Hard Question

“Sean, hi. I just want to ask you if you have any advice on how to show my 14-year-old daughter that I am proud of her. She doesn’t have her father anymore, and she is actually pregnant. I don’t judge her. I know more than anything that she would like to know someone is proud of her, and even though I say it all the time, I don’t know if she knows that. No matter what mistakes she’s made, I am actually very proud of her.”

Don’t ever change. You’re doing it right.

“Dear Sean, my father physically abused me. I had to tell someone. I am 39 years old. He is dead now.”

Hi, friend. I was smacked around by my father sometimes. First time he ever hit me happened almost against his will. It was almost a reflex on his part. It was the way he’d been raised. He reared back and slapped me. I fell off my feet.

Later I found him crying in the back room, and he told me the story of the first time his father ever smacked him. You should have heard his trembling voice. In that moment, my father had become a little boy just like me.

My father was not a bad man. Neither was yours. They were beautiful men who did dumb things. They did the best they could with the crummy cards they were dealt. You and I are doing the same. Let us hope and pray, friend, that nobody holds our worst mistakes against us.

Otherwise, I am totally screwed.

“Hello, Sean, my wife and I both like the name Shawn. But my problem is, I want to name my newborn boy ‘Shawn’ with a W, and my wife wants to name him ‘Shaun’ with a U. What do you think?”

I think you’re both wrong.

“I am 32 and I still haven’t completed high school. I was going to go back to get my GED, but it was a lot harder than I ever thought. I gave up. What should I do?”

You should avoid algebra at all costs.

Seriously, my only suggestion is to enjoy your life. Whatever that means for you.

On a side note: I used to attend GED graduations at the local community college, just for fun. I watched older men and women dressed in jeans and boots walk the aisle to receive paper diplomas. Judging by the recipients’ tearful reactions you would have thought they were receiving doctorates. It was the most beautiful thing I ever saw.

I happen to be one of those recipients.

“Hi Sean, I am 19, female, and there is a guy I am engaged to who my parents can’t stand. They told me that if I marry him then they will never talk to me again. What do I do? I don’t want to lose my family, but I love him so much.”

The simple answer is: Do whatever the heck you want.

The long answer is: You’re 19 freaking years old.

Moreover, you don’t have to worry about losing your family. You’ve already lost them. Because any parent who threatens you in any manner is not acting like a parent but behaving like a dictator.

So I can’t tell you what to do because you’re a grownup. But think of it like this: At some point in life, you’re going to be paying your own car insurance, buying your own Charmin and making your own decisions. Why not start now?

“Dear Sean, please give me some advice. My mother is dead and I’m afraid I’m the one who killed her because I accidentally told her what the hospice nurse said about how she probably didn’t have much time left… I hate myself… I know in my heart she would still be alive if it weren’t for me.”

I know from my own experience with grief that perhaps the most common emotion after death is guilt. Ironically, the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) never mention guilt. But I think guilt falls somewhere between bargaining and anger.

I’m no expert—we can all tell—but I’d wager you probably feel guilt because your brain craves order among chaos. Simply put, you need a reason why all this crapola happened to you. You need a scapegoat.

My suggestion is quit fighting the guilt. Quit resisting it. Let it happen. You think you caused your mother’s death? Fine. So be it. Let it run its course.

When you’re finished feeling guilty, you might consider asking your late mother what she thinks about it.

“Hi Sean, my son told me something about his lifestyle that I wish wasn’t true. As his father, I know it’s my duty to tell him that he is going to hell if he doesn’t follow the right path, but I don’t know what to do here.”

I want you to think back on your own teenagehood. Think about the people who impacted your life the most.

Think of the selfless persons who reached out and helped you become you. Who shouldered you through the most difficult periods of your existence. Who understood you, or at least tried to. Who cried with you. Who motivated you. Fed you. Loved you. Hugged you. Supported you. Held your hand. Someone who, against all odds, was insane enough to actually believe in you.

Got it? Good. Now, how many of those people said you were going to hell?

“Hi. I am looking to buy a new SUV, but I can’t figure out which make and model to go with. I am leaning toward a Jeep Grand Wagoneer, but it’s surprisingly expensive, so I’m wondering if I should buy a good old Ford Explorer?”

I think you have the wrong address.

“I don’t know if I believe in God. I want to, but inside I think it’s all all just a crutch.”

Thank heaven for crutches. I couldn’t walk without them.

“My kids don’t ever come to see me and they never call or text me, either, not even to ask how I’m doing. I don’t call them because I don’t want to bother them, they have their own lives, but what about me? Why are today’s kids not paying attention to their elders!?”

Call your kids. Bother your kids. Pester your kids. Please.

The truth is, we kids are stupid. You taught us how to use the toilet and how to drive a stick-shift. But after all these years, we really haven’t grown up that much. We’re still selfish. We still talk with food in our mouths. We still interrupt others. We have not learned how to share. At this age, we are merely middle-aged people who are potty trained. We still make lots of mistakes.

So teach us. Teach us to be thoughtful. Refuse to give up on us. Text us. Call us. Tell us you love us even when we don’t deserve it. Don’t ever stop showing us to be considerate. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Maybe one day we’ll even make you proud.


  1. Ed (Bear) - May 22, 2022 7:45 am

    Dear Sean,
    I love you and I’m proud of you.
    You’re the best writer on the planet!

  2. Leigh Amiot - May 22, 2022 11:04 am

    Good morning, Sean,

    There’s a book called “The Power of Praying For Your Adult Children” by Stormie O’Martien I highly recommend to a couple of the folks who wrote to you. As my life has progressed, Stormie has written books which have grown with me, and I now have a copy of “The Power of a Praying Grandparent”. My late mother-in-law used to say, “There can never be enough prayers.” I think often of what she said, and I think often of a great-aunt who, when bedridden in her final years, spent her days praying for all her extended family by name. I’ve no doubt her prayers still influence my life for the better.

    It is a lovely thing, Sean, that people feel comfortable enough to share their burdens with you. Though you catch flack for it sometimes, you have generously and vulnerably shared your heart with your readers. You are an encourager, and I am proud of you. Many times we are called to give the very thing we need.

  3. Te - May 22, 2022 11:30 am

    That last one was good advice because I have a friend who has the same problem with one son. I’m gonna tell her what you said. Otherwise, ain’t it amazing what people worry over. And they know the answer, if only someone will tell them, “yeah, that’s what you do.” Can’t say I’m any different. Good one, Sean.

  4. Norm Purdue - May 22, 2022 12:42 pm

    Sean, I admire your being able to discern between those who really are seeking advice and those who want you to agree with their point of view.

  5. Linda Walker - May 22, 2022 1:04 pm

    Thank you Sean. This was just what I needed to hear this morning.

  6. Robert Sheppard Smyth - May 22, 2022 2:04 pm

    THANK YOU! The last example is me and I now know what I should do.

  7. Patricia Gibson - May 22, 2022 2:34 pm

    Beautiful and well said❤️

  8. Mary Douglas - May 22, 2022 3:53 pm

    Thank you, Sean! Great wisdom shared benevolently. Love your column! 🌝😢

  9. KATY@1:15 pm - May 22, 2022 5:13 pm

    Sean, I believe you were born for such a time as this! 🥰Keep on loving us through your writing💕🙏💕

  10. N3OWULF - May 22, 2022 5:27 pm

    Hi Sean,

    I want to start by saying I love your columns and authenticity. I was first introduced to you when my wife’s lifelong best friend Michelle (yes, the same Michelle you wrote that nice article about) had told us about us about you and the article she wrote about you that introduced us to you. She even showed us the guitar you gave her, which we thought was really awesome.

    I’ll also admit that I get astonished at some of the hate-mail you receive. My thought is if people genuinely despise all the things you write about then why follow you to begin with? There’s an “unsubscribe” option I believe they should use.

    With that said, there was one reply in this article that your response hit a nerve with me. Now it doesn’t change my overall opinion of you, and I’ll happily continue to follow you while I look forward to more amazing stories from you. But I think you need to be cautious in your replies to people. The response I’m referring to is the 39 year old man that said his father “physically abused” him and it took him all these years to admit that to someone.

    In your response you used your own personal history with your father as grounds to not only claim he was a “good man” (something that’s debatable since, in my opinion, he took the cowards way out leaving your mother, you, and your sister out in the cold), but you presumed to claim to know that man’s father was also a “good man” that made poor choices. As a man that grew up with an extremely physically abusive sperm-donor that beat me, my egg-donor/incubator, and sexually molested my younger brother; I have to say he was the epitome of evil incarnate. Sure, I’m able to recall times in life that my sperm-donor tried to be a good father, but the unfortunate reality is what few things he tried to do in an effort to be a “good father” will never negate all the evil things that he did to me and my family.

    Where I’m going with this is before you make attempts to justify the evil behavior of people, and make claims of them of them actually being “good” people when you don’t know the backstory, you should probably choose to simply be more empathetic towards them from a different perspective. Maybe you should’ve told the guy that no matter how horrible his father was he doesn’t have to allow those memories continue to dictate his life. That we all go through some form of abuse and mistreatment, but we also have the ability to break that cycle and not become the men our father’s, their father’s, and so on have been.

    I get that it’s all about perspective, which is why I presume your sister doesn’t share the same fond memories of your parents from her childhood that you do. So please keep in mind that not everyone else has had the same experiences in their dealings with their families that you claim to have, and it’s not always as easy for others to reforge their own memories and experiences into someone else’s. I’m not a christian, and not because I’m ignorant of the teachings of the bible, but because I’m very well versed in the numerous contradictions and hypocrisies within it’s teachings. And I always find it amusing how so many christians choose to cherry-pick specific teachings from it when they want it to align with a personal belief. The same book that claims to center around love and compassion simultaneously justifies evil and wicked behavior, which doesn’t surprise me when a follower of those teachings attempts to be loving and compassionate while simultaneously justifying evil and wicked behavior.

    Keep in mind that Ephesians 5:11 of your own holy book states to “have no fellowship with the doers of evil and wickedness, but rather expose them!” Another perspective of this verse could be that “attempting to justify the evil and wicked deeds of men makes you just as evil and wicked as they are!” In conclusion, there’s numerous verses in that book that claim “only god knows the hearts of men.” So to claim you know that this man’s father was a “good man” at heart is to simultaneously claim you have the knowledge of your god, which I believe falls under the definition of blasphemy.

    • PL - May 23, 2022 2:39 pm

      I am extremely sorry that your childhood was was filled with the experiences you described above. It’s tragic that things like this happen in the world, but unfortunately they do. I think Shawn’s article maybe was attempting to shine a positive light on issues that under the surface are very dark.

      There is however, Good News and healing from your pain and everybody else’s(mine included), and it resides in the person of Jesus Christ. If God can change a fool like me and bring peace and love into my heart, he can do it with you as well. Find a Bible and read it. There is nothing hypocritical in it, only truth. In fact, it is the only TRUTH this world has to offer.

      Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and isn’t that what all of us are truly seeking in life, peace? I sincerely hope that you will find it. God Bless.

  11. Andrea - May 22, 2022 6:04 pm

    Awesome column. Awesome answers.

  12. MAM - May 22, 2022 6:04 pm

    I’m guessing that N30WULF needs some prayers said for him. It’s “good” that he likes your columns and authenticity, but then he attempts to eviscerate your comments. He must have nothing better to do on a Sunday morning.

    • NEOWULF - May 23, 2022 2:47 pm

      MAM my “evisceration” of a single comment Sean made in response to a follower question doesn’t mean I have to stop liking Sean or the majority of columns he writes. No 2 people will ever agree on everything all of the time, but it doesn’t mean that those 2 people can’t have differing opinions and beliefs yet still enjoy the things about each other they have in common. The world is not black and white, there’s plenty of gray areas, and we don’t have to stop liking people because they post an opinion we disagree with. But when you open yourself up for people to reply to your opinions, you have to be willing to accept that sometimes they may respond in a different way.

      That response hit a personal nerve with me, because if anyone ever attempted to justify my sperm-donors behavior as simply “bad choices”, yet tried to convince me he was a “good man” when they knew nothing about him, my reaction would be a lot more harsh than my previous reply was. But you’re welcome to pray to your god about me if you want. I doubt it’ll do much good, but if it makes you feel better about yourself then feel free to do that.

  13. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - May 22, 2022 7:53 pm


  14. Becky Souders - May 22, 2022 9:11 pm

    Yup. They were both wrong.

  15. Amy Rogers - May 23, 2022 4:18 pm

    I love you, Sean Dietrich. You give people the best reasons to love themselves, their children, and their silly parents. Your wife is blessed and obviously, highly favored.

  16. Carole Lea - May 24, 2022 4:25 pm

    I love your answers here. You are a great example of what loving your neighbor is all about. What a blessing you are to all of us. Keep being you!❤️


Leave a Comment