Sunday, August 24, 2014
A Hunger for Father
“It may surprise us to know that the most powerful common denominator influencing men's and women’s lives today is the relationship we had with our fathers… Of the hundreds of men and women I have surveyed, perhaps ninety percent admitted that they still had strings leading back to their fathers, (even though their fathers may have been dead for years), for approval, acceptance, affection, and understanding.”
Ken Druck with James C. Simmons, The Secrets Men Keep
(Italicized words added)
One unrecognized but powerful motivator in the lives of men and women is what the American Psychoanalytic Association has termed the syndrome of “father hunger.” Adult men and women experience a deeply submerged, but nevertheless very real inner yearning for the love and acceptance of their fathers. This unconscious hunger may be even stronger in the lives of men and women who felt rejected by their fathers or by those who were orphaned.
In her book Every Mother’s Son, Judith Arcana wrote: “Men and women long for fathers who are warm, receptive, physically affectionate and comforting, open and honest about their feelings, and approving and accepting about their failures … Most sons and daughters are perpetually disappointed.” (Italicized added)
Oftentimes, it’s very difficult for people to be honest about the hurt they experienced in their family of origin. We frequently hear contradicting statements like, “My dad never paid much attention to me, but he was really a good father. He was just too busy earning a living.”
We excuse the damaging effect of some of the things that our parents unwittingly did to us, or gloss over what they didn’t do. The problem with this tendency is that we inwardly blame ourselves for the treatment we received. Our thinking as a child was something like, “If I were a more interesting, more talented, better looking, more intelligent, more athletic, more ____ (Fill in the blank) then my father would have truly loved me more, spent more time with me and accepted me.”
As we move into the adult years, this thinking becomes deeply buried within us and unconsciously influences many of our actions and motivations. However, the truth is that the defect was in their parenting style and not in us.
A good friend of mine, Alberto, opened up about how his father tended to judge and value him based on his performance. He rarely praised him, told him he loved him or otherwise affirmed him. I was surprised as Alberto said what a good man his father was. It’s amazing that he could lightly excuse his father’s action in this area and call him “a good man.” His father may have had many positive qualities, but as a father he had been a tragic failure.
Under the surface, Alberto had erroneously judged that he was the person at fault. This way of esteeming himself carried over into his relationship with God and was making it impossible for him to enjoy His presence, sense His joy or otherwise experience the abundant life.
As we talked, Alberto shared how he rarely felt he could do enough for God, and that He seldom felt that He was pleased with him. Unwittingly Alberto had somehow transferred the nature of his relationship with his biological father onto his relationship with God, the perfect father. Studies show that most of us relate to God the Father much in the same way we related to our biological fathers.
(The above post was taken from a thesis I wrote on Mid-Life Crisis in 1993 as part of the requirements for receiving a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling).
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND PRAYER
After praying through the Listening to God Guidelines, ask God each one of the following questions and write down the impressions that He brings to your mind and heart.
1. God, what relationship is there between my past or present relationship with my biological father and how I relate to You, as God the Father? (It will be helpful to write out your answer in your own words).
2. To grow in personal wholeness there are at least three aspects of your relationship with your biological father to explore:
a. Have I fully forgiven / come to peace with my dad for things he did that he should not have done? Write these areas down on a piece of paper. If you haven't already done so, ask God if He would have you forgive your father today? If the answer is affirmative, please pray and fully forgive him.
b. Have I forgiven and come to peace for the things he should have done but didn’t do? If not, ask God if He would have you forgive your father in these areas today? If the answer is affirmative, please pray and fully forgive him. (It may be helpful to list these areas).
c. Have I made a list of the long-term consequences or effects that his actions or neglect have had in my life as an adult?
i. If you haven’t done this, this would be a good time to do so. Ask God to help you make a list of these long-term effects.
ii. After making your list, ask God if he would have you forgive these long term effects? Forgive the one’s you are able to forgive right now.
3. If there are some actions or effects you aren’t ready to forgive as of yet, return to your list each week until you are able to come to a place of full forgiveness.
4. In relation to things that have come up as you’ve gone though this exercise ask Jesus the following question: Lord, are there any lies that I came to believe about myself, God the Father, or any other area of life?
a. List any lies He reveals to you.
b. Ask Him, what truth do you have to communicate with me about the lies I believed. (Write these down as well).
c. Don’t forget to renounce any lies that are revealed and receive the truth that Jesus brings to you.