Mixed Feelings About Father's Day
Q: I'm pretty cynical about Father's Day. My dad never told me he loved me or that he was proud of me. He finally just abandoned our family completely; these days I have almost no contact with him. Why should I honor him when he was never a positive influence in my life?
Jim: I can empathize. My own history with my dad was similar to yours, so I always had mixed feelings around Father's Day. Still, we can respect long-held traditions that teach us to honor our dads. That's because honoring your father is as much for you as it is for him -- in fact, maybe even more so.
You might be aware that I draw my values from the Bible, which was originally written in Hebrew and Greek. The ancient Greek word meaning "honor" can be more specifically translated as "honoring that which is honorable." In other words, we aren't compelled to respect our father for his irresponsibility or abuse. But we should honor him for the positive things -- however few -- he represented. For some of us, that may be nothing more than the fact that he played a role in giving us life.
There's a personal benefit in that action. Honoring a dad who wasn't all he should have been requires us to forgive. I can attest from personal experience that it's a long, challenging process. And it certainly doesn't erase a lifetime of poor choices our fathers may have made. But the move to forgiveness releases us from the emotional prison that typically entraps us as a result of our resentment. And since you mentioned that your dad is still alive -- it could be a first step on a journey of healing for both of you.
Q: I'm curious about statistics showing that an increasing number of children are growing up in homes with no father present. I've heard there's a relationship between fatherlessness and violent behavior among boys and young men. Do you think that's true?
Jim: As a boy who grew up without a dad, and now being the president of a large family-help organization, my personal take is that these two phenomena are closely related. There are many factors and dynamics, but one of them has to do with the specifically masculine way in which men tend to play with their kids.
You don't have to be a sociologist to see that moms and dads play differently. Most boys have an inborn need to engage in rough-and-tumble activity from an early age. It's one of the ways they gain self-confidence and learn to gauge their own strength. Dad is the one who can help them in this area. Mom might worry that "someone will get hurt" when the guys start wrestling on the floor. But there's an important sense in which that's precisely the point. A friendly scuffle with Dad -- in a safe and controlled environment -- helps teach kids about appropriate boundaries in play. And in the process, a father has a great opportunity to affirm his son's strength and skill.
It's when a boy grows up without this kind of interaction that the connection between fatherlessness and teen violence rears its ugly head. Without learning appropriate boundaries for physical activity -- and lacking the masculine affirmation he needs from his father -- a boy may feel driven to "prove" himself as a person who deserves respect. And he may end up demanding it in some pretty unhealthy ways.
So, if you're a dad: Engage with your son in a healthy, affirming manner. If you're a mom raising a son on your own, seek out trustworthy male role models to come alongside your boy.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
Copyright 2022 Focus On The Family. (This feature may not by reproduced or distributed electronically, in print or otherwise without written permission of Focus on the Family.)Copyright 2022 Focus on the Family. This feature may not be reproduced or distributed electronically, in print or otherwise without the written permission of Focus on the Family.