Things We Wish We Had Said

From the back cover: This book is a collection of personal letters written between Tony Campolo and his adult son, Bart. At times it's funny; at times it leaves the reader quite sobered. Above all, it's always honest as it portrays the challenges of growing up and parenting.

Parents will be delighted with the observations and wisdom on raising children and teenagers will be greatly assisted by the discussions regarding further education and careers.


Expect your perspective on the father-son relationship to be expanded as Tony and Bart share, with great wisdom, the lessons they have learned.

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I enjoyed the book because it does a good job of reminding us that parents and children are both simply flawed human beings trying to do the best they can as life comes at them. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail; sometimes with look back with pride and sometimes it's regret.

My Summary

This is a fairly quick read and is good for anyone in the family old enough to read it. Even if your children are out of the house, you'll find encouragement and help in dealing with them as adults, If your children are still at home, the intimate look into someone else's family will help you be a little more introspective into your own. And if you're a teenager or adult child, it will give you some insight into what your parents go through and will help you understand them a little better.

Many parents and children don't have as ideal of a setup as the Campolos and the world has changed tremendously since 1984 when this was originally written. But the topics this touches are topics of human nature - they don't change. How our society looks at some of them has definitely changed, but the issues haven't. And we all need reminders every once in a while to consider how our words and actions affect those around us.​

More about Tony Campolo and Bart Campolo and their ministries.

My Notes on Things We Wish We Had Said

  • We all worry about things we shouldn't have said or done, but it's usually the things should have said or done we wind up regretting and wishing we could change. Do those things you're scared of; have those conversations, set those boundaries, find ways to spend the time with your kids in ways meaningful to them.
  • Sons compare themselves relentlessly to their fathers  and judge themselves harshly and unfairly most of the time. Help them see your weaknesses as a way to connect.
  • Competition between sons and fathers in things that don't matter (like sports) can be a great thing - a way to bond. But the need to win can bleed into things where it's destructive (like relationships and personalities).
  • Others looking at out lives from the outside think we're fearless or a winner, but we all have self doubt and second guess ourselves at every step. Don;t be afraid to share some of these struggles with your kids.
  • A son's biggest fear (even if they won't verbalize it) is to disappoint dad. Even bigger than making him mad!
  • Because of self doubt, dads can feel like the admiration and respect from children is misplaced or undeserved.
  • As dads, our weaknesses (like a need to be accepted or valued) often drives over compensations (like working endlessly), but we don't recognize it until it's too late and, even if we did, we don't know how to change it.
  • "I think parents take too much credit when their kids turn out great and far too much blame when their kids mess up their lives." Tony Campolo
  • Living for Jesus isn't a matter of "how much you give to him, but how much you give up for him." Bart Campolo

parents take too much credit when their kids turn out great and far too much blame when their kids mess up their lives - Tony Campolo

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  • "In the midst of going through the motions [of living a Christian life], my faith became real." Bart Campolo
  • Sometimes kids just need parents to give them reasons to back up their instincts about how to handle an issue in their life rather than stepping in and solving the problem for them.
  • We're all scared to death we're going to make a mistake even though we know not making mistakes is impossible. We give others the grace to make mistakes, but rarely extend that same grace to ourselves.
  • Getting involved in Christian service is a great way to foster spiritual renewal in college kids and other struggling Christians.
  • Next to faith in Jesus, the most important gift to give our children is the knowledge that they're infinitely valuable to us and to God. This needs to be demonstrated by how we treat them in the everyday, mundane living of life.
  • Happiness is a selfish goal. It produces selfish people. "The more we try to make ourselves happy, the less happy we end up. You can only find happiness when you're looking for something else. (Matt 10:39)" Tony Campolo 

This is roughly one half of the notes I took on the book, but I wanted to keep this recommendation a reasonable length. If you'd like the rest of my notes, please reach out through the contact page. Or, better yet, buy a copy of the book for yourself!

Please comment below if you have a question about the book or share this with someone you know.​