A Father Wound

Father’s Day is not always a great day for a lot of men and women. Some still carry deep wounds from experiences with their fathers. Some wounds may be fresh, but more than likely, the wounds have been around for quite a long time. While many have great memories of their dads, there are more than a few that find it difficult to celebrate Dad, on what is meant to be a day of celebration. And because of those lingering hurts, some question their own ability to be good parents themselves; especially those who are committed to not becoming like the fathers by which they were so deeply hurt. Then on the other side of the coin there are parents who faithfully did everything they knew to do, only to be rejected and accused by their own children of being utter failures at the very thing they struggled so hard to accomplish.

Today I called my 85-year-old stepfather to wish him a happy Father’s Day. The only struggle I have with him today is trying to get him to hear what I am saying. Most of my dysfunction with him when I was a young man was getting him to listen to what I had to say. My own “father wound” (an actual condition and subject of much thought), as a result of not ever knowing my birth father, led to my unfair expectation and treatment of my stepfather. Don’t misunderstand me; he was not a good father and what he did made my wounds all the deeper. However, in my early twenties I made the effort to get to know him, and what I learned explained a lot. His father abandoned him when he was twelve resulting in him being raised in a Catholic orphanage by Nuns, that were clearly mistaken about their call of God to raise children. He still cries when he tells me his memories of that time. What I learned about his lack of fathering skills changed me from wanting to exact revenge and pushed me to wanting to know how to father. I knew God wanted me to love him, but I wasn’t very happy about God wanting me to forgive him and love him unconditionally. But I obeyed God and worked on my relationship with my stepfather. We have been best friends since those days of hurt so long ago.

For many of us, we are prepared to do anything it takes to have a good relationship with our fathers…except forgive them. Why is the simplest fix God has given us the seemingly hardest of all cures to try? None of us are perfect, not even close. Most of us are completely capable of hurting the ones we love even when we don’t want to hurt them. And while we all hope everyone understands and will forgive us, we still work harder at unforgiveness than just letting it go. Hurt is always the big obstacle, if not the big lie, that blocks our paths from one another. As long as I focus on the pain the forgiveness eludes me. As long as I expect perfection, I fail to find acceptance and forgiveness to offer my father and myself. I think Father’s Day needs a subtitle. Maybe Father’s Day needs to become Forgiveness Day, so we can finally celebrate family, faith and fathers in a more successful way.

Happy Forgiveness Day!

Dr. Randall Mooney


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