Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. James 4:17
How do you balance business with family commitments? How do you respond when your son says, "Dad, how come you can never come to my game? All the other kids' dads are there"? So you stutter and stammer about how you can't get off work and that you are overloaded and so forth, but your son simply knows you are not there.
Stephen Carter is a Yale University law professor, and he believes that ethical decisions boil down to one question, "What do you really value?" And he believes the issue of whether or not you take time to be at your son's game or your daughter's school presentation is a values-related decision. He says that the father who tells his son he will be at the school play and doesn't show up, is, by his actions, telling his son what he really values. The answer, he believes, is not to make promises that are likely to be broken and to include your kids' activities in your priority list.
Dennis Rainey faced that same situation when his work required him to be away from home for a speaking engagement at the same time his daughter became a homecoming queen candidate in her high school. Naturally, she wanted her dad there for the big occasion. After all, on-the-road speaking engagements for Dennis Rainey are as common as sunrise and sunset--well, almost – but becoming homecoming queen is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Rainey believes that there are four steps to solving these situations in balancing family commitment with work-related responsibilities. First, pray about the situation. Second, set priorities. Third, be willing to pay the price, and fourth, have a plan.
In praying about the situation, you have to remind yourself that nothing comes as a surprise to God. Before your child was ever conceived, God knew that the day would come when your big presentation at work would fall on the opening day of the baseball season. "God loves the prayer of the helpless parent," says Rainey. When you ask Him for wisdom, you switch gears and also say, "Lord, your value system is different from mine. What's important in this situation?”
Then you set priorities. Which is more important? The relationship you have with your child, or avoiding moving the presentation to another date?
The third consideration is what price is attached to your decision, no matter what it is? Negotiation and compromise are all part of the strategy of conflict resolution, so you ask, "How can I handle this and keep both happy?" or "Am I willing to pay the price if I come down on one side or the other of this issue?" No, you probably can't keep everyone happy. The formula for failure is trying to keep all of the people happy all of the time.
Finally, you must forge a plan. For Dennis Rainey, the plan included his personally paying the costs of reprinting tickets to the event at which he was to speak, moving it to another night and attending the prom his daughter felt was important. And did this make everyone happy? Not necessarily, but it made his daughter supremely happy. His doing what he did made a statement as far as his daughter is concerned which she will never forget.
A final thought. When you come to the end, I doubt that God will ask you about how many presentations you made, but He will ask you about how good a dad you were – of that I am quite certain. In summary, when you are confronted with tough decisions: pray, prioritize, pay the price, and formulate a plan. Someday you will be glad, very glad, that you did.
Resource reading: 2 Samuel 12:1-31