After my post last week — reminding you that you have a Father in Heaven who invites you to call Him “Daddy” — I thought I should follow up this week with some practical tools for those of you who need to move forward out of that “Father Wound.”
If you are one who has never experienced the love of a father, or has been disappointed through unmet expectations or even hurt deeply by your father, you don’t have to remain “stuck” in that place of heartache from year to year. You can free your heart from unmet expectations, pain and regret by taking a journey of forgiveness that I have watched countless women make:
1. Forgive your father for the ways he has hurt you or not measured up.
We all have expectations of what we wanted from our dads. And when we realize they are human, and therefore sinners, just like us, we can extend grace for the ways they’ve fallen short, just as God has extended it toward us. Stephanie, whose dad left her mom while she and her sister were young children and then remarried and raised another family and seemed to favor them over her, offers this:
“It wasn’t until I became a Christian that I realized I needed to forgive my dad. I wrote him a letter and said I was finally putting all this behind me. I forgave him for walking out on our family and told him I would like to have a closer relationship with him. He called and said he was shocked that I had held on to the pain of the divorce for so long. He thought I had let that go a long time ago. I was totally shocked to hear him say that! Apparently he hadn’t noticed my anger through the years, or hadn’t given it that much thought.”
It was then that Stephanie realized her dad might never respond to her the way she had hoped. So, she had to take the second step of forgiveness with her dad.
2. Face the fact that he may never become the dad you had hoped for.
Stephanie said her dad continues to hurt her in ways he probably doesn’t even realize.
“He still makes the same empty promises and says hurtful things, but ever since I’ve forgiven him, God has given me peace.“
As Stephanie learned, when you forgive someone, it doesn’t mean your relationship with that person will be fully restored. It just means that you will have peace for having extended forgiveness and you will be able to move forward with life.
“I was hoping for a healed relationship, but that hasn’t happened, and it doesn’t affect me as much as it used to. It still hurts, but I’m able to let it go and walk away calm. I’m at as much peace as one can be with the fact that I will always come as an afterthought with my dad.”
Stephanie can say that, and still walk tall as a confident woman, because she knows who her real “Daddy” is. She was able to incorporate Step No. 3.
3. Focus on God to fill the “Daddy void” in your life.
Stephanie knows she is loved and cherished by her Heavenly Father who wants to more than make up for what she never experienced with her earthly father. That was key to her being able to experience peace, in spite of her father’s continued behavior. When I, too, began to look to God to fill the longings in my heart, it was then that I was able to have a closer relationship with my dad, my husband, and others in my life. Our fathers in some way are no different than anyone else in our lives in that they are human…and every person on this earth will let us down at one time or another. I love how Scripture tells us in Psalm 146:3: “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.” When the Lord becomes your all-in-all you can rejoice in knowing Him and He can fill that void in your heart.
I hope this Father’s Day you will be able to forgive your father and free him of your heart’s expectations — whether your dad is still around or not. By doing so, you will clear your heart of resentment and free it up to love others more.