My employee came into my office this week requesting prayer for her nephew. He’s only 15. His mom died of cancer last July, so he’s living with his aunt and grandma. Yes, he does have a father. I don’t know that part of the story. But the part I do know is wrenching. Young Jamie was at the mall where he saw his father. They saw one another. His father walked on with no acknowledgement. This 15 year old boy is not a part of his life. Jamie’s spirit was crushed.
My story I’ve already talked about. “Dad, I have done everything in my power to make you proud of me. It is one of my greatest desires. But at 38, if I’m not going to earn that, I’ll just have to move on without it.”
Father Wound. It hardly needs definition.
When you compare the 2 stories you can see that Jamie’s wound is much deeper than mine. Mine is a paper cut compared to his gaping hole. And that’s where most men are, in varying degrees of unwholeness because their father fell somewhere on a scale between Imperfect to near Evil. This Father Wound issue, in my opinion, is one of the central issues, if not THE central issue, at the heart of what ails America. Fathers who fall short, often very, very, very short, of being what a child needs to grow up to produce a healthy and happy life. Are there any insights that might help us grow past our own hurts, trivial or deep-seated, so that this generation does not pass along the same degree of wound to the next?
There must be some sort of scale of that somehow measures the Quality of Father-ness, say a 1-100 QF Scale. At 50 on the scale, the father is ok, not good, not bad. At 20, the father would leave a lasting scar that probably would affect several subsequent generations. So too, at 90, the positives could launch subsequent generations in the higher sphere of well-being. Let’s assume a standard distribution of fathers that fall between Great on the high end and near Evil on the low. Therefore, the majority of fathers would be within 1 standard deviation above and below average. The result would be that a majority of children would all have issues that would be considered “normal”, slightly above and slightly below average.
Is this idea valid when looking around at real people? When I look at everyone I know well enough to evaluate their upbringing and how their life is going, I’d say “yes” it does make sense. I know some people who are very well adjusted people, happy with their upbringing, great marriages, kids are great, finances solid, and life is very, very good. I would draw causation between their childhood and their adulthood wellness. Conversely, I know the opposite situation. I wrote about Scott’s difficulty. I would guess my dad’s QF is 75. Scott’s QF around 20. Jamie’s is likely to be 25-30ish. I’m hoping my kids would say their QF is well above 50.
So what does this matter? Why rate the QF from your upbringing? Well three reasons, I think. It first has to do with awareness. Let’s go back to Jamie and his potential journey. Between now and say 25 years old, you figure he might deal with self love issues. “If my dad didn’t love me, why should I love me? There must not be much to love.” So self destructive behaviors can come into play for those with very low QFs. Jamie is likely to be a victim to his father’s issues. Indeed he was a victim, but at what point will he stop being a victim? With no science to back me up I’m declaring that the age of accountability is 30. So from that point forward, it’s no longer his dad’s issue, but Jamie’s. So if he’s ignorant of why he lacks confidence, smokes cigarettes (I’m making all this up), has anger issues with his girlfriend, drinks a bit too much too often, and can’t climb the economic ladder, whose fault is it now? It’s Jamie’s. And Scott’s, and mine, and your’s. After the age of accountability, if your life isn’t working out as well as you’d like, then you’re not a victim to your upbringing. Awareness of that fact is primary.
Now if your upbringing QF was a 60, then you certainly are better off than Jamie and the hole he’s starting from. No doubt there are issues that you are aware of that would have been nicer had your dad played more soccer with you, engaged you in your issues, challenged you to grow to the next level, whatever. But those are not debilitating wounds. They’re “normal”. For those above QF 80 where their fathers were for the most part positive influences, the issue can be one of entitlement that life is too easy. That blessing can be wasted for subsequent generations by losing “the motivation to overcome”. So, again, awareness is important.
Second, if you think your QF is above 50, then you are saying that at least 50% of the men in the U.S. have had it worse than you. What do you suppose their confidence level is, higher or lower than your’s? Do you think they are better off or worse off when it comes to overcoming difficulty? So, estimating your QF will help you gain context to how you should be feeling and acting. If you were born into a QF 70 and can’t get motivated to bring your best to your own life, you blame your childhood for your lack of motivation. So too, if you’re a QF 40, you know you’ve got some work to do to get healthy and make sure you don’t pass on the sins of the father. You’ll need to really focus to make sure that your marriage is strong and you take active steps to stay on the path to health.
The third reason the Quality of Father-ness of your upbringing is worth knowing is so that you can bring yourself to forgiveness. Life is hard. People make mistakes. Men get confused. Willpower to do the right thing fades. Ignorance abounds. By being aware of where you came from, if you hold bitterness at the core of your being you will have a tough time building a great life. This idea that “If my dad had just loved me…” is self-focused. Yes, it may be true, but a self-focused perspective doesn’t understand why he was who he was and why he did what he did. It’ll be tough to love yourself, have confidence in your life, build a family of well-being all the while holding on to a disappointing childhood. I believe that for you to be the biggest version possible (and for your children to be the biggest versions possible), you must resolve, forgive, and bless those from which you came.
Listen, every man has some father issues. For some reason, God has set it up that way. There is a reason, a positive purpose, for life being the way it is. I suspect that God set it up thus so that we can come to the spiritual path of forgiveness, love, otherness, and character development. God uses pain as an attention getting tool to work on these critical issues.
This week’s message was long and tough to encapsulate. My attempt here was to capture a very big and important topic that has a gazillion variables and distill it into a perspective that has practical value. In your Ironmen group, discuss QF as it pertains to your life. Rate your father. Identify obstacles your upbringing has put in your path and strategize how you’re going to overcome them.
To your continued success,