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Fathers and their Sons

July 8, 2008

A couple of weeks ago an older friend of mine saw my interactions with my three year-old daughter and heard me talking about our terrific Father’s Day.  At this, he didn’t revel in my joy, rather he lamented his regrets.  Now, I know that despite our best intentions, most of us have some regrets.  However, this wasn’t the first time I’ve listened to this friend talk about his “issues.”  I reflected on this conversation over the next week and surprisingly, I was given the opportunity to discuss this with him last Sunday morning.

As my friend began to talk about his three divorces, how his son was taken from him while still a baby, and the financial battles he and his now ex-wives underwent; I realized that someone needed to wake him up.  Indeed, this friend kept talking about how his now adult son wants nothing to do with him et cetera.

I asked my friend if I could tell him some of my insights.  I told him, that I didn’t have much compassion and that I don’t really have much patience listening to another’s problems, issues, and stories.  I’m not much of one toRegret let people cry on my shoulder.  I care about him, but not the stories behind the regret.  He gave me permission to proceed.

I simply told my friend that he needs to move on, get over it, and reinvent himself.  Until he is able to reinvent himself and be the father – the strong, confident father – his son would continue to avoid him.  His son doesn’t want a dad who needs him.  He wants a father who can give unconditional love and isn’t using his son to mop up his own loneliness, pain, and regret.  He needs to quit Light at the end of the tunnel?living in the past and focus on being made new.  At 63 years old, it’s not too late for him to become the man he needs to be.

Just then, my other friend spoke up about being tricked into seeing his own father on the Fourth of July;  How the last few days had been hell.  This other friend talked about how he thought he’d forgiven his father for the childhood abandonment and moved on.  Then an event like this happens and he plummets back into his resentments and anger.

Seeing a golden opportunity, I shared some of the things I learned when I wrote about my Dad last week.  Then I asked my other friend, “What would you like to tell your dad, if he would listen?”  As he haltingly shared, through watery eyes and choked voice, my first friend, who is old enough to be the younger man’s father, listened in rapt attention.forgive?

What started as an intervention for my older friend’s addiction to regret and resentment, now turned into real-life role playing between two men with similar issues.  One misses a closer relationship with his son and blames his ex-wives for his problems.  The other is angry that his father abandoned the family when he was a child and wants nothing to do with his father.

It was a powerful conversation – one in which we all experienced some healing.

It was a powerful conversation – one in which we all experienced some healing.  Yesterday I received a text message from my younger friend.  He was so grateful for the conversation and was so glad we were able to talk through those things.  (I wonder if I’ll hear from the older friend again?)

  • Some studies have shown that over 90% of men do not have a best friend – or someone they can share their intimate thoughts with.
  • Without a friend to share life with, men tend to internalize, escape, and move toward a state of denial.
  • The lack of quality, emotional intimacy is one of the biggest complaints about men – from their kids, from their wives, and even about themselves.
  • Children who grow up in homes lacking a connection with their fathers, experience their own abandonment and intimacy issues.  Adult men and women act this out in different ways, but each struggles with a void in their heart.
  • and the cycle continues…

Best friendsIt isn’t easy for men to let down their guard and share their heart, but it is essential.  Nothing is going to fill the void like an emotional connection with another human.  I was glad my two friends and I were able to talk the other morning.  I know I’m a better person because of the carthasis, healing, and support I received and gave on Sunday morning.

  1. July 8, 2008 10:32 am

    it’s sad to see, or even hear, how stunted people’s emotional development can become. But it’s so refreshing to hear someone say that they should just get over it. Move along. I think everyone could benefit from speaking to a person who will answer them honestly instead of just allowing them to wallow.


  2. rog permalink
    July 8, 2008 12:30 pm

    Great post and great testimony. that’s a very real and good thing you did, Gary. Thanks for sharing. I hope I can respond as well some time….


  3. July 10, 2008 11:36 pm

    Thank you for this. As a mother of four sons, I have spent a lot of energy pondering their development of ’emotional literacy,’ and thinking about how my women friends seem to easily understand matters of emotional nuance that my husband doesn’t always get. It helps to read the thoughts of men who do care about having rich emotion-laden connections, even if it doesn’t come in the same form in which women might connect with other women. I think about the violin teacher my sons had last year who sort of obviously preferred teaching girls and actually told me once how much more quickly my sons would be learning if they were girls (imagine a math teacher telling me my daughter would learn faster if she were a boy!) and it really bothered me until I got home and thought about how, historically, men have managed quite well at learning to play the violin. As someone committed to equal opportunities for boys and girls, it’s difficult but important, I think to respect the different needs they may have in learning style and communication style, and to allow my sons to become the men they are meant to be, not just what I expect of them.


  4. July 11, 2008 10:38 am

    @Mara Yeah, I feel like I’m reinventing the wheel here. I have very few role models in my life on how to achieve some of this stuff. That’s why I’m so excited about this whole PDX Dad blog thing. Confessions of a PDX Dad.

    I would recommend the book Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge. He speaks well to the whole real man issue. He helped me understand why I went from my left-leaning, hippie roots to become (for a time) a Bud-swilling, door-kicking, 4×4 driving, macho firefighter. And then he offered some positive advice on how to focus on my family and kids.

    Although he approaches this from a Christian perspective, I think if that isn’t your cup-o-tea, you’re open-minded enough to glean the principles – especially since Eldredge is not a Bible-thumping fundamentalist. He’s just a good guy, IMHO.

    Although I’ve learned (am learning) to carve our more time in my life, I’m still learning (and this is a steep learning curve) to be emotionally available. This is HARD!

    …but I’m committed to stopping the cycles of dysfunction that have plagued my families for generations. I want to give my kids a more solid foundation to stand upon. And for my 3 yo daughter I’ve got less than a decade – probably. And we all know how quickly a decade can go.

    (Whatever happened to Bananarama anyways?)


  5. Steven McDade permalink
    August 31, 2008 2:30 pm

    Great stuff. My wife was the one who made the Dr.Pepper pie, and you have great insight telling your friends to get over and get on with life.

    Other books I suggest reading that help get us out of that “poor me” state are, “No More Christian Nice Guy” by Paul Coughlin

    The Secrets Men Keep by Stephen Artenburn, though I have some problems with his take on some issues.

    Also visited your YouTube sight and would like to talk about a “home church” situation for learning more about God.


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