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Honor Thy Father...For Your Own Sake



From ‘Matter’ to ‘Pattern’

One of the ways in which the oft-observed hesitancy and timidity in men today has come about is the lack of a process during which a man has been ‘cut off’ from the immediate, material, sensual world of his mother, and has joined the life modelled to him by his father. A boy is meant to follow a blueprint of masculinity, a ‘pattern’ set as an example and an avenue for him by his father, and all the paternal male influences in his life.

The word ‘pattern’ shares the same root with ‘paternal’ and it indicates ‘a form or model proposed for imitation’.

Some synonyms of ‘pattern’, according to Mirriam-Webster, are:

MODEL, EXAMPLE, PATTERN, EXEMPLAR, IDEAL mean someone or something set before one for guidance or imitation.

MODEL applies to something taken or proposed as worthy of imitation.

EXAMPLE applies to a person to be imitated or in some contexts on no account to be imitated but to be regarded as a warning.

PATTERN suggests a clear and detailed archetype or prototype.

EXEMPLAR suggests either a faultless example to be emulated or a perfect typification.

Now, who is the one setting up the ‘pattern’ in our lives? The father, of course. Whether we like it or not, whether we have grown up with fathers whose ‘patterns’ we have found worthy of emulation—or have recoiled from and moved against—is not the point here. The point is that, despite the nature and degree of human brokenness, male children are destined to follow a masculine pattern—to set a design, to blaze a trail—for their lives; and a masculine pattern can only be given by a paternal force.


 


The Father-Wound, Chapter 5: Honor Thy Father…That It May Go Well with You


Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

—Deuteronomy 5:16, NIV


That capacity that we have to honour that which came before us—our father and our mother—is equivalent to the ethos that has to bind us together, not only right now but across time.

—Jordan Peterson


Men who have dared to look instead into their hearts, however, have seen reflected there the genuine, timeless longing in a boy for his father—and can therefore spot the historical distortions of that pain which have come from denying it. It’s time now to tell the truth. A young man’s effort to kill his father only leads him to hate his own manhood. Worse, it destroys the generation after him. As one 80-plus-year-old brother declared at one of my men’s conferences, ‘Whatever you don’t forgive your father for, you’ll do to your son.’

—Gordon Dalbey, ‘Hippies, Fathers, and War




In regard to being ‘lost’, I’m sure that most of us would readily agree upon the fact that when a son takes a course that is in extreme opposition to his father’s, something ends up missing in the son’s life. If we are for a moment to return to the concept of a boy’s need for ‘receiving’ masculine love and nurturing from his father, we would see that the wound created by a father who’s been distant or altogether missing, opens up a ‘vacuum’ in the boy’s soul. The boy, unable to fill that vacuum, can only grow up resenting his father—thus ending up hating and repressing his own need for masculine input—and not feeling at all any need to receive that which he once craved. Such a man, or rather, the boy within him, can manifest that by living a life that has nothing of his father’s legacy in it, and everything of the man’s own choices—which is in itself a foolishness to believe in as a concept. Being one’s own man is a foolish thing to believe in, for, if no boy would ever crave independence from his daddy, but would in fact long to bond with him, how could he grow up into a man who’s suddenly happy with not being bonded to his father and his masculine heritage?


No, this is not how boys are made. This is not how they become men.


Links in a Chain Or Cogs in a Wheel?


My friend John Richards travels the world doing work with tribal communities across the globe. He and his team take groups of ‘modern’ people out to remote places in order to give them the opportunity to think about and enter their own inner journey. After one trip to a remote wilderness in South Africa, John told me that a local Zulu man had described to him what the connection to their fathers and grandfathers mean to the people of his tribe. He said that every man who presently lived was seen as being a link in a long chain of ancestors; and if any given link in the chain was not connected to the other—if any son was not connected to his father and could not honour, respect and follow him in the tribe’s tradition—there would be no chain.


In today’s fatherless ‘modern world’ where the word ‘tribal’ is used mostly in a negative way, we look down upon such ‘primitive’ traditions. Yet, many of us would readily agree that, as blessed and prosperous our world today is, we need something of what those tribal communities have. We need connectedness; we need masculinity; we need strength. But if masculinity is only available through the relationship with the masculine—our fathers—and as a ‘pattern’ to follow, set before us by those fathers, shouldn’t we seek to rediscover, reclaim and reconnect to whatever shards of their heritage we can find still lurking inside our lives?


 

Maybe you have a terrible father and a terrible mother…and you might say, well, why should you honour them and why should you honour the elderly. And one answer is going to be something like: well, your destiny is to become elderly. And so, if you set up your society so that the elderly, the traditions aren't valued, then you're going to eventually end up in this situation where you're the tradition that's not valued…

—Jordan Peterson

 

We desperately need to be connected to the heritage of our fathers that has been deposited within us; or else we end up doomed, like so many, living lives that are not really ours. If we do not reclaim the father within us, and ‘dig out’ that golden deposit inside us, we risk a lot.

We risk to remain drifters, pulling forever in the opposite direction, never free to choose our way but forever compelled to escape from our long-dead father—rebels without a cause, fervently serving the religious causes of today by striving to protect the world and all people—whether they like it or not—from the ‘toxicity’ of men, past and present…

Or we risk to remain quiet, broken, submissive men, lacking the strength to live and the will to overcome, which only our fathers could give us…cogs in the wheel of systems we may be called to overthrow.


Or we risk to remain wild and aggressive, deep down angry at the fathers who demanded much from us, striving to prove our worth to them and show them that we are either good enough to be their sons, or prove them wrong by being good enough to not need them…

Need I continue? I think not. Whatever we may end up becoming as a result of not being connected to our fathers, it would only be a one-sided, handicapped, partial version of the men we were destined to become.


In a poignant article titled Hippies, Fathers, and War, Gordon Dalbey writes:


A history lesson here for younger readers: The hippies were the sons of the World War II warriors. The Viet Nam War was then raging, and my father was a retired Navy officer. Like so many of my peers, I confused respect with fear, and couldn’t talk directly to my parents about any inner pain. So I resorted to a passive-aggressive response. “Bring the war home; kill your parents,” was the mantra of the day. Like everything else in the old days, rebellion then was simple. You didn’t have to drill holes in your nose, ears, tongue and lips, or burn tattoos into your skin. All you had to do to alienate the older generation and thereby distinguish yourself, was to avoid a haircut. At Duke University in 1960, the Dean of Students called out and reprimanded the guy next to me in freshman English class, for having hair that touched the top of his ear. I was smart enough to realise that—bold and hip as it looked—a half-inch of hair wasn’t worth sabotaging my education and future. But I didn’t need a college education to know later how to “get back at the Establishment” with the least cost. My parents lived on the East Coast in an all-white community, so I ran to California and rented in an African-American neighbourhood. Dad was in the military, so I dodged the draft and joined peace marches. He drove a Chevy, so I puttered in my VW bug. He ate Wheaties, I ate granola; he had short military hair, mine hung down to my shoulders; he lived in suburbia; I preferred whichever commune had a spare couch…


In a strange irony, I recall Bob Dylan’s old 60’s anthem of rebellion, “The Times, They Are A-Changin’.” Biblically, history is the theater of God’s revelation. But for those of us who over thirty years ago warned, “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” history becomes an intrusion. Indeed, a simple glance in the mirror now warns us that the times have a-changed dramatically. Men who have dared to look instead into their hearts, however, have seen reflected there the genuine, timeless longing in a boy for his father—and can therefore spot the historical distortions of that pain which have come from denying it. It’s time now to tell the truth. A young man’s effort to kill his father only leads him to hate his own manhood. Worse, it destroys the generation after him. As one 80-plus-year-old brother declared at one of my men’s conferences, “Whatever you don’t forgive your father for, you’ll do to your son.” Honor your father, as the Commandment promises, and you’ll endure in your destiny (Ex. 20:12).

In the 1960’s, God was speaking to a world tired of war, calling for a generation of spiritual warriors to overcome such strongholds as racism, sexism, materialism, and shame-based religion. But instead of confessing honestly “I need you, Daddy,” my generation masked our pain and anger behind righteous political principles and loosed a man-hating spirit upon the land.


The awful legacy of that cowardice is the politically-correct value system, in which ideology has replaced relationship. We lost our war because we lost the boy—and with him, our hearts and the ability to be real. And so, we abdicated our occasion to be real men. As “flower children,” my generation tried to escape adult restraint and recapture the innocence of childhood…


Today, men may become Christians and join churches. But too often, we have merely exchanged politically-correct ideology for an equally lethal religiously-correct theology—striving to measure up to biblical principles, Christian standards of manhood, marks of a “spiritual champion.”


We’ve all abandoned the little boy. His desperate cry in the wilderness terrifies men who don’t trust any Father to respond (see Ps. 27:10).


We have indeed abandoned the little boy within; we have ignored him, shunned him, and stifled his cry deep with us: for it is that cry which terrifies us the most.


The little boy within us cries out for a father.


He cries out in desperation, with the need to become a man, feel like a man among other men, and thrive in the world of men—but, for many of us, he is not allowed to express that. We have moved away from his longing, or have been making ourselves numb to it by ‘scratching the itch’ that the hunger for masculinity leaves even those of us who had been most successful in repressing it. We have indeed become ‘comfortably numb’: no longer feeling the need of the boy within us, we delude ourselves that to honour our father is optional.

It isn’t.


The longer we run from that sobering fact, the more damage we would continue causing to ourselves and our loved ones, as well as of those whom our lives we were meant to reach, touch and transform by the power of our presence.


For it is our presence that is required in order for us to live fully as men; and it is our presence that has suffered, if we had not done the work of dealing with the father-wound and honouring what has been good and true about our fathers.


Let me tell you a story.


There was once a man whom I had the honour to walk alongside for years, who was very good and upright, with a heart as pure and noble in his pursuit of truth as I had never seen until I met him. I will call him Jack.


Jack had grown up in a poor corner of Britain, during the tough post-war years, and his story of being fathered had been nothing short of horrible. Jack’s father had been a violent womaniser who had not only hit him, shouted at him and punished him severely, but also (as if the violence and harshness was not enough) had never done anything to even attempt to redeem himself as a father, in the rest of the time. Jack’s father was a man who never wanted to spend any time with his family; he hated his wife and children and was ashamed of them, and at the end, abandoned them altogether. As a result, even in his older age, and even after decades of inner healing, no matter how hard Jack would try to come up with something positive, he found it impossible. Jack’s father had used every opportunity he had while being around his son to abuse, violate, shame and mock him; then—after he had destroyed his soul—he had abandoned him.


Needless to say, the concept of ‘honouring’ his father, did not seem possible at all. There was simply nothing to honour.


How would you honour a father like Jack’s—who had been nothing but evil to you every time he was around you, and had clearly indicated that he does not even want to be around you at all? How would you honour him in your adult age, if even when you’ve tried hard to find something good to claim and hold onto, there was absolutely nothing positive about your relationship with him?


But let me tell you here: it is not about that at all. Honouring a father has nothing to do with what he’d done or not done. It has everything to do with the potential he’s had as a man, as a human being and as a father—even if very little or nothing of that potential had been realised in the father-son relationship.


It is the potential that we honour; it is the Good Seed of Manhood—the heritage of our fathers, and what they had been called to connect us to—that we seek to reclaim and allow to germinate within us.


It goes without saying that Jack’s life, like the lives of many of us—although he had done his absolute best to live with integrity and purpose, and had built a real legacy through his family, friends and ministry—was oriented against, and not for, the masculine foundation that his father never provided him with. He ran far away from home, in more than one sense. He spent many decades not seeking any form of communication with his parents or siblings. A part of his soul was terribly damaged by male authority-figures, and as a result of that, over the years, more damage was accrued (for when one has such an ‘open wound’, one often becomes a victim of a damaging pattern, similar to what had originally caused the damage) and his alienation from other men grew.


In social settings, Jack found himself doing all he could to not call any attention to himself at all; he avoided the situations that called for that, and did his best to ‘hide’ in every way possible, while supporting others as best he could. He was great at that—building others up was and always will be, one of his great talents—but he also used that greatness to make sure he was never the man in the centre…


Even when he was desperately needed to be that for others.


You see, much like I once did, one of the problems Jack had was a problem with his own presence. That problem stemmed from his father’s own harsh, violent presence—with Jack grew up trying his hardest to avoid and escape…


But he didn’t know that, by shunning his father’s presence, he shunned his own—and by turning away from his father’s angry face, he could not bear looking at his own—for the detriment of all who needed him to be himself for them. For most of Jack’s conscious life, his whole personality and approach to life was oriented towards hiding, and not drawing any attention to himself.


Yet, he did not know that, in hiding from his father, he ended up having to hide his own self.

When we curse and shun our fathers, we curse and shun ourselves; when we banish them from our presence, we are unable to enter our own.


As a result of that, Jack spent most of his adult life unable to fully offer his presence to anyone.


Fortunately, this is not the end of Jack’s story: after nearly two decades of pursuit of truth and healing, he had changed beyond recognition; and many things that had never been possible for him in his younger days, were available to him—and that in a time of his life when most men usually begin losing, and rapidly so, whatever good things they have had going for them.

Needless to say, to change in the way he did, Jack had to spend a long time agonising his way through the deep waters of the father-wound. But even after dealing with all that for many years, he still didn’t want to have anything to do with his father…

Until, during one of our meetings, the need to ‘come home’ to his masculine roots emerged...

 

If you have found this reading interesting and want more, get your newly-revised and updated The Father-Wound by clicking the links below:









With much gratitude and respect,


George Stoimenov

Eastbourne, East Sussex

Great Britain






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