It's nice that the world sets aside a day to recognize and to give honor to fathers, and much of what we can say about fathers of course applies to mothers too. Because mothers and fathers are partners and there is probably more overlap in their job description than not.
But does the world really respect fathers? It is a question I often think about. Every time I turn on the TV and watch a sitcom or go to a movie. It seems like the fathers are always portrayed as bumbling idiots. The only people that can solve problems or help the family are the kids, or the mother in some cases. It seems like we live in an era and in a time when fathers are not respected and when they are considered not necessary.
But my experience tells me that fathers are necessary. I believe that it does take a man to be a father and to help children. I am not alone in that thinking. There are academics that have studied this. One is a gal named Beth Levine. She published an interesting book on the subject that talks about the declining role of the father. She says:
"young men need their fathers to teach them appropriate masculine behavior and to learn acceptable ways to deal with their feelings of aggression and how to relate to women. They need their fathers as good role models. Young women also need their fathers to recognize and approve of them, and to show that they think their daughters are worthwhile individuals.” (Beth Levine, 1995)
Of course, mothers help with this too. But there is a certain role that a father plays in this that can’t be replaced. Now even though certain researchers and people are recognizing and do recognize the importance of fathers, society in general is going the other direction. Today, for example, to adopt a child, you don't have to have a father in the home, you can have just the mother, or you can have two mothers. So fathers are not necessarily seen as an essential part of the equation there.
But not all people are excited about Father's Day. Not all people enjoy Father's Day and there are reasons for that. Sometimes there are men who have not been able to experience fatherhood in their life and they feel excluded on this day. They are not focusing on the fact that they had a father and that they can enjoy that part of Father's Day.
And others don't look forward to Father's Day because they don't have kind feelings toward their father. Sometimes there are very good reasons why some people don't have good feelings toward their fathers. And I think the important thing is that God understands your feelings.
As a matter of fact, many teen boys, probably most, go through a period of time when they have quite negative feelings toward their father, some girls do too, but more so with the boys it seems. And that's a natural, normal part of development, not necessarily good, but it certainly happens and it is common.
But part of growing up is to go past those feelings and to be reconciled with your father. That is part of the work for a boy to become a man. It is an important part. Mark Twain described the process this way, and I just love this quote:
"When I was a boy of 14," (and when I read this I can remember a time when most of my sons felt this way about me,) "When I was a boy of 14 my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the man around. But when I got to 21 I was astonished about how much he had learned in 7 years." (Mark Twain)
I also enjoyed when my boys got to the point when they realized I wasn't quite as stupid as I look.
But what if reconciliation doesn't occur? How do we deal with that? Are there people reading this today that have not been able to reconcile with their father? And the answer is:
There are many of us that have those feelings. Sometimes the father's behavior makes that reconciliation very difficult, maybe impossible. And that is a terrible and sad thing. And sometimes it's the very absence of the father, that he is not there. He is gone, and he has been gone. And it makes reconciliation hard to occur. And that is sad because if we don't reconcile with our father it may affect our relationship with God. Robert Ingersoll said:
"The child is not likely to find a father in God, unless he finds something of God in his Father."
Ingersoll's statement explains how our relationship with our father often influences our relationship with God. This relationship is also suggested in the order of the 10 commandments. The first 4 of the 10 commandments teaches us about our relationship with God. The last 6 teaches about our relationship with Man. But our relationship with our parents, that of honoring our Father and Mother is number 5. It is in between the two. Because our relationship with our parents does influence our relationship with God it is vitally important that we do reconcile with our fathers.
I am reminded of the statement in Matthew that says,
"And because iniquity shall abound the love of many shall wax cold.'' (Mathew 24:12)
If it is iniquity that causes love to turn cold, then perhaps repentance on your father’s part or repentance on your own part (or both) will allow reconciliation to occur. You should look into your heart and ask yourself what needs to happen so you can have positive feelings for your father.
In some cases reconciliation should come with boundaries. Reconciliation might not even involve any actual direct contact. It may involve only an inner change of heart, perhaps some forgiveness if needed, and recognizing the good that did come from your father, even if the only good was that he provided the seed that gave you life.
What happens to society, if fathers and their families aren't reconciled? Does society even need men anymore?
Yes, society desperately needs men that will fulfill their basic duties, described in the bible. This statement in First Timothy from the Bible is exceedingly clear:
And yet every state has a Child Support Enforcement agency whose sole purpose is to hound down those fathers to try to get them to support their children and provide for their own home. It is required by federal law that this agency exist in every state because of the great need for it. Recently we were horrified to read in the newspaper about a man who had fathered 30 children from 11 different women and yet was supporting none of them. I hope there are no other men like him, but the sad thing, there are millions of men like him. Maybe not as many children, but still just as absent from their children's lives.
Kids being raised by mothers with no father in sight is unfortunately very common today. There is in this society a great shortage of men willing to fulfill their role as fathers. This shortage was foreseen by Isaiah, that great Old
Testament prophet, who wrote:
“And in that day,” (I believe referring to this very time,) “seven women shall take hold of one man, saying we will eat our own bread and wear our own apparel. Only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.” (Isaiah 4:1)
These women offering to eat their own bread and wear their own clothes is the old testament equivalent of a woman today offering to keep her job and help pay half of the expenses. Isaiah saw the desperate circumstances of today where so many women would have to raise children on their own because of the great shortage of men willing to do their job as fathers and he prophesied about it.
Although many children raised without the benefit of a father are successful, mothers as a group have greater success when the father does his part. As a nation, our children are fortunate that mothers have not abandoned their duties in the droves that men have. But if we are to achieve the higher rates of success our mothers are working for, our children deserve, and our nation needs, mothers need the help of men performing their role.
Jesse Washington said this in reference to fathers leaving mothers alone to rear children:
"Children of unmarried mothers of any race are more likely to perform poorly in school, go to prison, use drugs, be poor as adults, and have their own children out of wedlock." (Jesse Washington, AP, 2010)
The absence of the father is the single most important cause of poverty and crime, according to numerous published studies. Adolescents, raised in intact married families are the least likely to commit delinquent acts. Children of fatherless homes are more likely to be abused, to have emotional problems, behave inappropriately, fail or struggle academically, and become delinquent. Children from fatherless families continue to have problems as adults. They are three times more likely to end up in jail by the time they reach age 30 than are children raised with fathers, and have the highest rates of incarceration in the United States. (Reported by Patrick Fagan)
Fatherlessness is indeed the most important root cause of the ills so prevalent in society today.
Hence, all of us should be grateful for the functioning fathers who do stick around and help raise and provide for their children.
The single most important thing we can do right now, is to re-enthrone fathers, and men in general, to their correct position. This will require 2 things:
more men understanding their role and being willing to do their job,
and society recognizing men's correct role, and welcoming men back to it.
Nothing will have greater impact for good than a functioning father in every family, working hand in hand with the mother.
We will not conquer the great plagues of society: drug addiction, poverty, suicide and crime without fathers.
What should I do today?
If you are a father and you are not involved in your children's lives, begin to fix that, TODAY. Your children need you. Your wife, or ex-wife, can only do her part. She can't replace you.
If you have not reconciled with your father, do so now. If that reconciliation can include direct contact and an active relationship with your father, wonderful. If it can only include appropriate forgiveness and an inner recognition that he gave you life, fine.
Younger men should look to older men, including their father, for guidance and help with the challenges of life, particularly family responsibilities. Let these more experienced men help you to be a better father and husband. Let them help you to be a better man.
If you are an older man, you must reach back to younger men, including your own sons. They need the strength, wisdom and support that only you can provide. Society needs you to stand up now and the need has never been greater. Please do your duty as one of societies elders.
If God has placed fatherless children within your sphere, consider what your role should be. Whether you are an uncle, grandfather, family friend or other associate, you can be a valuable part of their life. For the sake of these children, and for society at large, you may need to do double duty, to try and compensate for the missing fathers. Whether these father are absent due to death, or divorce, or other reasons, the children are innocent. We all have to step up and do what we can.
Cary "CW" Jasper
Appendix 1 FATHERING IS A CHALLENGE
Fathering is a challenge. No one had perfect parents and this is expressed by this idea of this young boy, who is getting ready for bed. He is kneeling by his bed and offering his prayer, and he says:
"Dear God, Make me the kind of man my Daddy is."
And in the next room over, the little boy's daddy is kneeling by his bed, saying his prayers and he says:
"Dear God, Make me the kind of man my son wants me to be."
And that expresses the dilemma of men struggling to be good fathers and sons struggling to be sons. We are all learning and growing together and overcoming the problems that we have.