one piece of advice for my children to remember the rest of their lives, what would it be?

If you could choose one piece of advice for your children to remember the rest of their lives, what would it be?

You won’t be able to control what they remember; you can’t predict fully what will stick.  But if you could what would it be? 

And if something immediately comes to mind one of your parents shared with you, I’d love for you to share your memory.



  1. At 27, the thing that has stuck with me the most from my mother is “Just do the next right thing”. I’ve practiced inhabiting those words in my own life and have passed them on to numerous friends. It has helped me hear the Holy Spirit and follow His guidance so practically and I would love for my future children to hold that piece of advice and feel it’s practical worth like I have.

    • Ashley,

      So true; sometimes we try to fix the big picture when your mom’s advice is the one thing that can get us there…step by baby step. Thanks for sharing (with us and all!).

  2. You know what, Robin? I don’t remember much of what my mom said but boy do I remember what she did! My mom was not a believer so I don’t have many memories of her doing the right thing because Christ compelled her to. But she was hard-working and generous and loving and loyal. I watched her work hard so I developed a work ethic. I watched her love her friends so I learned to be a good friend. I watched her take the street kids to a shelter for the night so I learned about compassion. Later, when I gave my life to Jesus all those things found their context. So I know that is not the question but that is the first thing I thought: I don’t remember any words but I remember actions. This makes me careful around my kids.

  3. Beth Williams

    My phrase would be “Don’t do, act on, or believe, what everyone else is doing.” You don’t have to always follow the crowd.

    Also “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. “Remember Christ is watching you always”. Be kind, helpful, always loving.

  4. Lina

    What a wonderful question. I remember my Father used to always say “Do what I say, not what I do” which was always done a little tongue in cheek because he was likely doing something he knew he shouldn’t pass along as I was watching everything he did!

    My 22 year old daughter recently told me that she learned a lot about relationships from watching how I interacted with her step dad (my current husband). In the early years he would be very passive aggressive and knowing my kids were watching (& learning) I would consciously say “I love you honey” which was also my way of protecting myself from his bad behavior. I am very happy to know that it did stick in the way I wanted it to, because it was certainly not easy to do at the time…

  5. Bonnie Jean

    I come from an abusive family so I am still trying to forget what my parents said in my mid fifties…

    but what I hope my children will remember is that if they live life God’s way, it may not always be easy… but it will always turn out for the best and you will have peace of mind and spirit.

  6. As a mother of 6, I find that I want my people to choose Jesus over all other things: college, a mate, a job, a place to live. I guess my advice would be, Choose Jesus.

  7. Sarah

    I think the phrase I remember most from my childhood is, “Love is an action.” I learned early on that feelings of love come and go, but that you can act loving even if you don’t feel loving. And feelings will often follow actions. So I suppose I want my kids to remember that. My version of it, and the one I tell them often is, “Stick together and take care of each other.” To me, that pretty much sums up life.

  8. My mother’s favorites:
    “Good riddance” – when you just need to let go of something
    “Good for her” – when you’re tempted to be jealous of someone
    “God doesn’t waste anything” – when you’re walking through a tough season
    “Hot tea, sleep, and Advil” – the cure for any/every ailment

  9. Handsfull

    My mother said some very hurtful things to me that I still feel the repercussions of years later, despite forgiving her the best I can.
    However, she also gave me the best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten: you always have a choice. I was brought up in a fundamentalist cult, and as a teenager, I was complaining about all the things I couldn’t do because of the cult rules, and she told me I always had a choice. I was a very surprised, and said to her ‘but… I can’t do (whatever it was I wanted to do) unless I leave!’ and she looked at me and said again, ‘you always have a choice.’ I brushed it off as just another crazy thing my mum said, because obviously leaving the cult wasn’t a choice! But it stuck with me, and years later I did leave.
    I don’t know that she intended me to take it that way… but then again, maybe she did.


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