Healing our Father-Wounds
With Father’s Day just around the corner, it seems appropriate to take a look at the role that fathers play in our lives. Whether you are celebrating your father, your grandfather, your husband, or your son, we have all been impacted by our relationships with the men in our lives. Perhaps you’ve always had a great relationship with your dad and it is easy to celebrate him on this day, or perhaps your father is no longer around, and Father’s Day is a painful reminder of his absence. Or you may have never had a good relationship with your dad and even suffered abuse from him, which we will explore a bit more in this article as well. Whatever experience you’ve had with your earthly father, you can take comfort in the fact that God is your heavenly Father and is perfect in His love for you.
Warning Signs of Unsafe Males
If you are in an unsafe situation with your father or any male in your household or life, please reach out for help. You are not alone and you don’t have to put up with abuse. There are many people who are eager to help you. Be on the lookout for the warning signs and take action before you get hurt.
Before we discuss healthy relationships with fathers, it is important to highlight what unhealthy and abusive relationships are. If you have lived with a man who displays the following behaviors, it is crucial to seek help and support. No one should have to go through abuse in any form, especially from the person who is supposed to protect them. These behaviors include but are not limited to:
Verbal/emotional abuse (i.e. name-calling, bullying, derogatory comments)
Sexual abuse (i.e. inappropriate comments, inappropriate touching, molestation, rape)
Physical abuse (i.e. slapping, hitting, punching)
Neglect can also be a passive type of abuse–when a father is consistently absent from his children by either working long hours or avoiding spending time with them, or even mentally absent when he is physically present with them by not being engaged and involved with their lives. The worst case of neglect is abandonment, when a father leaves his family. The emotional and lasting trauma this can cause a person is heartbreaking. These examples are not exhaustive by any means, and unfortunately there are many more ways for a father to abuse his children than can be listed. But if any of these types of abuse resonate with you, please do seek support immediately.
That being said, most fathers are truly trying their best. Being a parent is hard, and while many men don’t handle it well by acting in some of the ways described above, there can be the temptation to overgeneralize all men as “bad” if you have experienced a broken or abusive relationship with your father. While you need to distance yourself from the unhealthy men in your life and look out for signs of abuse, know that there are still many safe men out there. Work through your fears, frustrations, or anger towards men with a counselor.
Healthy Bonding With Safe Male Figures
Now that we’ve discussed unsafe males, we will talk about what healthy bonding with safe males looks like.
Ideally, bonding with one’s father should occur once a child is born and continue long-term as the child grows. When healthy bonding (attachment) with a father does not occur, the child is missing a sense of security from the man who procreated him/her. Attachment theory was first introduced by John Bowlby as he described it as a "lasting psychological connectedness between human beings." Bowlby believed that adults’ healthy interactions in relationships starts from birth when the child experiences healthy attachment. When a child does not experience this healthy attachment with his/her father, this can impact them psychologically and impact their relationships as adults. Even if individuals have not had the opportunity to experience healthy attachment with their fathers, it is not too late to heal and correct their attachment style by finding safe males who can mentor them and provide a good example of healthy bonding.
God designed fathers to protect and nurture their families. He is the ultimate example of perfect fatherhood, as we see in the scriptures:
“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” Psalm 68:5
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17
These and many other scriptures in the Bible show the significance of fathers in our lives, and how they are designed to take after God’s example. So, what is the role of a healthy father? No two fathers are the same, and each father will parent out of his own unique personality, but there are some Biblical tenets that all fathers should follow. Some examples are:
Raising children in the way of Truth
Leadership in decision making
Providing safety and security in the home
Providing financially for the family (as different seasons allow)
If you feel safe and have the opportunity to repair your relationship with your father, you can start this Father’s Day to reconnect. You can also recognize safe males or father figures with who you want to build a stronger relationship with and have a healthy bonding. How do you know if someone is safe? You can see how he treats his family, how his family responds to him (if they trust him, are at ease, have respectful conversations, and personal boundaries are respected). You can also consider what your gut feeling is telling you. Do you feel safe, respected, and cared for? These are some signs. If you have experienced abuse, you may want to process your experiences with a counselor or psychotherapist.
Ideas for Father’s Day
A healthy and secure attachment with a father or father-like figure only happens by spending time with him.
The following ideas are certainly not limited to Father’s Day–they are great activities to do any time to grow closer to your dad or father figure:
Take him to his favorite coffee shop or restaurant
Go on an adventure together (hiking, taking a trip, kayaking...etc.)
Find out his favorite activity and do it together
Males are generally more activity-oriented than females, so he will appreciate your effort in organizing an outing. However, you know your dad best, so just do something together that you know he will love! He may indeed enjoy a long phone conversation or a home-cooked meal. The point is to make the effort–it won’t go unrewarded.
Finally, connecting with your father if it is safe or finding and building a relationship with a healthy father figure can help you increase secure feelings, heal from the past, learn what healthy attachment looks like, and feel emotionally and spiritually whole. Your relationship with your heavenly Father is the ultimate healthy and secure attachment. Seek healing in a safe community church as recommended in the scriptures:
“ Therefore comfort each other and edify one another” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
1. Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss. (OKS Print.) New York: Basic Books.