A father’s impact is significant on any child and family. He may be present or absent, positive or negative, God-fearing or not. Either way, his impact is profound. ♦
But few would argue that one’s father plays or played a big role in the shaping of our lives and that of our family, either through his positive or negative presence, or in his physical or emotional absence.
As I’ve said here before, “as the father goes, so goes the family.”
I bring this up because I continue to see the implications of the Father/Son and Father/Daughter relationship play out in lives of all ages. The ongoing residuals of this familial tie can weigh a person down all of their life, or can be the fertile soil from which a healthy person blossoms and produces good fruit multi-fold.
While the latter situation is a healthy and wonderful thing to behold, the former is unfortunately the common case and plays out its havoc in any of the following ways:
- a young person chasing a false objective or none at all
- an otherwise well-functioning adult broken in their vital core
- a young person or mature adult neutral on faith and God.
It is in these cases that we will explore the often hidden yet damaging manifestations of a father’s wounding of his children, as well as the antidote solution and/or recovery regardless of one’s age. We’ll also address the less than subtle impact on one’s approach to faith and God.
Let’s first establish that we are all damaged goods. While this is literally true, Biblical speaking, as we are all born, in God’s eyes, as sin-marked descendants of sinful Adam, we are also all recent descendants of sinful, less-than-perfect parents. As great as they are or were, they too are the offspring of sinful, damaged parents of their own.
United in our sin, the only real difference between any of us is the degree of our brokenness.
And to that point, the intriguing commonality of our human heritage is the profound role that the human father plays on the healthy development, or degree of brokenness, of his children and family.
Son and Daughter Woundings
John Eldredge best highlights the woundings applied to sons and daughters in his best-selling book Wild at Heart. While others have highlighted woundings that can come from others sources, like mothers for instance in Robert Lewis’ Men’s Fraternity teaching series, I too believe that it is the father that is the real source of long-lasting, hurting darts and arrows.
Think about it. Your father set the success bar, or didn’t. He taught you how to compete in sports, or didn’t. He helped educate you in school subjects, or didn’t. He told you about God, or didn’t. He told you to believe, or not. He told you that you were acceptable, even good enough, or didn’t. He told you, his daughter, that you were pretty, like a princess, or didn’t. He told you, his son, that you were strong and able, or didn’t. (Ok, my Mom told me I was handsome.)
Your father either set the right standards and lived up to them or set them very incorrectly (too high or too low, or none at all) and did not come close to them. Consider now the child with no father, or a father removed from one’s life through divorce, work pre-occupation, or any other you-pick-it-distraction.
It’s all a fertile petri dish environment for the development of fears, doubts, insecurities, longings, pain, suffering, obsessions, addictions, misinterpretations, and misperceptions. Or it can manifest in acting-out, or bluster, or anger, or withdrawing, aggressive or passive behavior, or even illness.
And it’s evident in struggling and successful teens, young adults, even mature and otherwise well-functioning people.
Yes, we’re all broken and our fathers have had a hand in it.
So now what? There are 3 key actions as part of one’s own Personal Recovery Plan:
- Forgive your Father – He was only doing the best he could, and most likely ineffectively dealing with his own father’s wounds and woundings. Do identify the source of your brokenness, but then break any burden of resentment, anger, and bondage. It’s not surprising that our own resistance to God as Heavenly Father is often tied to the negative image we have of our own earthly father.
- Forgive Yourself – Like the great line “It’s not your fault” from that dramatic scene from the movie Good Will Hunting, we need to confess and recognize our own responsibilities and then relieve ourselves from our own damning guilt and fault-finding. Only then can the walls of shame, cover-up, and posing deception be broken down.
- Let God Forgive and Love You Both – As God so loved the world that He came in human form so that He could die a sinner’s death in our stead (John 3:16), so let God forgive both you and your father (and anyone with a hand in your own weaknesses and brokenness). You will find that God is more than able to restore wholeness and full-freedom from the rubble of our lives. In that there is life-changing peace, even joy in the midst of the burning embers around us.
Indeed, as the father goes, so goes the family. We as fathers have a huge role to play. Moms, of course, do too, but there’s something about us fathers.
And all of us can and should break through whatever haze or pain, directly or indirectly, maliciously or cluelessly, was imposed on us by our own father. We can get to a healthy point of forgiveness, of even ourselves. It’s at that point that we can see and accept the love and forgiveness of God, the Good Father, our Heavenly Father.
How are you doing as a father? How about with your own father?
Now Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4