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.

12 thoughts on “What Is the Father Wound?

  1. I wish more therapist, PHD’s, etc, understood this. I believe in our society and the world, look at the violent wars that increase with time…..this is so the NEED for our world.

    After 34 years of marriage, we are divorcing. My husband read Man in the Mirror and it had no impact on him what so ever. He has never been able to connect emotionally to his brother or father. He has now created the same cycle with my 2 boys and 1 daughter. We are all deeply wounded. I tried to talk to his mom and dad. Showed them articles such as this, only to be told, “they don’t want to talk about it, it is negative thinking”.

    Wish we could reach the world with this knowledge. If you watch a few of the shows Oprah has done, she has addressed this NEED, the young men they have reached has been life changing, the tears that release from these men is so loving.

    I tried so hard with the men in my life, I see my own father had the same issues. It took me reading blogs to understand it.

    Your site is wonderful. Pray you reach so many men, and women. Thank you.

    • Robin,
      I’m sorry you’ve went through this. I myself am a recovering sex addict and this article has done so much to basically explain the pain in my life I’ve been dealing with and medicating myself with sexual bondage.. We cannot be changed or even more, change anyone, unless we fully surrender to Christ and let Him do the work. We will never be able to change a soul, but a steadfast prayer will do miracles, except that God has His own timing on everything. For some, a prayer might be answered immediately, and for some, a prayer could be lasting for over 20 years. I personally experienced my wife praying for me for over 5 years of our marriage until I fully confessed and surrendered to Christ.
      The results are amazing and I know I would not be here if it was not for surrendering to my heavenly Dad.
      I pray that God does a miracle in your life and help you find healing through everything you have been through.
      God bless,

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  3. I’d been having problems relating to my 18 year old son and went back through my family tree 7 generations and discovered that for the previous five generations, from my great-great-great grandfather to my father (who died when I was 15) that each son lost their fathers to death or divorce before they were men…some as early as 7. My father couldn’t pass onto me the language of love and understanding because his father wasn’t around after my father was 11, and so forth back through the centuries. I’m really working on it and wish all you dads the best.

  4. My father is the hardest working man I know (guilt?).
    I respect him. He doesn’t respect me. He is a liar. Sad.

    He has always been a bully.
    He has always been a selfish manipulator.
    He was also a mean drunk. He is/was emotionally abusive.
    Yes, I have anger but your article helps. I’m not alone. GOOD!

    Christ Jesus is my Lord!
    It’s in the Bible about dads AGGRAVATING their sons.
    (That’s when the son becomes discouraged and quits trying.)

    I am NOT the Prodigal Son.
    If my dad saw me coming home, he may change the locks!

    I’m not mentally ill. I’m angry.
    I love what is right, and I hate what is wrong.
    Dad has been sober for decades but he is still full of DECEIT.

    Thank you Jeff Eckert!

    ‘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.’

    That’s me. That’s my dad.
    Now I know. He did this for reasons of control and oppression.
    It is easier to control and manipulate a person who feels like they “can’t cut it”.

    BULLIES control and manipulate.
    I love Christ. I am anointed. I’m thankful.
    But males like my dad are really “bad” for society. DAMN!

    Your enemies will be in your own household.

  5. Jeff, Hi, my name is Mark Eberle. My dad was a Lutheran pastor for 45 years. I was sexually abused by a Sunday school teacher. The church did nothing. My dad has been totally disengaged in our family his whole life. I have 5 sisiters and 2 brothers. I came to know the Lord personally in 1975, was involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, the Navigators, and also have a master’s degree in Biblical Counseling with a program directed by Larry Crabb. Last night I felt like God had answered a question I had ever since I was a young boy, “Why am I a preacher’s kid?” My father came from an alcoholic home, got into the ministry because as a young child he went to church and liked how when the pastor got up to speak, the people HAD to sit down and listen. What a foundation for a ministry. Shame people into obedience with the word of God and start with your wife and children and then remain emotional unavailable because emotion is unnecessary to make “your church” work. My family is totally unaware of the abundant life God has for us and I am working through what forgiveness and restoration looks like right now, but last night was a very powerful experience. I feel I have come to the same conclusion you have, in that I believe the sin of the church, the sin and dysfunction in most families and the impotence of the churches influence to make disciples can be in some form traced back to the “Father wound” and I would like to be a part of the solution after being a victim of the problem for too long.

  6. My father was an excellent provider. He loved my brother Jack, the first born, and showered on him all his interest, time, companionship and love. Jack was a “chip off the old block”. Dad worked as a mechanic and taught Jack everything about tools and how to fix things. So dad and Jack had so much in common. As for me, I got no training in how to fix things. Dad was silent and absent around me. I could sit in a room with him for hours and not 3 words would be spoken. If Jack came in the room, he and Jack would sit and talk, talk, talk. I was left out. Consequently I started fantasizing about “ideal fathers”. From movies and books and men I would see I created my perfect father. I would lie in bed and create a life together with this perfect man.

    As I grew into puberty with so many sexual questions and no place to get answers, I experimented with sexual contacts with other boys, always trying to find answers to sexual questions and to figure out if I was normal.

    Growing up in a strict Catholic family, I learned about homosexuality and its evils and sinfulness. Yet, I was not attracted sexually just out of curiosity and interest. All my life I have struggled with the sexual interest to answer the question “am I normal?” Even today at 73 years of age I still have not answered this question. When I go to the gym in the locker room I look around and compare myself to other, physically and sexually. But there is no sexual desire for other men. I am interested in male bodies only from an anatomical perspective. In college I was hoping to study to be a doctor, but could not do the science. Am I normal?

    • Paul, to answer your question, “Am I normal”, I would say absolutely not!…..NONE of us are “normal”. That being said, some of us are better at denying our abnormality and hiding it. We are all crazy, but some of us realize it, and some don’t. I prefer to hang out with the people who realize they are crazy!

  7. I am confused by the father wound theory. I know my dad loved me and we had a family supper together every night starting with “Bless us oh Lord, and these Thy gifts…”. No man is perfect, and for men it doesn’t come naturally to them to be the bond building intimate relationship kinda person. That usually comes from the mother, and the father plays a different role. I wonder if some of these father son relationships suffer because of the homosexual nature of the sons. I think my dad wanted to bond with me more, but that sort of thing cannot be forced. I never wanted to do “man” things like fishing, sports, hunting, drinking beer, etc. However, my dad did spend hours taking me to piano lessons and helping me decorate for Christmas, which were my interests. I am living a sinful life, and I am not sure how or why I am so attracted to other men without a spec of desire for a woman. I don’t think blaming my dad is the answer. I am thankful that he did the best he could. As far as his shortcomings, we all have them, and I have much to be grateful for.

  8. My father died when I was 9 years old up to then he had been very sick for years due to his alcholol consumption I remember only two things about him both very negative .At twelve my mum remarried and from that time until I got married at 26 I never talk to my step father now at 77 I seek answers

  9. Hello I have read all your stories and to all of you I say this. “Let Jesus be your earthly father.” Focus on doing that daily. He will guide and help you every day. When he seems aloof, ask him to stay near and be with you in everything you do. If you do this you will become a changed person, more like Christ. Let love, kindness, gentleness, goodness, patience, peace, mercy, self-control, Joy and happiness, thankfulness and sometimes long-suffering, guide you as you go through your days. Peace to you as you travel on this journey of life with Jesus.

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