The Other Side of ‘The Father Wound’

Joe Dallas

Much has been said, in recovery circles, about the ‘Father Wound’ ‘ that is, the effect a poor relationship with Dad can have on a man’s future. On the one hand, I can say without hesitation it’s all true. If there is one single element I’ve found in common among the men I’ve counseled, it’s the proverbial ‘Father Wound.’ And yet, now that I’m facing the challenges inherent in fathering a son, I’m painfully aware of the other side of the story.

It was so easy, sixteen years ago when I married my wife and inherited a stepson, to talk about what fathers should or shouldn’t be. I was new to the game, the proud step-father of a lovably energetic five year old boy. Huge mistakes, mostly mine, hadn’t yet been made. His adolescence was years off, so our days were playful and I was his hero, snatching him up after school for bowling, football games and junk food. No wonder it was so easy for me to look critically at older fathers. I was determined never to become one.

Since then, the boy I loved has become the man who’s forgiven me. We jumped into the power struggles and mutual rage every father/son relationship is doomed to, and I careened from rigid strictness to cold fury to indifference, depending on which battle we were fighting. We weathered some tough years, re-bonded, and today I couldn’t be prouder of him, or of us, when I see the outcome.

Dad is that enormous figure
assigned to us
who will probably, for better or worse,
affect us more profoundly
than anyone else in life!

But happy ending or not, I know there are things I said and did to him that were damaging, and can’t be undone. To some degree, they’ll affect him and the way he sees life and people. So like all sons, he could write his own book, delivering a rather mixed report card to the old man. I know, too, that what I didn’t say or do, and should have said or done, can’t be compensated for. In short, I understand more than ever how difficulties between fathers and sons come about.

And more than ever, while I stress the need to examine our wounds and deal with whatever anger we may have towards Dad, I also see and stress the need for a forgiving heart.

There’s a time for anger, and I’ll wager you’ve been reluctant to recognize, much less legitimize, yours. I remember too well the first time I admitted to myself how enraged I was with my own father, and how blasphemous and childish I felt. But it was a crucial beginning. Dad is that enormous figure assigned to us who will probably, for better or worse, affect us more profoundly than anyone else in life. So your relationship with him may well play into what you’re dealing with now, including your anger. ‘Be angry, and sin not’, Paul advised. (Ephesians 4:26) It’s allowed. If you were wronged, you were hurt; if you were hurt, your anger is justified. So let it come.


Then, in due time, let it go. Because as surely as you need to express and resolve your anger, there’ll be someone else, someday, who’ll need to do the same with his anger towards you. And you, like all of us, are subject to the laws of sowing and reaping.

Be sure to sow forgiveness while you can. You will, unquestionably, be grateful it’s there to reap when you need it.

For help with forgiveness and anger please join us at our next New Life Weekend.

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