Post 23: Fathering


My Father and I

The middle aged man sat on the floor sobbing, releasing  a sadness that was ancient and seemed to emanate from every fiber of his body.  He didn’t move, he sat there, tears flooding his cheeks and it seemed as if his whole body were crying.

He wasn’t alone.  The man sat on the concrete floor, legs outstretched, his hands limply in his lap and his head bowed down staring at the floor as the tears and sobbing poured forth wave after wave.  He sat next to an old tattered oriental rug with a lit candle sitting in a paper bowl at its’ center.  Several men sat in uncomfortable chairs around the rug, leaning forward, elbows on their knees and hands clasped, sharing the sadness and pain erupting from their friend.  I was one of those men.

This was a support group for men who desperately wanted to discover what it means to be a man, to be authentic, to be real.  Some were in their early thirties some much older, they were of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, they were as different as could be yet all searching for the same thing – did they matter and were they loved.

The man who was sobbing as he sat on the floor had just shared a story from his youth, from a time when he was a very young boy.  His story was about how at a particularly sensitive time in his life he sat next to his father on the bench seat of his father’s pick-up truck.  He could remember feeling vulnerable and how he had a deep need for the approval and blessing from his father.  The boy needed to know that everything would be all right and that his father cared for him, loved him.  The young boy just needed his father to put his arm around him and hug him.  No words were necessary just the reassuring strength of his father, the man the boy looked to for guidance and love.

As he got behind the wheel of the truck the father could sense that his son was sad and scared.  He closed the door, he grabbed the boys shoulder and smashed his other hand into the boys face, sending the boy into the door on the other side of the cab.  The boy started to cry and his father cocked his arm ready to deliver anther blow and said something on the order of, “you better stop that crying or I’ll give you something to really cry about.  Now shape up and be a man!”. The young boy struggled to regain his composure as his father started the truck and drove off down the road.  No other words were spoken, the deed had been done.

The man shared this horrific tale from his boyhood in measured unemotional speech, as if he were reading from a book until he got to the point of sharing how this specific episode changed his life forever.  After his father hit him the boy, now a man, decided that he didn’t matter, nothing mattered and he would take what he wanted, from whom he wanted, when he wanted no matter the consequences – it was on that day the boy decided unconsciously to become a violent criminal! And as this choice left his lips the pain and sadness could not be restrained any longer and the tears and grief began to pour out, uncontrollably.  You see this middle aged man was a convicted felon serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison and the other men in the circle, with the exception of myself, were also inmates, most doing life sentences!

Obviously there’s no way to tell, but what would have happened if that man’s father had blessed him instead of smashing him in the face?  Looking back now the man felt that his life would have been different had his father put his arm around the scared little boy.  The fact that this din’t happen was the source of the sadness he was feeling, he was morning the loss of his life, the loss of his innocence.

Unfortunately this man’s story was not unique, consider the another inmate who’s father thought he would teach his young son a lesson by shooting and killing the boy’s best friend, his dog.  The reason, the son was late getting home by a few minutes.  Or consider the other inmate who was rewarded as a young boy for acts of violence.  The more violent the act the more acknowledgment he received from his father.

It shouldn’t be like this.  Fathers should be fathers and they must be active and positive in the lives of their children.

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

“Like no other person, a father possesses a special power to mold another’s life, shape it, give it form.  Concepts of character flow from this man’s life.  Esteem, Principles, Identity. And anchor points. When you think about it awhile, there are few things more powerful.” Tender Warrior, God’s Intention for a Man by Stu Weber

I highly recommend the books of Stu Weber to anyone seeking to understand what it means to be a man, to be a father.  Two points were seared into my consciousness after reading his books (I apologize but I can’t find the exact quotes):

  • A man is made to find the passage through the distant mountain range.  He is responsible for seeing the bigger picture, he is the one that gets the job done when no one else can.
  • It is the responsibility of the father to be the father.  The children should not feel that they have to ask for the fathering.

The experiences of the men inside prison are extreme examples on the impacts of negative fathering.  Yet these experiences, these men are the product of a bigger problem in this country –  fathers are less engaged in the family.  Consider the explosion of single mothers raising multiple children in predominately minority communities, poor communities.  In fact the government promotes the fatherless family through the structure of welfare payments.

Where are the positive role models, the fathers, the grandfathers, the uncles in communities savaged by violent gangs?  The absence of powerful and positive fathers in the lives of the young men of this country is creating generations of young men that don’t value life, including their own.  These men are lost and “wild” because they don’t have a positive “body on them,” as Bill Cosby has said.

We can, as a nation keep enlarging our welfare state in the vain hope that we can cure poverty, end illiteracy and eliminate the violence, but nothing will change until young boys are initiated into a circle of strong, positive, and moral men.  The cycle of abuse and despair won’t end until men become fathers!  Men, like the inmate sobbing on the prison chapel floor will continue to chose the wrong path until fathers embrace their responsibilities and lead their families and bless their children.

“What’s the most powerful word in the English language?  Have you ever thought about it?  List some possibilities. Love? Hope? Vision? Sacrifice?  There are many candidates.  How about Dad?” 

Tender Warrior, God’s Intention for a Man by Stu Weber

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About rightthoughts
Husband/ Father/ Grandfather/ Architect

2 Responses to Post 23: Fathering

  1. Nice writing. Thank you. I would be interested in syndicating your work to the ManKind Project Journal. Interested?

    Boysen

    • Boysen:

      Thanks for the kind words and the offer. Can you explain what is involved with syndication, I’m relatively new to blogging?

      Regards,
      Bob Petersen
      “Man of Many Coats”
      Haimowoods, August 1990

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