What Is the Father Wound?

Jeff Eckert

Jack is a 42-year-old who entered my office for counseling after his wife discovered his long history of Internet pornography, and trips to local massage parlors. As I began to explore his history in an attempt to understand the deeper issues involved, I was struck by one of Jack’s statements: ‘My father always provided for us and was home every night after work. But even though he was there, he was never really present.’ Thus begins an exploration of the question: What is the father wound?

Andrew Comiskey, in his book on sexual and relational healing entitled “Strength in Weakness” writes, ‘Though the Father intended for us to be roused and sharpened by our fathers, we find more often than not that our fathers were silent and distant, more shadow than substance in our lives.’ This kind of a ‘shadow’ presence is not what our heavenly Father intended for our relationships with our earthly fathers. Unfortunately, few fathers follow the injunction of Proverbs 27:17: ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.’

Like Jack, then, many men grew up with fathers who returned home after work, but were never really active as sharpening agents in the lives of their sons. These fathers provided for their sons’ material needs, but they were strangely absent when the time came to satisfy the needs of the heart, such as intimacy and connection. Fathers like this may have been available to coach their sons’ baseball teams or supervise yard work. However, they were less likely to model intimacy in relationships, or to be an active presence when their sons were dealing with the pain of rejection by peers.

In his soul, every man craves deep, intimate connections with other men, but men are often left without the tools for creating these loving, nurturing relationships. A big reason for this has to do with the primary role fathers typically play in families. Rather than nurturing their sons or developing intimacy with them, fathers often spend the majority of their time enforcing the rules. Patrick Morley, in his classic book “Man in the Mirror” states, ‘Mothers love and stroke their children. Angry fathers handle the discipline.’ While this statement may seem unfair to fathers, it is a fair assessment of the father’s role in many families. Not only do fathers interact with their boys in a primarily disciplinary role, but boys are taught to absorb that discipline with a stiff upper lip. Boys learn the lesson very early on that they are not to display any sense of vulnerability. When life gets tough, negative feelings are to be stuffed and internalized.

This stoic, unemotional approach to life is often accompanied by a seemingly unreachable set of expectations from fathers. Countless men enter my counseling office with stories of fathers they could not please: ‘All my life I have felt as if I just couldn’t cut it in my father’s eyes. It always seemed like the bar was raised just above my reach.’ Some of the deepest wounds lie in these feelings of inadequacy, which can then poison other relationships and make true intimacy difficult. Men that grew up with fathers they were unable to please often carry around a suffocating belief system: ‘I can never cut it. And if I’m not cutting it, then why would others want to be around me?’

Another reason men may feel inadequate is because their fathers did not support or affirm them as they moved into manhood. Jack Balswick, in his book “Men at the Crossroads” writes, ‘Tragically, many young men are growing up without a father who will affirm their leap into manhood’Often the voices they do hear are distortions of true manhood.’ Because so many boys do not have a father affirming their ‘leap into manhood,’ that transition is often filled with feelings of fear, anger and frustration, instead of confidence and security. Lonely and discouraged, boys become isolated and alienated men. In this isolated state, men continue to desire closeness and connection, but they often have no concept of how to achieve it.

It is because of this quandary that many men seek out sexual fantasy in an attempt to find some sense of intimacy. Many men feel a void in their lives, often created by the wounds of the past, and some men attempt to fill that void with illicit sexuality. Men’s desire for intimacy and connection is real, powerful, and appropriate. But when men try to satisfy that desire in the form of sexual fantasies and acts, they find merely approximations or shadows of true relationship and connection.

However, a healing balm for men’s wounds, including their father wound, can be found. By obtaining a biblical understanding of what a father truly is, and through a relationship with Jesus Christ, men can begin to experience healing. More healing can occur through accountability and community with other Christian brothers. As Jack began developing relationships with others who were truly present, and experiencing relationship with a heavenly Father who is always present, his need to escape into the world of sexual fantasy was diminished. Sharing our wounds with fellow sojourners in the journey can provide immeasurable healing. It is in coming out of our own woundedness and brokenness that we can most clearly see the essential nature of relationship with Christ and others.

For more help, please join us at our next Every Man’s Battle conference.

Thoughts on Courage in Recovery

Mark Verkler

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.” –G.K. Chesterton

 “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” –Mark Twain

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” –Sir Winston Churchill

It takes courage to face the real me. Those dark parts of my heart. The places I’ve tried to ignore or deny or cover up. I find it much easier to focus on the darkness of other hearts, or the passing pleasure of sin, or escape’anything but look at the darkness of my flesh. In Psalm 32 from the translation entitled The Message, we read of the freedom that comes from facing the darkness inside and letting it out into the light:

Psalm 32: 1Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be–you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean. 2Count yourself lucky–God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him. 3When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. 4The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up. 5Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.” Suddenly the pressure was gone–my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.

We try to do it our way; we try to ‘fix ourselves’–anything to avoid the dreadful exposure of our darkness to another.

In C.S. Lewis’ ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader,’ the young man Eustace describes how he changed from a dragon back to a boy, but only after unsuccessfully trying to peel the dragon skin off of himself three times before. After these failed attempts, Aslan, the story’s Christ figure, removed the dragon skin for him. In Lewis’ story, Eustace retells the event like this: The very first tear he [Aslan] made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off’.Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off’just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt’and there it was lying on the grass; only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been.

Jesus said to find life we would have to lose it for his sake (Matthew 16:25). It may seem a perilous thing for us to say, “search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24). How can we have the courage to let God in? To let others in? To look at ourselves?

First John chapter one teaches that this begins with the honest admission of sin. If we say we have no sin or have not sinned, we are lying to ourselves and to God, the apostle tells us. But he also tells us that if we have the courage to confess our sins, the cleansing comes. A simple definition of confession is to agree with God. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and we must agree with God about it. Sin is there; sin is evil; and sin deserves punishment. When we honestly confess the blackness of our sin before God, we can then thank God for the cleansing blood of Jesus that was shed on our account.

Do you have the courage to consecrate yourself to him, or will you hold back? Do you have the courage to face the depth, the breadth, and the blackness of you sin, or the pain that it has caused you, others, and even God himself? Have you become so accustomed to denial, excuses, and self-justifications as to be content to stay in that neighborhood? Do you have the courage to move into the unknown–the unknown territory of confession, surrender and consecration?

We find exhortations in Scripture to take courage! The Lord wants us to face the unknown, knowing that he is ahead of us and with us. “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). “Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. GOD, your God, is with you every step you take” (Joshua 1:9). Friends, we can know, with anything God is asking us to confront–in ourselves or otherwise–he will be with us. So, in the words of John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.’

Same Sex Attraction

Chris Cole

The struggle of same sex attraction is one that is very complex. Many with this struggle–I will refer to those who struggle with same sex attraction as the ‘struggler’–say that they have felt this way all of their life. It runs deep to the core of one’s gender identity. I want to say that in order to understand the root causes, the struggler needs to do his research. In this article, I will focus on the root causes from a human development stand point. I will also direct you to some resources that you should read and study yourself.

Same sex attraction is rooted in an effort to get homo-emotional, or same-sex, love needs met. These needs include longings for love, acceptance, and belonging. They are to be first met in the relationship with one’s father and mother, and are critical to one’s sense of security. Berger (1995) explains: ‘masculinity and femininity are communicated to us as children through those people in our lives who symbolize to us masculinity and femininity (mother and father). In order to acquire a healthy personal identity, we must encounter loving and healthy relationships with members of both sexes’ (p.58). Home is where these emotional needs are satisfied, and where healthy role modeling of one’s masculine gender by the father is experienced leads to healthy gender identity development in both boys and girls. For boys, another developmental process occurs as he differentiates from the mother and identifies with his father. Nicolosi and Nicolosi (2002) state, ‘Girls can continue to develop in the feminine identification through the relationship with their mothers. On the other hand, a boy has an additional developmental task’to disidentify from his mother and identify with his father’ (p.23). Konrad (1987) highlights that gender development is an acquired social learning process that children experience in the family environment. ‘Gender identity, on the other hand, is a process that begins at birth. As children begin to explore their own bodies, they combine this information with the way society treats them to create an image of themselves as boys and girls’ (p.35). The role the father plays in healthy gender identity development is significant to boys (and to girls). Boys who have fathers who are nurturing, warm, decisive, strong, and are active in their child’s socialization will help that child develop a healthy sexual identity. Again, Nicolosi and Nicolosi (2002) touch on the importance of the father: ‘the boy’s father has to do his part. He needs to mirror and affirm his son’s maleness. He can play rough-and-tumble games with his son’games that are decidedly different from those he would play with a little girl. As a result, the son will learn more of what it means to be a male. And he will accept his body as a representation of his maleness’ (p.24). So, two important things happen when a boy bonds with his father: he receives his father’s love and approval, and also develops a strong sense of male gender identity.

So how does same sex attraction develop? One common experience among gays is the report of having a poor relationship with one’s father. Failure on the part of the father to affirm and bond with his son leads to a deficit of unmet needs in the child. In many cases, fathers were relationally absent (either physically or emotionally), inadequate, withdrawn, passive (with a dominant mother), hostile, abusive, or alcoholic. This impairment in the relationship would result in the boy feeling inadequate in his maleness, lacking confidence in one’s own gender, which then leads to feelings of uncomfortability in developing healthy interaction among his male relationships. Konrad (1987) states that ‘homosexuals experience a critical deficit in their relationships with their fathers while growing up, meaning that normal psychological needs which should have been met by the father/son bond are left unfulfilled’ (42-43). One should note that actions on the part of the father may be unintentional, even seemingly non-threatening. Yet, it is important to note that the perspective of the child is one of woundedness, thus creating a defensive detachment. Again Konrad (1987) explains: ‘it’s not necessarily what kind of father these men are but how their children react to them that can cause psychological damage, perhaps by simply blocking normal attachment to them’ (p.44). As the boy withdraws from his father to avoid further hurt, his same sex love needs go unmet. Thus at the root of one’s ‘homosexual’ drive is an effort to get same sex love needs met that needed to be met in the father/son relationship. Konrad (1987) points out ‘that homosexuals detach from their fathers to prevent further hurt and/or not to identify with them. For some this may have been an unconscious, subtle detachment. But for others, it was an overt vow not to be anything like their father. The severity of this detachment varies from person to person and is more obvious in some than others’ (p. 46). As the boy detaches from his father, there is also a corresponding detachment from his own body. Nicolosi and Nicolosi (2002) make this point: ‘the boy who makes the unconscious decision to detach himself from his own male body is well on his way to developing a homosexual orientation. Such a boy will sometimes be obviously effeminate, but more often he ‘ like most pre-homosexual boys’ is what we call gender-nonconforming. That is, he will be somewhat different, with no close male buddies at that developmental stage when other boys are breaking away from close friendships with little girls (about six to eleven) in order to develop a secure masculine identity (p.24).

As one can now see, those struggling with same sex attraction are striving to get needs met from childhood. As the boy enters adolescence, with the stirring of one’s sex drive, these homo-emotional needs get ‘eroticized’ and misinterpreted as sexual feelings. Konrad (1987) sums it up: ‘Thus the problem with the person who has labeled himself a homosexual’he thinks he’s gay and interprets his normal (but unmet) homo-emotional feeling the wrong way. And based upon his feelings he continues through life reinforcing his gay identity, further hindering the identification process and preventing unmet needs from being met. It’s a terribly vicious cycle that can be stopped only be understanding same-sex needs and satisfying them through proper channels” (p.64). If you are struggling with same sex attraction, your work is to begin to explore the impact of your early experiences. How did you get your needs met as a child? You may want to go to the resources I have referred to in this article. Also find a group you can participate in of other ex-gays. They can help you work through these issues in an atmosphere of acceptance. You may also want to find a good therapist familiar with helping people work through the complexity of issues you face.

For an excellent book on this subject, please see Desires in Conflict.


Resource List Bergner, Mario. 1995. Setting Love In Order. Grand Rapids, MI. Baker Book House Co. Konrad, Jeff. 1987. You Don’t Have To Be Gay. Hilo, Hawaii. Pacific Publishing House. Nicolosi, Joseph & Nicolosi, Linda Ames. 2002. A Parent’s Guide To Preventing Homosexuality. Downers Grove, Illinois. InterVarsity Press.