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A Father Earns His Son's Respect

Our adaptation of a story from one of the best-selling and most practical books of all time.


Sometimes it is more helpful to apply a new principle rather than to maintain an old belief or tradition. Here is an example.

Once in China there was a middle aged man taking a course on improving human relationships. In fact, it was not just any course, but the time-tested and world famous Dale Carnegie course. The man shared with the class that he had been an opium addict while raising his son. As could be expected in such a situation, his own problems prevented him from being a good father. Later, when the son became an adult himself, he made the painful and difficult - but necessary - decision to cut off contact with the father. The years passed and eventually the father overcame his drug addiction. He wanted to re-establish a relationship with his son. But in Chinese tradition an older person cannot take the first step.The father, therefore, believed the son must be the first to seek reconciliation.

In an early class the father said with much sadness that because of their separation, he had never met his own grandchildren. He expressed to the class how much he desired to be reunited with his son. His classmates, all Chinese, understood his conflict between his feelings and long-established tradition. The father was taught that young people should have respect for their elders, and that he was right in not giving in to his desire, but to wait instead for his son to come to him. Because this is what he was taught when he was young, it was also what he believed as an adult.

Toward the end of the course the father again addressed his class. "I have pondered this problem," he said. "Dale Carnegie says, 'If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.' It is too late for me to admit it quickly, but I can admit it emphatically. I wronged my son. He was right in not wanting to see me and to expel me from his life. I may lose face by asking a younger person's forgiveness, but I was at fault and it is my responsibility to admit this."

The class applauded and gave him their full support. At the next class he told how he went to his son's house, asked for and received forgiveness and was now embarked on a new relationship with his son, his daughter-in-law and the grandchildren he had at last met.

In following his own feelings, breaking from tradition, accepting responsibility and being the first to apologize, the father had finally earned the respect of his son, not to mention that of all his classmates.



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This is adapted from a story in "How to Win Friends and Influence People," by Dale Carnegie