For Father’s day, you celebrate a few men in your life:
That random dad in Target with the kids,
your friend’s husband,
and other relatives,
but when it comes to your own father things gets complicated.
While idyllic images of fathers and daughters flood social media channels, you struggle to find images to post. Father’s day is just a reminder that things aren’t so ideal for you. And this holiday comes with a broad array of emotions:
Thus, fueling the temptation to wear a mask for the day, so your true feelings remain undetected. You’d rather suppress your raw emotions then broadcast your pain at a time when no one else is. I have felt like this on a number of occasions, and as a professional stuffer, I can say with clarity, “Don’t do it.”
This method of dealing with pain is ineffective. Passive aggression is like a fast moving bullet to the soul, leaving its victims with a non healing wound. If this sounds familiar, and your Father’s Day experience is more bitter than sweet, I have three suggestions to help you process your feelings.
#1 Give Yourself Permission to Grieve What Has Been Lost.
The physical or emotional absence of a father is a traumatic experience in the life of his daughter. Whether the cause be death, divorce, abandonment, distance, or substance abuse, the effect is a loss that must be grieved. Though difficult to process, it is necessary, in order to heal.
Are you hurting today?
Is your father daughter story so painful you can barely talk about it?
If so, the Bible gives you license to mourn.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
Grieve every difficult memory, wound inflicted, word said, moment missed, and rejection felt. Your story should not be minimized or dismissed. If it is painful to you then it matters to God. One of my favorite scriptures says it like this,
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
And you might be saying, “I’ve tried to release it, but the wound is too deep.” I completely understand. The process of grieving takes time and is unique to every person. Enlist support on your journey; you may require the help of a professional counselor, or a trusted friend. Whatever it takes, for however long it takes, you will “be comforted” in your grief by God. So do not lose heart.
# 2 Choose Forgiveness.
The love you feel for your father only makes the dagger of his words and actions sink deeper. And attempting to forgive him is like falling down a bottomless pit: never coming to the end of his offenses against you. I get it. You are tired of trying to forgive a man that doesn’t seem to deserve forgiveness.
And if it had not been for the selfless act of a Jewish carpenter, I might encourage you to forget about forgiving your daddy. But because of Christ, my forgiveness is not conditional and yours either. We forgive because we have been forgiven, period.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
And this is more easily said than done, but it is doable. Christ is the impetus for, and the enabler of forgiveness. Without Him it is impossible to willingly and consistently relinquish my right to hold a grudge towards my offender.
Every time I forgive with my mouth I ask God to help my emotions to follow suit. And if the pain resurfaces, or a new offense is made, I continue to lean on the power of my heavenly father to forgive again. For me, forgiveness is a non-negotiable decision I make because I have been forgiven first by God.
# 3 Find a reason to be thankful.
If discouragement is the quicksand of our soul, gratitude is the rope that pulls us up. And the challenge is finding something to be grateful for in a pit of despair. But we needn’t look any further than the nearest mirror to see evidence of God’s grace.
Our very existence is a substantial reason to offer up thanks to God. If our biological father did nothing but fertilize the egg that gave us life we can choose to be thankful. Life, with all of its surprise blows, is worth my my humble appreciation for living it. And so, as the holiday ends and we are left to embrace the bitter with the sweet in our father daughter relationship, let us find reasons to give thanks.