“I handed him the divorce papers and he just signed them,” she said. “He didn’t even fight for me.” With tremendous disappointment my friend questioned the behavior of her ex but I understood his actions with laser sharp clarity.
but when it comes to your own father things gets complicated.
While idyllic images of fathers and daughters flood social media channels, you struggle to find images to post. Father’s day is just a reminder that things aren’t so ideal for you. And this holiday comes with a broad array of emotions:
Thus, fueling the temptation to wear a mask for the day, so your true feelings remain undetected. You’d rather suppress your raw emotions then broadcast your pain at a time when no one else is. I have felt like this on a number of occasions, and as a professional stuffer, I can say with clarity, “Don’t do it.”
This method of dealing with pain is ineffective. Passive aggression is like a fast moving bullet to the soul, leaving it’s victims with a non healing wound. If this sounds familiar, and your Father’s Day experience is more bitter than sweet, I have three suggestions to help you process your feelings.
#1 Give Yourself Permission to Grieve What Has Been Lost
The physical or emotional absence of a father is a traumatic experience in the life of his daughter. Whether the cause be death, divorce, abandonment, distance, or substance abuse, the effect is a loss that must be grieved. Though difficult to process, it is necessary, in order to heal.
Are you hurting today?
Is your father daughter story so painful you can barely talk about it?
If so, the Bible gives you license to mourn.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4 (NIV)
Grieve every difficult memory, wound inflicted, word said, moment missed, and rejection felt. Your story should not be minimized or dismissed. If it is painful to you then it matters to God. One of my favorite scriptures says it like this, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (KJV)
And you might be saying, “I’ve tried to release it, but the wound is too deep.” I completely understand. The process of grieving takes time and is unique to every person. Enlist support on your journey; you may require the help of a professional counselor, or a trusted friend. Whatever it takes, for however long it takes, you will “be comforted” in your grief by God. So do not lose heart.
# 2 Choose Forgiveness
The love you feel for your daddy only makes the dagger of his words and actions sink deeper. And attempting to forgive him is like falling down a bottomless pit: never coming to the end of his offenses against you. I get it. You are tired of trying to forgive a man that doesn’t seem to deserve forgiveness.
And if it had not been for the selfless act of a Jewish carpenter, I might encourage you to forget about forgiving your daddy. But because of Christ, my forgiveness is not conditional and yours either. We forgive because we have been forgiven, period.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV
And this is more easily said than done, but it is doable. Christ is the impetus for, and the enabler of forgiveness. Without Him it is impossible to willingly and consistently relinquish my right to hold a grudge towards my offender.
Every time I forgive with my mouth I ask God to help my emotions to follow suit. And if the pain resurfaces, or a new offense is made, I continue to lean on the power of my heavenly father to forgive again.
Me and time have maintained a tumultuous relationship. Even before I added a husband and two kids to the the tornado I call life, I was late. So when a well-meaning, but – from my vantage point – unwise children’s church volunteer made a comment about my lateness I understood, but I was still mad.
“Oh, it’s just our usual late,” she said, opening the doors so my family could enter. “Excuse me?!,” I was thinking, but I didn’t say. I was a volcano about to erupt.
My face started to communicate the rapidly growing angst and I almost let it spew from my mouth. For a just few moments I wanted to forget about Jesus so I could give her some much needed feedback. Thankfully, my Christ-like husband kept walking, thus saving me from making a really big bonfire with my words.
In retrospect, I recognize we were late. Ahem! If she hadn’t let us in, we would have been stuck in the foyer another 10 minutes waiting for the on-time children to transition in the halls. She actually did us a favor, but I did not want to be defined as “usual late”.
And even though my family chases the short and long hand – a lot – we are not the family that will never be on time. I wanted a fair chance that day and every other day to rise above my present behavior.
If I’ve lied I want a chance to be truthful.
If I’ve been broken I want a chance to be whole.
If I’ve fallen I want a chance to get up.
I don’t want to be held captive by a you’ll-never-change mentality: assigning a permanent definition to a temporary state. And yet, this experience reminded me how we often define ourselves and others by the behaviors that don’t ever seem to change. You will always be:
I know because I imprisoned myself for years. Struggling with an overwhelming low self- esteem I did not believe I could ever be different. Crushed by the weight of people’s opinion of me I drifted throughout life attempting to people please my way into acceptance. I allowed the opinions of others to determine my worth because I did not know it for myself.
The foundation for this view was laid during my formative years. There were a lot of circumstances that had a hand in fostering my view of me. Growing up in a single parent household and experiencing bullying in my primary years both played a role. And though I can not hinge all the responsibility on one single factor the absence of my daddy was major.
According to Dr. James Dobson, “a daughter’s sense of self-worth and confidence is linked directly to her relationship with her dad. What he thinks about her and how he expresses his affection is a central source of her perceived value as a human being.” H. Norman Wright, author of Always Daddy’s Girl communicates it this way, “It is from her father that a girl needs to know that she is attractive, that her conversation is interesting and that her creativity is worthwhile. . . Affirmation from her father in proper doses will convince her that she is an important person. . .”
And so I carried my low self esteem into adulthood. I spent years in this pit; thinking I’d never climb out. And I have the t-shirt for trying to will it; determining I could change my own thoughts. But no matter how much I read self- help books, or ingested positive affirmations, my thoughts remained the same.
It wasn’t until I gave this responsibility to God that I began to see a difference in my perspective. I started to grasp the truth of Romans 12: 2.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. . . Romans 12: 2 (NIV)
I identified my underlying beliefs about me and I started replacing my thoughts with His.
I am God’s handiwork.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
I am wonderfully made.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Psalms 139: 14 (NIV)
I am strong in Christ.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
Proverbs: 31: 25
I am a daughter of God and He loves me.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
1 John 3: 1(NIV)
Though it is tempting to limit ourselves by what we see, we must characterize ourselves by who God says we are.
Part of me wants this blog to be about my kids and our three goldfish. It would be so much easier to write about the warm fuzzy parts of life, but I’ve never been at ease with surface-level-connections. I feel compelled to write for women who have ever struggled with the subject of father. For more than a decade I have, and not just with my biological dad but my Father in heaven too.