Healing the Father Wound

What was your relationship with your father like? I’ll bet it wasn’t perfect. That’s because your father was human and wasn’t perfect, but there is a deeper reason.

It has to do with the way you’re wired. You were designed to need the perfect–I mean absolutely perfect–unconditional and complete love of a Father. In other words, you have within you a need for a Father that no father can ever fulfill.

This is why so many people grow up and rebel against their fathers or blame their fathers or hate their fathers. They perceive that their father has failed them. What made me come to this conclusion was speaking to a number of people over the years in counselling who blamed their father for their problems. Then when I looked at the facts objectively I realized that the fathers they were complaining about were actually pretty good guys.

I’ve had situations where the father was a good Christian man who provided for his wife and family, never cheated on his spouse, loved his kids and spent time with them, but he they still blamed him for being a lousy Dad. Of course he wasn’t perfect, but my point is that they had this inner, subconscious need for him to be more than he ever could be.

I realize that there are also some truly horrendous husbands and fathers, but I’ve learned to take all those who complain about them with a pinch of salt. There’s always another side to the story, and one’s perceptions are never complete. We don’t know the whole story.

What I’m getting at is this: I believe we all–to a greater or lesser extent– carry within us something I call the Father Wound. This is the wound we received from not having a perfect father. The wound may be deep and lasting–disabling and poisoning every part of our personality, sexuality and relationships–or it may be less profound, but present nonetheless.

How does this wound show itself? It is revealed in a multitude of ways: the person may find it impossible to trust anyone in authority. All”father figures” may be perceived as the enemy. An ordinarily mature and capable person may–when faced with a “father relationship” at work or in sports or at church or most anywhere the person may rebel, undermine the “father” or reject him. They may give that person the silent treatment or walk out on him. In other words, they will exhibit immature behaviors–reacting like a child or an adolescent responds to the negative father figure.

The Father wound may show itself in distorted sexualities. The genesis of some homosexual conditions are rooted in the search for the loving father. Some immature heterosexual conditions present as the little girl looking for “Daddy”. The wound may show itself in a person’s inability to accept himself or herself, in poor self esteem, immature rage and aggression towards others….the Father Wound can be at the root of a whole range of other difficulties.

How beautiful then, that Our Lord gives us just the one prayer which covers all prayers, and it is the “Our Father”. This prayer, when prayed in a deep and meditative manner can heal the Father Wound and all it’s nasty symptoms. Furthermore, all our prayers–indeed the whole Christian life of worship and devotion is patriarchal. It is based in the need for reconciliation with the Father. This is also why the parable of the prodigal son is so powerful–because through this story we see the elemental need for the return to the Father.

The Father Wound is healed when there is true repentance and return to the Father. We have to “come to our selves” and return to the Father. Our prayer should be that we experience a profound and life changing experience of the Father’s total, unconditional love. That experience will re-build the foundation level of our lives and from there true health and wholeness will begin to flourish.

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  • CG

    This reminds me of a great book by evangelical writer and counselor John Eldredge entitled, “Wild at Heart”. He, too, articulates the idea of the “Father wound” and how only God can truly fulfill it. It’s a great read — it calls any man to, through devotion to God and to God’s true design of manhood, overcome the Father wound and “recover” their true “masculine hearts”. It suffers at times from an over-reliance on outdoor metaphors and isn’t perfect, but I found it very useful and thought-provoking.

  • Dolores

    Since I was a child I remember suffering because of the way my father treated me. It is a very deep wound. Finding the Father was a wonderful thing. It helped me let go of the need to torture myself in order to make my father happy (mission impossible), it freed me and helped me become an adult. Unfortunately, my father story did not have a happy ending, but I am very lucky to have my Father take care of me in such difficult situations. I do not feel anymore that my father had so much power over me, he did not ruin me as a person. Someone more powerful watched my back.

  • http://theocoid.blogspot.com Bill Burns

    The “father wound” shows up in many cultures and throughout folklore. It’s been a common theme in self-help books for the last 20 years. However, linking it back to the desire for a perfect Divine father is something so many of these books would never comtemplate.

  • Sandra Lipari

    Great perspective on clearing up a notion that need not ever be introduced. If someone is wounded does it need emphasis? The greater part that Fr. Longenecker clarifies identifies and emphasizes in an astounding step by step self-help way is to seek the best, the perfect, the Divine! Trying to perfect yourself toward the perfect Father will enhance all earthly relationships. Only look back or forward to your earthly father with gratitude for what little or great he contributed. Respect and gratitude for both fathers is the best way, either way God provided us with heavenly help! Thank God! Great article Fr. Longenecker!