Happy Fathers Day! To those of you who have, or had, great dads, rejoice!
I know, however, there are many who had absent fathers, abusive "sperm donors" and/or down right crummy dads. For them Fathers Day isn't a day of pleasant memories of the man who mentored them into adulthood, but is a day of harsh memories and broken hearts.
Honoring the Dishonorable?
Further, many feel guilty or conflicted when it comes to the spiritual injunction to "honor thy father." How does one honor a father who lived dishonorably through broken vows, infidelity, being a deadbeat dad, absent, neglectful or abusive? You don't have to love him. You may or may not be able to forgive him yet (or ever, depending). So what do you do? How can you honor a dishonorable father?
The answer is simply this: You "honor thy father" by doing better than he did and by passing on better than you got.
And that you can do.
Update 10-8-12: In regards to honoring the unhonorable, today I found this great answer on Quora by Jon Davis, "Perhaps the best thing my father ever taught me is that there are times when you will only make the problem worse with your continued presence." Take a moment to read the whole thing. Very touching and insightful.
Update on Father's Day 2015: I received the following note from a friend and colleague. She has allowed me to share it here anonymously:
"I read with great interest your article on honoring the dishonorable father. Thank you for the link to that...and I appreciate your comments. My Dad was a horrible man... and each Father's Day is kind of a mini PTSD episode. Thankfully, it gets smaller each year, but each year is still painful.
"My father was a horrible father—a selfish, mean, abusive drunk. He died over 20 years ago, and I can honestly say I don't miss him, and I rarely think of him. He bet a family friend that I would NEVER finish college. And I did... with honors. He died four months before my graduation. I buried my honors cords with him along with a note describing my feelings of hate and love for him... and my forgiveness... despite the fact that he refused to reconcile our relationship before he died. His exact words..."Not interested."
"He was a favorite in his AA community, but he was not real. I think he would rather have died than admit some of the truths about himself... and the truth that he had been sexually abused by his father (which we found out after he died). After his death we also learned that he had sexually abused my older brother... and on a certain level I believe that I always knew that. What I learned from him was fear, guilt and shame. I truly cannot honor him in any way. But I do, with every part of myself, honor God, my Father in Heaven, who has taught me that it's okay to honor myself and my ability to find a better way. I also honor great fathers, like you, whose little girls won't have to feel like I did for many years.
"Thanks for listening, my friend. Happy Father's Day!"
Her story is EXACTLY what this post was about. I asked her if I could share it as I think others need to know they aren't alone and there are those who somehow found a way through the mess—with grace and dignity and a life well-lived. I sure do honor her, and all like her, for being chainbreakers and forces for good in the world.
Peace to all.
Want to be a great dad? Study the masters... More posts on being a father, husband and man.