Fatherlessness! That’s a big word. How would you define it, if asked? One could use a lot of statistics to describe or explain one’s particular definition for the word. My definition can be summed up in one word. That word is “absence.”
The National Center for Fathering in its “7 Secrets of Effective Fathers” seminar lists four key types of absence:
The first is Physical absence. At the time I attended the above mentioned seminar 40% of children in U.S. homes lived without their biological fathers. Now, in 2015, that number is even higher. I’m not going to bore you with additional stats. We have all seen the numbers. Absent fathers impact the economic, criminal, behavioral, educational, social and moral make-up of the family in an ongoing negative way. Ongoing, because the impact of fatherlessness is generational!
One story that was told in the “7 Secrets of Effective Fathers” seminar hit this issue right on the nose. The story concerns a father who was a high powered trial lawyer on the way to becoming a partner in his firm. He had the big house in the best neighborhood and drove the nicest cars. The family even had a nice swimming pool of their own in the backyard. The father spent long hours away from home so that he could make more and provide his family with all the things they wanted. All the while his son was having behavioral problems. He poured paint in the pool requiring several hundreds of dollars to clean and fix. The last straw was when he set fire to the curtains in their living room. He came close to burning the whole house down with his mother and little sister at home.
The attorney took his son to the finest child psychologist he could find. He told the psychologist to “fix him whatever it costs.” The psychologist responded by asking the father if he were willing to take any action requested of him and the father responded with an emphatic, “Yes.” The psychologist met with the father and son together for about thirty minutes and then asked the father to step into the waiting room while he met with the son one on one. Afterwards, he invited the father to meet with him one on one. He reminded the father that he had agreed to take any action requested of him. The father enthusiastically responded that he would do so. The psychologist’s recommendation: “This child needs a father to spend time with him.” He went on to explain that he could continue to see his child as often as the father wished. He knew the father could afford the fees he charged but the outcome would be the same. The child needed his father to be there.
We fathers must provide for our families. Scripture makes that very plain. However our priorities must be to put God first, our wives and children next in line. If we put a career, leisure, even church work over either of these we risk becoming absent in our own homes.
The second type of absence is Emotional absence: Although dad is physically present, he may not be supporting or affirming kids.
Our children need to be affirmed as much as a flower needs to be watered and fertilized in order to grow healthy and complete. They need to know that dad loves and supports them in those formative years. Our kids have this almost super human image of dad when they are little. Hearing words of encouragement and love take root early in their hearts and minds when spoken from the one that they call “dad.” Some fathers find it so hard to say those three words. “I love you!” Some can’t utter the words because they never heard them while growing up. Some were taught at an early age that it was unmanly to tell another male that you loved them. Whatever the reason, it is vital for the mental and spiritual growth of a child to know and hear such affirmation from dad.
A lot of emotional baggage that children take into adulthood is the result of living in a household devoid of any real affirmation and support from their fathers. If one grows up hearing that he or she is worthless, a mistake, or just another mouth to feed they tend to start to believe what they hear. God created all children. When a dad says those things to his son or daughter he might as well be saying them to God.
The third type of absence is Psychological absence:
This third type can be more damaging than any of the others. This is when children have a father present physically, but they are missing psychologically. The modeling that a father is supposed to give to his children is absent. Mom, try as she might, is not equipped by the Creator to model the skills necessary of becoming a man, and the importance of a father’s role in the family. The dad is the one that God ordained to fulfill such a task.
Fatherlessness creates a cycle of fatherless boys who become uninvolved with their own children. In other words, these fatherless boys repeat the cycle set before them. In many cases it starts with the grandfather, to the father, and finally to the son. Fatherlessness breeds an inheritance of running away from responsibility, promiscuity, disloyalty, and a willingness to allow the same to happen to his own child.
Over the years pop culture has evidenced this shift in our culture. As a child I remember dads portrayed in a positive way in sit-coms like “Leave it to Beaver,” “Father Knows Best,” or “The Walton’s.” Today children have cartoon characters like Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin who represent a mockery of what a father should be. All across the spectrum of programming one will find the image of a father portrayed in a negative or cartoonish fashion as opposed to one of a person with positive character and strong conviction. It seems that it is “open season” on anything that disparages males in general, and fatherhood in particular.
We men need to teach our sons and daughters how a “real” man is defined. We need to teach our sons how a man is to treat a woman. The best way to do so is by being a husband to our wives. We must show how a couple can have conflict in their lives, but commitment to marriage is stronger than any conflict that can arise. All children need to see that a husband and wife are a team devoted to their family by loving God first, and their family second. As with a son, daughters need to see a father honor their mother by being faithful, loving and true. When a girl is young she really needs a father in her life to demonstrate what qualities she should look for in a mate when the time comes. If dad isn’t present she could end up looking in all the wrong places.
Lastly, we have Spiritual Absence:
In Deuteronomy the Lord says this: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:6-7).
This is just one example of many that God provides us in the Bible which shows that we are to teach our children regarding our relationship with Him. This is one of the principle commands God has imparted to fathers. We cannot abdicate our responsibility to anyone else. We are specifically told that it is our task to be the spiritual leaders in our homes. Our children must have a father who is committed to being just that. We cannot allow the fact that we have sinned, or made mistakes in our past to keep us from being the leaders Christ has called us to be in our homes. Get over the fact that you are not perfect! Your children don’t need a perfect earthly father. They need a father that is willing to lead knowing that he must depend on his Father to show him the way he should go. In doing so he will be providing his children with the greatest gift he can give them. The gift of knowing that they have a father that is totally dependent on God for his life and the life of his family.
Spiritual absence is destroying our homes and our nation. We must stop the destruction by becoming men as defined by God. We must stop allowing the world to define who we are. A godly man is one who loves God with all his heart, soul and mind. He is one who loves his wife as Christ loved the church, and gave His life for it. He loves his children even more than he loves himself and would be willing to give up his life to protect all those he loves.
Fatherlessness! It is a big word, indeed. It’s an even bigger problem. We can solve it. It just takes one man at a time willing to forego the world and become the man God has called us to be.