Healing a Man's Father Wound


t is a peculiarly twentieth-century story, and is almost too awful to tell," writes Frederick Buechner, "about a boy of twelve or thirteen who, in a fit of crazy anger and depression, got hold of a gun somewhere and fired it at his father, who died not right away but soon afterward.

"When the authorities asked the boy why he had done it, he said that it was because he could not stand his father, because his father demanded too much of him, because he hated his father. And then later on, after he had been placed in a house of detention, a guard was walking down the corridor late one night when he heard sounds from the boy's room, and he stopped to listen. The words he heard the boy sobbing out in the dark were, 'I want my father, I want my father.'"1

"How incredibly sad," we say, but how many of us have killed or turned away from the only source that can meet the deepest longing of our heart? "Not me," I say, but every time I look for love in any wrong place, I do that.

For example, I looked for love in the things I did, like making beautiful things including a dream home. Then I majored in words and wrote books and poems. I learned to move a crowd to tears, make them laugh hilariously and inspire them to reach for noble goals. I got lots of approval but none of these things ever made me feel loved.

No mother or any other woman
can ever make a boy or
a man love himself as a man.

Perhaps most delusive of all is how I looked to the opposite sex to try to make me feel loved and to affirm my masculinity. It started with my mother because, being my primary caretaker, she was all I had to look to when I was a child. Next I fell madly in love with my second grade school teacher, looking for love from her. That didn't work either.

Unfortunately, no mother or any other woman can ever make a boy or a man love himself as a man. An attractive woman might make him feel terrific for a time but she still can't make him feel loved or that he is a man no matter how attractive she might be. A man may even be intoxicated with passion when he meets a beautiful woman and may want to marry her. If he does, he may be in for a rude awakening. Not because of her but because of him. When his passion subsides he'll be faced with the pain and reality of his own loneliness and emptiness.

And then to avoid facing his pain, he'll look to another performance, climb another mountain, or seek another beautiful woman...and another...to prove to himself that he is a man. Or he'll deaden the pain through alcohol, drugs or addictive behaviors and eventually ruin his health, get cancer, die of a heart attack, never get close to the ones he loves, or ruin those relationships. That is, he'll keep acting out until he faces why he looks in the wrong places for the love he never received as a child.

Ask a hundred men how many felt close to and affirmed by their father and you will see about three or four hands raised. Herein lies the secret of so much of our relational and emotional distress and the answer to our recovery. The father wound that injured our masculine soul is because we never felt loved by our fathers. And that wound desperately needs to be healed.

Continued on Page Two

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