Are Dads Blowing It?
Chances are, you’re more disappointed with your dad than you are with your mom. Why is that? Are most fathers bad at their job?
Today is Father’s Day, and, of course, they made mention of it at church. On both Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, parents are celebrated. But not until the pastor says a word to those who are not happy on these holidays.
On Mother’s Day it’s usually something like, “Our hearts go out to those ladies who are heartbroken because they wish they had children.”
But they don’t say that on Father’s Day. For the men, the disclaimer is usually more like the one I heard today. “Many of you had terrible fathers.”
I don’t think I’ve ever heard them say that on Mother’s Day. If they did, few could relate. Most people think their mother is amazing. If the camera zooms in on a football player, it’s always, “Hi Mom!” Never “Hey Dad!” Those big, tough, specimens of masculinity, given the opportunity to give a shout out to just one parent, will always pick mom—even at the risk of being teased as a mama’s boy.
Ask a man about his father, and very often the response begins with, “Well, he was a man with some serious flaws. He wasn’t a perfect dad by any means, but I still love him. He did the best he could … in his own way.”
Ask about his mom and you just get, “She’s amazing.”
So many people have such disappointing fathers that the term “daddy issues” is a catchphrase in our culture. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone complain that their life is messed up because of mommy issues.
Why is this?
The Burden of Breadwinning
No doubt there are multiple reasons. Men have the relentless burden of providing for the family. This requires not only a great number of hours working outside the home but also a mindset focused on career. It’s impossible to do that and compete with the amount of attention a stay-at-home mom can give to the kids.
And women are more relational and family-oriented than men by God’s design. So the parenting role comes more naturally to women than to men. Fathers have to be told not to exasperate their children (Ephesians 6:4). The writers of Scripture felt no need to give women a similar instruction.
This is not to say being a good mom is easy for women—any more than winning an Olympic gold medal is easy for world-class athletes. It’s still hard work, but it’s work they succeed at because of the way God designed them.
Another explanation may have to do with the different roles mothers and fathers play. Mothers are there for nurture, which is very easy to understand and appreciate. No one can kiss a skinned elbow and dry your tears like mom. Not to mention her feeding you, dressing you, helping you with every struggle you have, and attending to you all day long. Even for a child, it takes about one second to think of a hundred wonderful things mom has done for them.
Dad’s role is often less tangible. Paying the bills, providing safety and stability in the home, and administering strong discipline are crucial, but not as easy to appreciate or even notice.
Discontent by Design?
Perhaps you could add to the list of reasons people usually have more complaints about dad than about mom. I would suggest one more.
Could it be that fatherhood is such a marvelous reality that God made our appetite for it insatiable? Maybe we are unsatisfied with our fathers partly because of their failings and partly because God designed us to desire more from them than human fathers can give.
Most people are satisfied with what they received from their mother, but unsatisfied with what they got from dad. This may have as much to do with the child’s needs and desires as it does with the father’s failings.
Fatherhood is such an unspeakably marvelous reality, the benefits that can come from an ideal father are so incredibly valuable that when any of them are lacking it can cause lifelong damage. Could it be that God designed all of us to crave an ideal father-child relationship so deeply that our longings can never be satisfied by even the best human father?
Why does the New Testament make so much of the fact that God relates to us as a father? Of all the amazing titles for God in prayer—Lord, King, Master, Holy One, Ancient of Days, Creator—Jesus taught us to pray, “Abba, Father.” There are many facets to our relationship with God, but the one Scripture emphasizes the most, by far, is the father-child relationship.
There are so many things God wants us to seek from him as our Father, so many elements of his fatherhood he wants us to enjoy, perhaps it was necessary to plant within us a craving so deep that no human father could satisfy it, lest we become overly contented and lose our desperation to find true fatherhood.
I can’t say with certainty why fathers fall short more often than mothers. But I can say this—every disappointment you have with your dad points to a God-given need in your soul for something only God can truly provide.
Sometimes people tell preachers not to say too much about the fatherhood of God because people with terrible fathers can’t relate to it. I disagree. In some ways, people with bad fathers have the deepest understanding of all about true fatherhood. Who can appreciate the value of something more than the person who has felt the agony of being deprived of that thing?
If you have experienced pain because of things your father did wrong, the very fact that feels so wrong to you is proof God has built into your soul a knowledge of the way fatherhood ought to be. And no one can take greater delight in experiencing God’s perfect fatherhood than you.
Happy Father’s Day.
(For a sermon on the topic of God’s fatherhood, click here)