3 Lessons Learned From a Father’s Rejection
After overcoming a fist fight with fear you finally pick up the phone to call him. There is no answer. You leave a message, and wait, but he doesn’t call you back.
A day passes. Then a week or two and still no response. The rejection stings like alcohol on an open wound. Overwhelmed with grief you feel unloved, foolish, and defeated. So you purpose never to be rejected or hurt by him again.
But time passes and you muster up the courage to reach out once more, only to find the scenario stuck on repeat. You are tempted to give up, but the potential of a relationship outweighs the possibility of being hurt. Finally, after being jilted for the umpteenth time you decide to call it quits, realizing you don’t have the courage or strength to initiate with your dad anymore.
But the quit is just a cover-up for disappointment because if he ever called you back, something in you would ache to talk to him. Even though he might have missed the first day of school, the first point you scored, or your senior prom, you still want him present in your life.
With each unopened invitation it’s like you’re standing on top of a skyscraper screaming, “Come back daddy! Be a part of my life! I’ll accept you and love you!”. But he never comes and the absence of a response communicates louder than words.
I don’t love you.
You are not worth my time.
You are not important to me.
I don’t want a relationship with you.
And it doesn’t matter what age you are, the rejection of a father leaves a lasting imprint on his daughter’s heart. It is by design; we are wired that way. Whether he failed to call us back, come to that special event, or tell us we looked pretty we are left feeling abandoned.
Dr. James Dobson describes the longing of a little girl for her daddy in Bringing Up Girls.
“There is a place in the female soul reserved for Daddy, or a daddy figure, that will yearn for affirmation. Not every girl or woman is the same, of course, but almost every girl desires a close bond with this most significant man in her life. She will adore him if he loves and protects her and if she finds safety and warmth in his arms. She will feel that way throughout life unless he disappoints her or until one of them dies. She will tend to see all men through the lens of that relationship. If he rejects and ignores her or worse, if he abuses and abandons her, the yearning within her becomes more intense, though it is often tainted with resentment and anger.”
I’ve been there. And I have responded incorrectly on most of those occasions when I felt rejected, but in my failure to respond well, I’ve learned a few things that I’d like to pass on.
Lesson #1: Being Rejected Says More About the Rejector than the Rejectee
It is a natural response to internalize rejection: to assume that there must be something wrong with me. I am not pretty, smart, accomplished, athletic, etcetera enough, because if I was, daddy would pursue me. But this is a lie because you and I do not have to earn our father’s affection.
Staying is a choice that every parent can choose to make. It is difficult to grasp why any father would opt out of his daughter’s life. However, exploring the possible reasons why helps women relinquish the burden of making the relationship work. Without justifying the behavior, I would like to present a few possible reasons for the rejection of a father.
- He may be burdened with guilt and shame because of what he has not done as a parent.
- He may be living a selfish lifestyle.
- He may feel unworthy of having a relationship with his daughter.
- He may have been rejected by his father and not know how to be a parent.
- He may be addicted to a chemical substance.
- He may have relational difficulties with his daughter’s mother.
- He may be an abuser, afraid he might hurt his daughter.
These reasons, by no means, justify a father’s rejection, but they provide perspective: freeing the trapped little girl inside the fatherless woman from believing the absence of her daddy is her fault.
Lesson #2: Expectations Precede Disappointment
At the urging of a friend, I reached out to my dad in college. Nervous and afraid, I sat down and penned a two page letter detailing all the events he’d missed in 18 years. I conclude the letter with an invitation to start over.
Naively, I thought this was all I needed to do, just add water and stir to make the father daughter relationship I dreamed of; I was wrong. Though we began to occasionally spend time together, we were like strangers meeting for the first time many times over. I expected more.
I thought my efforts alone were enough; I didn’t realize they weren’t until my 30s. Once reality settled in I discovered:
- I cannot change people.
- I cannot expect my relationships to measure up to my ideals.
- I can choose to be thankful.
- I cannot give love with the expectation of receiving something in return.
Learning to love without expectation, eliminates disappointment in the life of a fatherless daughter.
Lesson #3: My Dad is Not God
“Sociologists say it’s common for people to perceive that God is like the fatherly figures in their lives. If dad is caring, patient and concerned, then children will believe God has those same characteristics. And the opposite holds true when a father is harsh, judgmental or absent.” – The Washington Times
Though I grew up in the church, a large barrier existed between me and God. When it came to my intimate needs, I perceived God as distant and unresponsive. I viewed him through the lens of my earthly dad. But God cannot be limited by our comprehension of the word father. He supersedes every connotation.
God is the counter argument to the words echoing in our soul.
I love you.
You are worth my time.
You are important to me.
I want a relationship with you.
He is the perfect father. And no earthly dad comes close to Him. If you have experienced rejection by your daddy, allow the constant acceptance of God to heal your broken heart.