Parable of the Southern Belle

This story could take place anywhere, but it works best for me if I imagine a father sitting on the front porch of his plantation style home in the South.  He looks down the long gravel drive lined by large trees on both sides.  He sees an old sports car driving a little faster than usual up the drive, which comes to a gravel-flinging stop by the porch. 

A teen-age girl (who happens to to be the man’s daughter) jumps out of the passenger’s seat and yells at the young man who has been driving, “I hate you!  And I never want to see you again!” 

As she slams the door and starts to run up the steps in to the house, he opens his door and over the roof of the car hollers, “I’m sorry!  I didn’t mean to hurt you!”

The father reaches for his shotgun that he keeps on the porch…just in case.  The young man sees what the father is doing, jumps back in his car, and drives away as fast as he can. 

The father pulls the trigger a few times, but misses on purpose, his only goal is the scare the boy away forever.  That night he holds his daughter in his arms and hopes to console her.   “Why do boys have to be so stupid!”  And with a deep breath, he remembers to himself, “Just like he was at that age.”

The next day, the father gets quite a surprise.  Once again, the father is on his porch when he sees that same car slowly driving up the gravel drive.  He reaches for his gun and takes the proper position on the middle step.

The young man slowly gets out of his car. “You got a lot of nerve coming back here young man,” the father says.  “You won’t be talking to my daughter today, nor ever, so why don’t you get back in that fancy car of yours and drive away before I have to put some holes in you and your car.”

Meekly, but bravely, the young man replies with, “I am not here to talk to your daughter, Sir, I am here to talk to you.”

This shocks the father a bit, who after a spell of silence asks, “Well, what is it you want to say?”

The young man looks up for the first time to make eye contact with the father and says, “I feel really bad for hurting your daughter. She is really important to me and I made an immature mistake.  Before I try to make it up to her, Sir, I want to make it up to you.  What would you have me do, Sir?”

The father, even more surprised, pauses for a moment to ponder. He has no interest in putting his daughter in harm’s way by allowing this young man to see his daughter again, but at the same time, this father has never seen such wisdom and courage in a young man.  For that matter, he remembers that when he was that age, he would not have handled the situation this well.  Also, there is the question, “Is this young man a flash in the pan with enthusiasm, or is he willing to back his words up with actions.”  So, a little test.

“Alright, young man, I want you to take that fancy car of yours, drive down to town square, take one of your clean white t-shirts and write on it real big, “I hurt —– and I am willing to do whatever it takes to fix it.”  Then attach that shirt like a flag to the town flag pole and raise it up high.  Then take a picture of it with you fancy phone camera and post it on Facebook for all to see.  Okay?”  

Now, if you haven’t already guessed, the initial intent of this list of expectations is just to get rid of the kid.  No punk teenager is going to follow through with those instructions.

To his surprise, the young man replies, “Yes Sir.”  He jumps in his car and drives away.  Thirty minutes later the father, just out of curiosity, checks his Facebook and finds that the young man has followed through. “Well how about that!” 

What does that mean about this kid?  He must seriously love the girl. He is brave.  He is humble.  Impressive.  So far.

The next day the father sees the young man driving up the gravel road again. “What can I do for you next to prove myself to you?”

“Hmmm.  See those fallen trees over there?  See that ax? I need that all split into firewood for the winter.  Have at it.”

Why is the Father having him do these things?

  • If the young man continues on this path, how is the Father going to talk with the daughter?
  • How does it benefit the  Father and the daughter if the young man gets impatient and drives away, never to come back?
  • How does it benefit the Father and the daughter if the young man stays patient and persistent? If the young man continues to work to build a relationship with the Father, the Father will come to several conclusions.
    • He respects me, therefore I can trust him to respect my daughter.
    • When he is here, he is not off chasing other girls or other immature distractions.

If consistent, the Father will start having conversations with his daughter about the impressive character of the young man.  The Father wants his daughter to stay away from the young man until he demonstrates true character change.  Once he demonstrates that he will be a better man than the other alternatives for his daughter, he will begin to encourage her to give the young man another chance. 

Most women are naturally forgiving once they feel safe.  And in my experience, that sense of safety will not come directly from the man, but must come as a spiritual manifestation for the woman.

Imagine if the young man says to the Father on the first day he comes back to the house, “Get out of the way, old man, and let me talk to your daughter.”

Or, “This is none of your business, we don’t need to involve you.”  Or, “I don’t trust your ability to convince her of my value, I need to tell her straight forward that I am a good man and she needs to get over what happened.”

In my professional experience, those couples who let the Father be the mediator are much more likely to experience a miracle of recovery and happy healing than the others who are impatient and work around him.  

Written by Maurice W. Harker, CMHC, Director of Life Changing Services, Director of Sons of Helaman and creator of Men of Moroni, Facilitator of the WORTH group, Consultant for the Daughters of Light program