Tag Archives: emotional healing

What Makes a Good Father?

Did you have a good father?

I would love to know what percentage of you can answer yes, and feel it. What made him good? I know already he wasn’t perfect, there isn’t such a thing, but I wonder why there aren’t more who were (are) good enough. What do we need in a father?

It’s a good question for Father’s Day. We need fathers: their strength, their guidance and directions, their understanding and gentleness. But so often they are either a detriment or just absent. Being a woman and a mother, I don’t really understand that. Having a father who worked very hard, I do appreciate the responsibility and loyalty of men for their families, but why is it so hard for them to relate to their children?

I know they have the same love mothers have. I’ve watched and talked to my friends. Are men afraid of attachment? Are they raised to avoid deep relationships? Is it because they stop talking to parents at puberty? Is it that the separation from mom is so traumatic and the separation from dad often violent that they have a feeling of being alone? They seem to be more isolated inside than women are. Are they more afraid of their emotions? Afraid to own them, to have them? I’ve only experienced it vicariously through my clients.

I recently worked with a man who believed love was weakness. His dad was absent, his mother too. But why would a man who had a good relationship with at least one parent think that? There seems to be something inherent in a man that says you have to be strong. You must be independent.

Separating from parents is important, but it is tough if you don’t have a relationship with them. Cutting off doesn’t get it. You end up feeling isolated. So men usually identify with their work–what they do becomes who they are. But is that really the same? It would explain why they focus on work. And if they haven’t had a safe-feeling relationship, they will shy away from emotions.

Falling in love is the next emotional connection, and if it goes badly, which most first-love experiences do, because of immaturity, lack of identity, and rushing into them, it will fail him. Perhaps making him lock up softness and affection even tighter. A man’s emotions are more fragile and yet more powerful than a woman’s, but much more rare.

If a man doesn’t mature them in the second and third decades by being slow and purposeful with relationships and choices, emotions do not mature from disuse or misuse, and they can be scary and feel out-of-control. Drinking, drugs and porn seem easier than growing up emotionally. I worked with a man, a very successful pastor of many years, a master teacher, but who was so emotionally shut down he didn’t have any idea what he felt. And life had gotten hard. He had never learned this, and addiction got him.

This I can relate to because I shut down  emotions early. I can remember making choices to do it at 8 and 9. According to my mother my emotions were defective, and my father was pretty much absent. I didn’t start actually looking at them and understanding them until I was in my late 20’s and went to therapy for the first time. That was a short, very helpful stint. I began to unpack them. Later, I faced them again–eight-year-old emotions that came up in a 34 yr-old relationship. I took them to God, asked what was going on, and He told me I had saved them for a safe man. But they needed to be lived with every day and matured.

It’s important to grow up emotionally. God is a balanced, loving, ever-present father who will never abandon you. He is a safe person with which to unpack your emotions and practice them. He made you with them. And whether you missed the critical second and third decades of growing them well, you can start today. Journaling, writing your feelings to God every day, is a great way to start–whether male or female, whether you are 12 or 72.

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Sometimes Silliness turns Profound

This will undoubtedly be the silliest example of perspective you’ve ever heard, but for me it is profound because of  the truth that comes from the obvious. My husband bought a new shower squeegee because the old one had never worked well and I’d finally had it with it. I asked him to get a good one. So he did and came back and assured me he had spent the extra money for a good one.

The first time I used it, I was intrigued, it didn’t even work as well as the old one! And he paid a lot more for this? So I thought it must be the angle. I must not be holding it up enough. I was puzzled after a few uses, and then one day in a hurry, grabbed it and used it backwards–so I thought. And it worked perfectly! Now that’s odd, I thought.

The next time I looked at it, I discovered that I was what was odd. The squeegee was designed differently than any I had used so I thought it was backwards, I had only used ones where the handle curved down, but on this one the handle curved up when you held it right, and then it did work much better than any we’d had! It actually made more sense when I thought about it. I’d just never seen one like that before–had no mental map for it–no experience to validate that reality.

This morning God helped me walk through some reality of my own. Reality that wasn’t lovely but necessary. It seems most of my life I have been unnecessarily harsh as a protective mechanism. I didn’t even realize it. I actually think that somehow I had made a virtue of it in my own mind. Something like a “shooting straight from the hip” perspective. It was quite painful, but when I saw that fear was behind it, I was more than glad to embrace it as a means to letting it go. Crazy, but that is how it works. See it, own it, release it.

As I looked at it squarely, no excuses or quick switching to someone else’s responsibility, I saw how long God had been trying to get my attention on this–20 years? Maybe longer. It had to get in my face to see the pattern and ramifications of it.

The good news is, now I can expect to be different. Healing is like that. So why are we so afraid to look at our ugly places? It’s because we don’t want to have them. Don’t want to admit we are ugly.

I’ve written before about how crazy it is that we would rather be in denial when most everyone else already knows what we don’t. But we hate to be seen as bad, wrong, or broken. It is painful to admit.

Yesterday we had a whole broken, distant day because it was painful for my husband to admit he had made a spot on the carpet and made it worse by trying to clean it. We both already knew it, but when I referenced that I would clean it because he had already tried, he got defensive. Why was that painful? You’d rather ruin a day over it?

Yet we ruin our lives rather than look at ourselves honestly. Maybe it’s because we don’t think we can do anything about it. We feel hopeless to change. I do understand that! That is scary. It isn’t really that we don’t want to change; we think we can’t. We desperately feel the need to be loved just the way we are.

The best news is that we are loved just the way we are, and that Love makes it possible for us to discard the things we hate so badly that we can’t even look at them. Yes, we have to be willing to look, it’s a little painful–always is to look at yourself without your blinders firmly in place. But you can be free. And God is kind when it hurts. It’s good to come into the light. Everybody else already knows and celebrates! We’re usually last to see it.

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Filed under Becoming real, Living well, Mental Health, suffering, Uncategorized, What is God like?