So, did I want to be like my father? If I was to become “a man” — and if I was to know I was one — I needed to know where I came from and what I was made of. Many men are ashamed of their fathers, and I fell within that group. Although I tried hard not to become like my father, unfortunately I later found that I had developed several of his traits.

I think most men would say they would want to be like the good part of their fathers, but not the bad part. Most of us men assimilate both the good and the bad in varying degrees, even though we say we won’t. We neither assimilate all of the good we want, nor are we able to keep from becoming part of the bad.

My father, like many fathers, did not have the desire or ability to give my siblings or me what we needed in order to avoid many of life’s pitfalls. And neither did he, nor my step-dad have the ability or training needed to direct me towards what I later discovered to be my gifts.

I can never remember my mother or stepmother saying I was like my father or stepfather, because at least they noticed the differences in me that would make me different.

Due to a very strict legalistic upbringing by my dad, I developed a fear instead of a love for God. For the longest time, I held the belief that if I committed even the smallest mistake, I would be heading to hell. This belief began with the combination of my father and the pastors of the churches we attended telling me that God was a vengeful God. I heard this more than I heard that he was a loving God.

As I began to mature spiritually, I discovered my heavenly Father to be much different than what I was led to believe in my formative years. It helped to read stories in the Bible where ordinary men became men chosen by God, but still made bad mistakes. However, the complete story tells of how a loving God forgave them, restored them and still was able to use them. So I began to believe there was hope for me.

I have learned that to better understand yourself, you need to understand your own father. Just as you want your children to see who you truly are, it’s necessary that you move beyond the view of your father that you may have walked out of your childhood with. Changing your view of him can help you change your view of yourself, and reduce the fear of making the same mistakes.

If he either moved out of your life, or passed away, spend some time reflecting back on those days he was a major influence in your life. I remember a counselor once saying “Help recover and heal your past by writing her a letter saying whatever you wished to say before (my birth mother) died but couldn’t. Then write a letter back from her to you saying what you wish she would have said.”

Though emotionally challenging, this process helped me heal old wounds, and allowed me to move on to be a father of my own making. And lastly, give time. It’s the only and best thing that you truly can control and give your children. Money can always be wasted, but time is wasted only if you let it. It’s not the quantity that’s important but the quality of time that needs to be dedicated solely to your children.

— Contact Allen Stark at amsstark@msn.com.

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