When I was young, I knew my dad loved me both by his actions and his words. He taught me how to throw a ball and tie my shoes. He spent time and played games with me. He let me help him on his projects even though I wasn’t helpful. He took me with him on trips. He told me often that he loved me, was proud of me and he expressed admiration of the things I did well. He taught me by example the important leadership attributes of ownership, telling the truth, and treating everyone with respect. He put my needs before his own.
My dad taught me to forgive others, by forgiving me for various “incidents” too numerous to list. He provided counsel and advice when I asked for it, with an amazing ability to view decisions from my perspective, unclouded by his own fears or doubts. My dad isn’t perfect, but somehow he gave me everything I needed at just the right time to help me grow from a boy to a man. And when I became a father myself, I realized he had prepared me to pass his legacy on to my kids.
I have said “thank you” to my dad over the years with Father’s Day Cards, words of personal appreciation, “surprise” visits for his birthday, and one year I even gave him a list of 100 “Thank Yous.” My dad amazes me with his humility. He doesn’t seem to remember the various times and ways in which he greatly influenced my life, and doesn’t “take credit.” Instead, my dad gives credit to our Heavenly Father for giving him the grace and the wisdom he knows did not come from him.
With Father’s Day 2016 coming up, I am filled with warmth and love for my dad, Jack G. Lee Jr. I’m thankful for the good and godly man that I am blessed to call my father, and for the opportunity to pass along to my children the love and encouragement that my dad gave me. However, as I express admiration and praise for my dad, I am keenly aware that the blessing I received from my father is not the “common experience.” In truth, many people, even most people, carry some sort of "father wound" throughout their lives.
According to Shea Sumlin, Campus Pastor at The Well Community Church in Fresno California, sharing from his own father wound experience, “There’s an “800-pound gorilla” in the room and that nobody really wants to talk about…that is the large number of deficits that are coming in our generation and in our culture from dads who've either checked out physically from the home, or they've checked out emotionally or spiritually. In their absence, they are leaving wounds that are affecting a large amount of folks in our generation.”
The father wound is the common experience. Roland C. Warren, President of the National Fatherhood Initiative, says it this way: “Each child has a hole in his soul in the shape of his dad, and when fathers are unable or unwilling to fill that hole, it leaves a wound that is not easily healed. I know -- I grew up without my dad.”
Many boys and girls have been “wounded” by a father who was not physically present due to his job, or separation, divorce or an early death, or by a father who was physically present in the home but abusive physically, mentally or verbally, or by a father who was physically present, providing for basic physical needs, but who was cold, distant and indifferent, never saying "I love you, I'm proud of you, I admire you." Even within the same family not all siblings share the same "good" father experiences.
As we approach Father’s Day 2016, I realize that saying "You are the best father in the world" may not be the sentiment everyone can sincerely express to their dads. So I want to say something to those who may be having a hard time celebrating and honoring their fathers: It’s not too late. For those many sons and daughters who carry the effects of the father wound, I encourage you to please consider taking one (or all) of the following three actions, as a Father’s Day gift to both you and your father:
- Release – be willing to forgive your father for wounding you and to let it go, especially if your father is deceased or unwilling / unable to discuss the past for purposes of moving forward; you can’t find healing until you express forgiveness to your father for what he did or didn’t do.
- Reconciliation – be willing to start fresh and anew, and to work intentionally to have the relationship with your father as an adult you did not have as a child; start by having empathy with your father, acknowledging that he may have also been wounded by his father and was simply repeating what he was shown.
- Redemption – take a positive direction for the next generation by being the father (or mother) for your own children that you never had, and redeeming some of what was lost in your own childhood.
For you fathers (and mothers) who know or believe it’s possible that you are responsible for wounding your own children, whether still young or all grown up, I encourage you to please consider the same three actions: seek forgiveness and express your desire to start fresh and set a new path to regain what both of you have lost. If necessary, seek counseling and professional help dealing with your own father wounds (e.g., addictions, anger issues, etc.) which have contributed to the wounds of your children.
The father wound holds people back. It creates a negative, selfish, uncaring, "I have to make it on my own" or “I can’t count on anyone but myself” attitude, along with a fear of failure and unwillingness to try new approaches and behaviors. It is often said, and it's true, that we become like our parents no matter how hard we try. This is a generational problem. Most of us repeat what we learned and these bad cycles repeat from generation to generation. The question is this: Can anything be done to keep the cycle from continuing, and are we willing to “draw a line in the sand” and to bring forth the needed healing and reconciliation?
To be a good father (or mother) requires more grace and wisdom than any of us have on our own. Likewise, to fill that “dad shaped hole in our souls” and move forward with forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption requires the same grace and wisdom. Where can we turn for this grace and wisdom? The only answer I have to this questions is God, the perfect Father, who loves perfectly, and consistently and unconditionally, and who can supply all that we need and more. Don’t allow how you view your earthly father to keep you from seeking the love and provision of our Heavenly Father.
Finally, back to those of you who, like me, have been blessed with a good father. Please share that blessing with the many others around you who did not. If you had a good father, pass on what you received, pouring encouragement and love into the lives of those around you, including your colleagues, friends, neighbors, and especially other family members.
We will continue to help our clients learn and grow and succeed at life by asking hard questions and getting to the heart of what it means to have an abundant life. If you have any ideas or experiences to share on “Happy Father’s Day: It’s Not Too Late”, please post them so others can benefit.