Didn't Have The Greatest Role-Model Growing Up?
This post is for men who, like me, have been harboring what psychologists commonly call a “Father Wound.”
What is a father wound? Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a Catholic a Catholic psychiatrist who heads the Institute for Marital Healing, described it this way:
“While the term “father wound” is not an officially recognized clinical term, it is used by many mental health professionals in identifying the origin of numerous emotional and behavioral conflicts in spouses, singles and children. These difficulties can be the result of failing to have a strong, loving and supportive relationship with a responsible father, or as a result of modeling after and then repeating significant weaknesses of the father such as selfishness, excessive anger, emotionally distant behaviors or indifference to the faith.”
In a society where the divorce rate is around 50%, more and more boys are raised by a single mom, with a sporadically present dad, or with an altogether absent dad. And these stats do not even take into consideration the boys whose parents are together, but whose father is just uninvolved, irresponsible, abusive, or disinterested. One would have to wonder which is worse: an absent father, or an inadequate one?
This reminds me of a quote in the movie Fight Club, where the two protagonists were talking about married life, and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) said: “We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is the answer we need.” Durden also said this in the movie: If our father is our basis for God, and our fathers abandoned us, then what does that tell you about God. These quotes, and the movie Fight Club for that matter, scream, FATHER WOUND!
The point is this: a huge number of men in western society have a deep and hurting father-wound. And what happens is that most of these men don’t even know about it, much less acknowledge it. And like any problem, Knowing is half the battle.
You see, when boys/young men are not aware that they need to address their father wound, it leads them to many destructive behaviors, which include, but are not limited to…
- 5 times more likely to commit suicide
- 32 times more likely to run away
- 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
- 14 times more likely to commit rape
- 9 times more likely to drop out of high school
- 20 times more likely to end up in prison
For more stats on the effects of fatherlessness, you can click here: https://thefatherlessgeneration.wordpress.com/statistics/
These stats are troubling. When I read them, I realize I was lucky. Today, I’m lucky to be alive, out of jail, sober, educated, and married with children. I’m lucky (and mostly blessed) because the odds were not in my favor.
A Bit About Me
I had a very deep father wound growing up. My dad, while not abusive, was an irresponsible man – very irresponsible. He dodged responsibility as if it were some kind of highly contagious and deadly disease. He was on welfare most of the time, rebellious to all forms of authority, addicted to either alcohol, pills, pornography, or just wrong thinking. In short, he probably had an unaddressed father-wound himself.
The result was devastating for me growing up. My mom wouldn’t put up with an irresponsible man, so my parents ended up divorcing… twice! Yes, they married, divorced, then re-married, and re-divorced. This gave me a more than unstable childhood: I lived with my dad, mom, and even two years with my grand-parents. By the time I was 14, we had moved 13 times. In all, I attended 11 different schools by the time I was in college. Yeah, I was the new kid almost every year, so making friends became increasingly difficult as I grew up. So, here is what the side-effects of this dysfunctional father-wounded childhood were:
- We grew up poor
- I severely lacked confidence
- I had to deal with anxious disorders
- I was bullied in High School (bullies can smell lack of confidence)
- I had to go through many trials and errors in my life because I had little guidance
- I was a hopeless romantic who idealized relationships and women to a fault
- I was severely depressed in my late teens and early twenties, suicidal even
- I found it hard to find or hold on to a job
So, how did I manage to overcome these effects of my father-wound? This, after all, is what this post is about. I want to help men to shed this painful burden. I am hoping that my experience and battle scars can help men, young or old, to overcome the debilitating effects of their father-wound. Although we don’t all have the same father, or wound; we are fighting a similar uphill battle. This battle is our trying to maintain or regain our manhood. This battle is for our health (mental, spiritual, and physical), our success, our families, our very souls – as men. And although I still struggle at times, I know how to get through this. Here are proven steps to help you:
- Shift the Blame. Do you remember the movie Good Will Hunting? Do you recall the moving scene at the end, when psychologist Sean Maguire (played by Robin Williams) finally sees that Will Hunting’s pain and troubles stem from his deep father wound? What does he tell him? It’s not your fault. My friend, trust me, much of those trials and difficulties you have faced in life as a result of your father-wound are NOT YOUR FAULT. You have to come to terms with this guilt once and for all. Many men struggle with this shame and guilt. You have nothing to blame yourself for, so understand that this was your father’s failures, not yours. You shouldn’t bear this burden because it is not your to begin with.
- The second step in your healing process will come as you learn to forgive your father. In the previous step, I say you have to shift the blame; this means to stop blaming yourself entirely, not harbor a grudge and irresponsibly blame your dad for everything you are. Do you see the difference here? Your father’s actions (or inactions) caused you grief and pain, but you have to let it go.
This is probably the most difficult part in your recovery. But at the same time, it’s probably the most important. Forgiving your father will help you get past the hurdle of your father-wound.
You see, when you forgive, you accelerate your healing. When you forgive, you are freeing not just your father, but also yourself from the bondage of hatred and bitterness. This will liberate you to…
- Empower Yourself. The result of the father-wound in your life probably contributed to your life not being the way you want it – or the way you imagined it could be. You can change this. You have to trust and believe that you can stop the cycle of…(fill in the blank). You can be responsible. You can be a loving husband. You can be an awesome dad. You can get out of this addiction. You can have a thriving life. You are not just a victim here, and you can be a victor. Will it be easy? No. Will it take time? Yes – and effort too. But you know what? Every step you take in the right direction will be worth it. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to take responsibility. You owe it to yourself to not be what you resented your father for. Make the decision to become the man you needed growing up and you will.
- Find Mentors. It’s a well known and often joked about fact: we men often find it difficult to ask for direction. And let’s face it, those of us with a father-wound need direction, help, a compass, and guidance – badly so!
Do you know what I did as a young and clueless man when I haphazardly began taking steps to overcome my father-wound? Two things:
- I began reading books that touched on the topics I so desperately needed for guidance: marriage, manhood, spirituality, faith. These helped me in countless ways. God used the knowledge I acquired through my reading to slowly transform my thinking and outlook. This knowledge still serves me well today in my marriage, as a man, and as a father. Books often take the place of mentors, if we know how to choose them well. I will give you a list of resources at the end of this article that can definitely help you on your quest to overcome your father-wound.
- A Few Good Men. Since my father wasn’t a good role model, I set out to look for some. When I began attending a local church around the age of 21, I noticed some solid men who exemplified the type of man I wanted to grow into. These men were great examples in their faith, charity, knowledge, education, work, marriage, etc. I modelled these men as best as I could and tried to learn from them. By observing them and talking with them on a regular basis, I was able to gain much insight into what I needed to do (as opposed to what I shouldn’t do when I considered my father). By aspiring to be like them I became a man I could be proud of today.
5. Look to the perfect Father. What anchored me more than anything through my exerting struggle towards manhood was my faith in God – the Perfect Father. You see, a father-wound stems from a really bad relationship (or none at all) with our earthly dads. The solution and healing then come from a really good relationship with our heavenly Father. Does that make sense?
Well, it did to me. Not only that, but it worked. As I hoped more in my heavenly Father for healing and blessing, it gave me ‘a hope and a future’, like the Scripture says (Jeremiah 29:11). Reading and studying the Scriptures, fellowship, and prayer were essential to my healing. To help yourself, remember and meditate on these verses in your day-to-day battles:
“But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief, To repay it by Your hand. The helpless commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless.” Psalm 10:14
“A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.” Psalm 68:5-6
“The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow;But the way of the wicked He turns upside down.” – Psalm 146:9
“I will not leave you orphans; I [Jesus] will come to you.” – John 14:18
The father-wound is an epidemic in today’s men. I, like you, wasn’t spared; and it took its toll.
To be honest, when I embarked on my own personal journey overcome it, I was pretty clueless. The only thing I know is that I hungered for healing. I wasn’t going to settle for a crappy marriage like my parents. I didn’t want to be a mediocre man. I wanted more than what I had seen my father become.
In life, we often end up pursuing more aggressively what we lack most. And that’s what I did. I pursued knowing God, great books, and the examples of a few good men. God blessed my efforts greatly.
Today, I am happily married and I have three wonderful kids. I am a published author, and, with God’s favor, I will hopefully write more books. The funny thing is, when I consider the book I wrote (Lead Like a Superhero); I was basically addressing indirectly the father-wound in my own life. I believe I was writing it to a younger version of myself. That’s why the book is a compendium of the best advice I could give to a younger generation of men – to the leaders of today and tomorrow. I urge them to become the best version of themselves. After all, this is one of the noblest pursuits of life – to achieve our full potential and to never let up. God wants nothing less for you… and so do I.
Be Blessed and Thrive On!
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