When I released my latest book, Daddy Issues: How the Gospel Heals Wounds Caused by Absent, Abusive and Aloof Fathers I anticipated it would connect deeply with many adults who still live with the wounds caused by their imperfect fathers. What I did not anticipate was that many adult fathers would read the book and ask,
"What if I am the one who has caused daddy issues in others?"
While the frequency of the question has surprised me, it has also greatly encouraged me. It is wonderful that imperfect fathers (like me) want to know how to best respond to the errors of their past. Since I failed to answer that question in the book, I hope to provide some simple but useful counsel in this brief post. If you are a father who has contributed to daddy issues in your children, here are four ways you can respond.
Confess your sin
Every father is an imperfect father. As such, we have all failed, to some degree, to reflect the image of our Good and Perfect Father, God. This means that many of our errors are not merely "errors," but sins. As with any other sin, the road to healing begins with confession. As you reflect on your sins and how they have affected your children, acknowledge these sins and their consequences before God. You need not fear such painful honesty, as the God who is faithful and just promises to forgive you and cleanse you of your unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). After confessing to God and receiving the forgiveness that is yours through faith in Jesus Christ, you should do everything in your power to confess your sins and their consequences to your children and seek their forgiveness. Whether they are willing to forgive you or not, the Bible promises that confessing our sins to one another is a means of healing (James 5:16). God may choose to use your confession to heal you, your children, and/or your relationship.
@@Every father is an imperfect father@@
Trust God to father your child
Perhaps you have read Daddy Issues and can now see the specific behavioral, emotional and relational wounds your children carry as a result of your parenting (or lack thereof). As you reflect on the pain or destructive patterns you have contributed to, you may be tempted to despair because the wounds you caused seem to be beyond healing.
They are not.
It may be true that you failed your children. It is also true that God will never fail them. He promises to be "a father to the fatherless" (Psalm 68:5, ESV). For this reason, the Psalmist writes, "Though my mother and father forsake me, the LORD will receive me" (Psalm 27:10, ESV). As a result, instead of living in the regret of your failures as a father, you are free to live in the gratitude of knowing God fathers your children perfectly in your place.
@@It may be true that you failed your children. It is also true that God will never fail them.@@
Remember that suffering is redeemable
Daddy issues cause, and are caused, by suffering. Because of your imperfections, your children have been suffering since childhood and, as a result, you likely suffer from the guilt, shame and regret of having failed them. This suffering is not comfortable for them nor for you. Yet this does not mean that said suffering cannot be useful in the hands of a your loving and all-powerful God. In fact, the Scriptures testify that God uses such suffering to accomplish wonderful things in us and for us.
God uses suffering to refine our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7), to prepare us for eternity (2 Corinthians 4:17), to produce in us endurance, character and hope (Romans 5:3-5), and to allow us to experience God's comfort in our pain (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
In short, the sufferings related to daddy issues are terrible. But such sufferings do not have to destroy God's people. In fact, God promises he will destroy such sufferings on behalf of God's people when Christ returns. On that day, "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes...neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4, ESV).
Share your story
It is too late for you to undo your errors of the past. And, depending on your situation, it may be too late to truly reconcile with your children. Yet it is not too late to protect others from causing or experiencing the same damage. You have the opportunity to share your story with other fathers and potential fathers, that you might help them avoid the mistakes you made. You likewise can share your story with fathers in your same situation, that you might help them walk through the four steps covered in this blog post.
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, the Apostle Paul writes, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (ESV).
Don't waste your suffering.
Don't waste your mistakes.
Redeem them by sharing your story with those who need to hear it.
@@Don't waste your suffering. Don't waste your mistakes. Redeem them by sharing your story with those who need to hear it.@@
If you are one who has caused daddy issues in others, neither wallowing in your guilt nor passing the blame to someone else will help you in any way. But confessing your sin, trusting God to father your child, remembering that suffering is redeemable, and sharing your story most certainly will.
Cole Brown is a Humble Beast author and speaker. He is the founding pastor of Emmaus Church, a multi-ethnic church in Portland, and now serves as a missionary helping plant churches in Mexico City, Mexico. His book, Daddy Issues: How the Gospel Heals Wounds Caused By Absent, Abusive & Aloof Fathers, is now available. Connect with him on twitter or facebook.