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|Articles - Relationships|
|Written by Ron Luce|
Young men lift their hands all over the arena and begin to sob. When we pray a prayer of forgiveness together, their hearts begin to break as they confront the hurt they have felt for so long towards their dads.
When I pray with them and speak with them individually, I sense the depth of their pain. As I wrap my arms around them and hug them, they latch on to me and begin to sob out of their inner gut. The pain is so deep that no bandage or no doctor could ever heal it. They hold on to me and won't let go.
Many of them have been hurting for so long with a pain so deep that they forgot they were hurting. They thought it was normal to have a cold relationship with their dad—an empty, shallow, meaningless relationship. They thought it was par for the course. Every time I hold one of those teenage men in my arms, hugging them with a bear hug, I feel like I am holding teenage America in my arms.
David Blankenhorn, chairman of National Fatherhood Initiative and president of the Institute for American Values, refers to fatherlessness as "the most urgent social problem of our generation." Kids without fathers are more likely to:
Out-of-wedlock births are expected to surpass divorce as a cause of fatherlessness, rising to 40 percent by the year 2000. The tripling of teen suicides since the mid-1950s, the rise in chemical abuse, and the decline in SAT scores by 75 points between 1960 and 1990 are all trends that social scientists say were impacted by the absence of fathers. 2
Why Is It So Hard?
What is it about us fathers that makes us have such a tough time getting close to our sons? The expectations our society puts on us to be macho, cool, hip, and not to cry or be emotional takes an amazing toll on our sons. In our "machoism" we have passed on a legacy of cold-hearted relationships and missed the very richness of a heart-to-heart connection with our sons.
Let's look at some of the principles regarding our relationship with our sons:
Our society says that a "real" man doesn't cry. A real man doesn't get close to other men. A real man doesn't hug other men. We think all the touchy-feely stuff is only reserved for ladies and their tea parties. We men get together, watch a ball game, grunt a little bit, and have great fellowship.
Although it is true that camaraderie is built differently for guys than for girls, there sure are a lot of guys who grunt together who have never really even gotten to know each other on a friendship level, not to mention a father-son level. We'll grunt, we'll slap five, we'll do things together that are loud, fast, and dirty, and still have very little understanding of what makes the other person tick.
Society's idea of what a real man is—this elite, rambled personality in shining armor—has to be seen for what it really is. We need to see how much we have let that mentality influence us, whether we realized it or not. Otherwise, we will never see the need for getting close to our sons. We will think that as long as we grunt together, the empty, shallow, and hollow relationship we have is okay.
Maybe that is the way you were treated as you grew up with your dad. Dads have been acting this way for years. Very few sons have grown up with a wholesome relationship with their father, to where they feel they can share anything and look at their dad as their best friend. That ought to be the goal of parenting our sons - to be viewed as their best friend.
If your dad treated you coldly, didn't have time for you, didn't connect with you heart-to-heart, or never really cried, laughed, and prayed with you, then it is only natural you have passed on that kind of relationship to your own son.
Most of us learn our parenting skills from our own parents. Whatever they did to us, we end up doing inadvertently to our own kids, no matter how much we say we don't want to be like our parents.
Just because that is the way we were raised does not mean it is the right way to raise our own children. It's time for us to change the course of how our family will be raised. It's time to find the right way to develop a wholesome relationship with our own sons and be determined to do it, no matter how hard it might seem, how out-of-the-ordinary it may be, or how different it is from the way we were raised.
Many of the principles for developing closeness with your son are the same as developing a relationship with your daughter. Begin to pray for him. Claim Malachi 4:6, "He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers."
God will draw your heart close to your son. Don't just go through the motions of trying to be close, but really, genuinely care about what is going on in his life. Earnestly pray for him to be a man of God. Ask God to give him an incredible dream to make a difference in this world. Pray for God to be his confidence and the basis for his self-esteem, rather than feel the need to try to be "macho" according to the world's standard.
Are you being a true spiritual father to your son? Remember, you are the priest of the house. Impart to him nuggets of what it takes to be a man of God. Show him scriptures on being a real man. Teach him about character and integrity. Does your son look up to you spiritually, or are you just the breadwinner?
In too many homes across America and around the world, the spiritual leader is the mother. She is the one who gets the children to church and who teaches Scripture verses. We dads need to be the ones who do that. This image goes against the popular image of being a man—that you're macho, and you're not touchy-feely.
But a real man is humble. Jesus is the only "real man" who ever lived. He showed us the example of being humble before His Father and being a servant towards others. If you want your son to grow to be a real man, you need to be the example of a real man—a spiritual father teaching him principles on which to build his life.
Remember, you are an example of the Father God. What he sees in you is what he will think the Father God, Whom he can't see, is like. In addition, the kind of father you are to him is the kind of father he will be to his children.
You can create an incredible legacy now by representing your Father God in an accurate way and passing down an example that he in turn will live for his children, and they their children.
Is there anything you have done to push him away from you, whether purposely or inadvertently? Most of us would not do things on purpose to push our sons away, but there are things we do repeatedly that we know every time we do them we feel them slip further away. Yet we continue to do it.
Many fathers make the mistake of demanding so much from their son, he can never live up to the father's expectations. He's always behind the eight ball. No matter how good he does, he could always do better. He never feels approval or acceptance from his dad. He carries this around with him like a black cloud his whole life.
Many fathers have committed a sin of omission. They have omitted talking to their sons. They have not really shared their heart or taken a chance to get close. They've never cried in front of their sons.
Does that make you a real man if you do cry? No. But if you are really hurting, it's okay to cry. It's about being yourself. It's about sharing who you are. It means taking time to sit down and talk with him.
What is your son really thinking and feeling? If you haven't done this over the years, you have no doubt created an air of anger, resentment, and coldness. Your son has wanted someone he can share his heart with and talk with. Every time he's tried—and if it ever got a little emotionally intense—he got a "Well, how about those Bears?" Rather than dealing with feelings and being straight-up honest with each other, you talk about sports or something on a superficial level.
These are just a few things that may have built a wall between you and your son. Blast through that wall by asking your son to forgive you. Be humble about it. Turn over a new leaf. Go against the grain of what society says a real man is. This will be the starting point of an incredible relationship between you and your son.
Let's talk about showing your son wholesome affection. What?! Is there such a thing as wholesome affection from one man to another man?! Of course there is. When God created the family with both a mother and a father, He knew it would take guidance, attention, input, and affection from both a male and a female for a young person to grow in a wholesome environment.
The problem is that most of us men have never been shown wholesome affection. We don't know what it looks like. We think any kind of affection from one man to another man is something seen only in the homosexual lifestyle, so we stay far away from that.
But we are not only emotional and spiritual beings - we are physical beings. And physical affection between a father and son is wholesome. I can't tell you how many young men—teenage guys—I've talked to who tell me, "My dad has never told me he loves me. My dad has never hugged me. I just wish my dad would give me a big bear hug."
Start putting your arm around your son and letting him know he's important to you.
"As a boy grows and becomes older, his need for physical affection such as hugging and kissing lessens, but his need for physical contact does not. Instead of baby 'love stuff,' he needs 'boy-style' physical contact, such as bear hugs, 'give-me-five' hand slaps, and old-fashioned roughhousing." 3
"Not all touches need to be physical to be effective," says William Beausay II, in his book Boys! Shaping Ordinary Boys into Extraordinary Men. Beausay says a dad can touch his son by:
All too often, young men who don't get proper affection from their fathers, end up looking for approval or affection from another male and end up in a homosexual lifestyle. When they didn't get the wholesome kind of affection, they turned to the unwholesome affection because it satisfied their longing for attention.
Get over this idea that says you're not a real man if you hug your son. Tell him you love him. Too many of our sons are hurting and crying out on the inside, and we are buried in a shallow facade of machoism, too afraid to tell them we love them because our fathers never told us. It's time to be real. It's time to be honest.
Take off the mask, look your son in the eye, and say, "I love you, son."
1 Newsweek, June 17, 1996.
2 Reader's Digest, February 1997, p. 65.
3 Mike Yorkey, ed., The Christian Family Answer Book (Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Books, 1996) p. 42.
4 William Beausay II, Boys! Shaping Ordinary Boys into Extraordinary Men (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994).
Excerpt permission granted by Albury Publishing