How Do You Honor a Father Who Hurt You?
- Ken R. Canfield, Ph.D. The National Center for Fathering
- 2005 10 Jun
Dad, you may get another "interesting" tie, a pair of wild boxer shorts, or another golf accessory for Father's Day this year. And then maybe your kids will do something that makes you feel like a king. I encourage you to soak it all in, because you deserve it, and it's good for your children to learn to honor you. But don't forget to also give honor to your own father.
How do you do that? A good place to start would be to think back on specific things he did for you, skills he taught you, and other memories from the past. Recall family vacations, places you visited, activities you did together often.
What smells and sounds remind you of him? Was there a favorite book he read to you, or a song you sang together? Did he show you how to hold a tennis racket, or bait a hook, or plant a tree, or sand with the grain? What memorable gifts did he give you? What sacrifices did he make? What did he teach you about life? About being a father? Which of his qualities do you see in yourself?
If you had a good father, this is an easy exercise. Expressing appreciation for all he's done probably comes naturally. But for some, even thinking about your father -- much less honoring him -- brings you pain. If that's your situation, you may have some healing to do before honoring your father is possible. You may even want to consult a competent Christian counselor to help you work through those painful memories.
Yet God commands all of us to honor our fathers and mothers ... "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth" (Ex. 20:12). This applies even to those of us who have experienced hurt because of our fathers.
Honoring your father doesn't mean endorsing his irresponsibility, workaholism or abuse. You aren't denying any wrongdoing or pain he may have caused you. Instead, you're proactively choosing to place great value on your relationship with him. You recognize the good, and take initiative to maintain or improve the relationship.
Take Paul's advice from Philippians 4:8: "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things."
Maybe you've been dwelling on your father's faults for so long that any positives have been buried. You may have to become creative: if your dad divorced your mom, maybe he was faithful with child support; if he seldom expressed his emotions, you could honor him for being even-tempered and consistent.
Although you hurt, it doesn't do any good to keep blaming him for his faults. Don't let your pain as a son dampen your effectiveness as a father. Remember, it all comes full circle: if you want your children to honor you, then as tough as it might be, model it by honoring your father this Father's Day and all year. You have a lot at stake in preserving the integrity of the office of father.
Ways to Honor Your Father
• Tell your children something positive that you learned from your father.
• Involve him as a granddad. Being a grandfather is a joyful thing! Make sure he has opportunities to spend time with your kids and pass on his own unique legacy to them.
• Forgive him. It may be difficult, but he needs it, and so do you.
• Commit yourself to meet a specific need that he has.
• Ask for his advice.
• Engage him in relationship. Mark your calendar with regular reminders to drop by, send e-mail, call him, or send a card. Use those opportunities to express pride in him as your dad.
• Say, "I love you" even if it isn't a common thing in your family.
• Buy a book of blank pages and write one item you're thankful for on each page: "Thanks, Dad, for teaching me how to throw a curveball." "Thanks for the evenings playing chess together on the front porch."
The National Center for Fathering was founded in 1990 by Dr. Ken Canfield because every child needs a dad they can count on -- someone who loves them, knows them, guides them and helps them achieve their destiny. Visit www.fathers.com for more articles and resources to assist dads in nearly every fathering situation.