In recent days I’ve discussed the importance of fathers passing on blessing and affirmation to their sons. But for many of you, this begs the question: What should a grown man do who didn’t receive these gifts from his own father and sees little likelihood that he ever will?
The most important thing is not to give up on the possibility of reconciliation. Many men, well into their adult lives, have experienced a healing reunion with a father who never affirmed his son as he should have. People and circumstances change. God graciously intervenes into our broken lives and relationships. And for that reason, never dismiss, abandon, or kill your hope. Many fathers in the sunset years of life have found ways to convey long-overdue blessings, love, acceptance, and affirmation on sons who grew up lacking those precious gifts.
Still, the sad truth remains that for some men this will never happen. For a variety of reasons, a man may be left without the opportunity to gain emotional and personal closure from his own father. In that case, the affirmation and blessing of God the Father is all the more important.
Through faith in Jesus Christ, His Father becomes your Father. You are known, loved, and accepted by Him’regardless of your experience with your earthly father. He is a Father to both the physically and emotionally fatherless. There is healing in Him, which means there is hope for you.
Men, as you both articulate and demonstrate acceptance to your children, be sure to avoid making that acceptance conditional. Don’t make it dependent upon some accomplishment, such as academics, athletics, Scouting, or civic work. Achievements in those areas are definitely commendable, and you should be sure to communicate that to them. But if your son or daughter only hears affirmation when he or she performs, they’ll leave home conditioned to perform in order to continue hearing the words of acceptance they so desperately want and need from you.
When children are blessed by their father, they’re steadily released to become their own person. Then, when the time comes, the father can say, ‘My days of training and influence are complete. I am always here to help you should you need something I can provide. But I am now stepping down from my position over you to assume a position beside you. Instead of your teacher or corrector, I am now counselor and friend. I believe you are well prepared to achieve everything that is your desire and calling. You have my blessing, not because of what I believe you will accomplish, but because of who I know you are.’
Guys, that’s what your children desperately need from you. It’ll help them immeasurably as they endeavor to be mature and productive people in this world; to be good husbands and wives and fathers and mothers; and to live faithful, obedient, and joyful lives in Christ.
Beneath the surface of many strong, seemingly together, male exteriors are frightened little boys who are still desperately searching for affirmation and validation as a man. If we’re going to be honest, we should admit that’s where a lot of men live today. Many of us are unsure of how to carry off the masculine role, so we hide our fears behind masks of strength because that’s what our fathers did. But when the fa’ade is threatened on the job or at home, the cornered little boy lashes out in anger.
Whether it’s due to divorce, addiction, overwork, or the widespread crisis of fathers who’ve abdicated their roles to others, many of us have, in a very real way, lost our fathers. That’s the source of a great deal of confusion, fear, and anger many of us feel.
If we’re to move forward and experience the redemptive possibilities of God in the future, we must face up to our past. As with any loss in life, a man who experiences a sense of loss in his relationship with his father must grieve. Without proper, healthy grieving the inner hurt is like an open sore’vulnerable to repeated pain and infection, and detrimental to future health.
And the greatest asset a hurting, angry man can have in this situation is a faithful, loving friend. That is, another man who’ll understand him and stand with him as he, with God’s help, rediscovers his masculinity.