Dressed in his new suit and dark red, velvet necktie, my 10-year-old son was crying. My daughter found me in the bridesmaid room where I was waiting with the other bridesmaids before the ceremony. She didn’t know why her brother was crying. I rushed out to find him and there he was, sitting in the lobby of the venue, his younger brother beside him.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, trying to hug him, a bit awkward in my formal dress. He tried to shake his head to indicate that it was not a big deal, but I knew better. I encouraged him to tell me, wiping his cheeks and looking into his sweet face.
“The man who is doing the wedding retied my tie.”
“OK, did that hurt you?” My mind tried to connect the dots.
“No, it didn’t hurt me. But he said whoever tied my tie didn’t know how to tie a tie.” His lip quivered.
Again I wondered, why would this upset him? Then the pieces fell into place.
“Did Daddy tie your tie first? And the man said whoever tied it didn’t know how to tie a tie?”
My son nodded.
“And that upset you?”
He shrugged. But the truth was out. My sweet son was upset about his father’s honor. Another man had criticized him and his father was not there to defend himself.
My husband, and the father of this boy, was on an errand for our daughter and not able to address the situation himself. I hugged our son, validated his feelings, and told him we could talk to the offending man a little later when we found him. Wedding photos would start soon.
Fortunately, my husband and I knew the officiant. We knew him to be a man worthy of respect and someone who knows the importance of respecting others. I was sure he assumed one of the 20-something-year-old groomsmen had helped tie my son’s tie. He probably thought he was making a joke. Instead, he stepped right into an insult.
As far as I know, this is the first time my son was faced with such situation. He is not regularly around people who would insult his father. A humble, easy-going man, his father rarely gets offended by others. I don’t know that we’ve even talked specifically about defending someone else’s honor.
I realized that deep inside my son is a sense of honor and respect. Even if he could not have articulated it as such, he was distraught at the thought of his father being disrespected without the opportunity to defend himself.
As we were about to enter the reception room, the opportunity to address the situation arose. The officiant and his wife were about to enter ahead of us. I got his attention.
“I need to tell you something,” I said. “Earlier, you helped my son tie his tie. You told him that whoever tied it didn’t know how to tie a tie.” He nodded that he was tracking with me. “His daddy had tied his tie.”
Understanding immediately hit home and I watched the man’s face register his mistake.
“Oh no,” he said, eyes wide. “Do I need to apologize?”
“I think it might be good,” I said.
Immediately, this man turned to my son, he looked him in the eyes and told him that he was sorry for insulting his father’s honor and that my son was right to be upset by that. My son nodded and smiled and accepted the apology with as much grace as a shy 10-year-old boy knows how to manage.
The officiant faced me and I thanked him. “Well done,” he told me. He knew the importance of addressing wrongs. In that moment he came alongside my husband and me as we raise our boy. He helped me give my son confidence that his feelings of honor are good and right. He helped me validate the man my son is becoming.
Raising our boys means seeing the men they can become and giving them the confidence they need to reach for that identity. There are many images of what a man looks like. I hope that he will choose to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before his God.