Saints, Sinners, and Fathers Day

//Saints, Sinners, and Fathers Day

Saints, Sinners, and Fathers Day

A fathers day game plan

Fathers Day is coming, and we need something solid.

Forget the proverbial tie and golf balls.  We need a game plan.  One that will accommodate saints, sinners, and the occasional crap shoot.  Because …

There are no universal traits among fathers.

Contrary to the card isle in my local market, fathers are not always good and honorable.  Nor are they always positively consistent in their paternal roles.   They may love us, but act unlovingly. They may accept us, but communicate rejection. They may provide material security, but remain emotionally distant. They may talk one game in public, and live a far darker one in private.

And in the process, we become confused about how to enter their presence on Fathers Day.  Just who are we honoring?

Some fathers are practically canonized as saints.    

We look on enviously as these saints effortlessly rock at business and fatherhood. They are masters of the paternal domain.  Fountains of wisdom who dress impeccably, play joyously, and always have time for the family.  Curiously, these saintly fathers seem to show up most often in black and white reruns on TV…

Other fathers are demonized as sinners.

We look at them and see paternal not-enoughs. These sinners fail because they blatantly don’t try, or don’t try hard enough.  Raging alcoholics or workaholics who seem oblivious to family needs. Detached or self-absorbed. We never seem to consistently show up on their emotional radar.  Asked what’s wrong with us, we point to them.  But something smells fishy…

Labeling fathers as saints or sinners creates problems for us. 

First off, we may only be scratching the surface of who Dad truly is.  

When I was young, I heard my father identified as The Problem in my parents’ failed marriage. Over the dinner table at many family gatherings, his sins were paraded before my tender ears – in sanitized form.  Years later I saw his tender heart and learned of his deep remorse for actions that precipitated the break in our family. Turns out he wasn’t a whole-hearted sinner after all.

Second, saint or sinner paternal labels often affect how we value ourselves and live our lives.

Shackled with a father identified as sinner, we carry a lifelong loss, an emptiness that never fills.  Or we may pale in comparison to a father identified as saint.  In our own eyes we risk becoming less as he becomes more.  John is a man who canonized his father in life.  While John rocked the Ivy League and built a prestigious career, he lived in the shadow of the saint.  Yet his father never claimed that title.

A Game Plan for Fathers Day

It’s time to drop the paternal labels and acknowledge these truths:

  1. No father is all saint or all sinner.  Each is fallible and capable of goodness or evil. Just like us.
  2. Our fathers actions say nothing about us, and everything about them (and their struggles).  Just as our actions communicate truths about us.  

Let’s approach our fathers (or their memories) on Fathers Day with these solid truths in mind.  And if a father’s presence is unsafe, don’t go near him.  But pause to remember his struggle and feel a bit of compassion.

I dedicate this post to my father’s memory.  Happy Fathers Day, Dad! Miss you.


What lessons have you learned about fathers? Speak Your Mind below!


By |2017-12-17T15:12:47+00:00June 12th, 2014|Categories: Relationships|Tags: , , |16 Comments

About the Author:

I'm an LPC who delights in helping people find the change they need to live the life they desire.


  1. Veronica June 12, 2014 at 2:40 am - Reply

    That is so true. it’s like there is no middle ground with fathers….either they are great or horrible. You touched on some great points

  2. Nate June 12, 2014 at 3:25 am - Reply

    Hi Gina,

    Thank you for sharing your insight on your father. It’s really nice. 🙂

  3. Beverley Golden June 12, 2014 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    Amazing post Gina! My dad died suddenly when he was only 51-years-old. I idolized him and I believe my mother and brother did too. He was a gentle soul who was emotionally withdrawn, yet we loved him and knew the depth of his love for all of us. I have spent a lot of my adult years trying to “know” the man he was, which of course is impossible, as all I can go by are my younger memories and anecdotal stories others share. One thing I do know is “everyone LOVED Louis”, my dad, as he was kind and charismatic and had an outstanding sense of humour. My sadness is I didn’t get to have him with me as I aged, to deepen our relationship and to have the father/daughter relationship I so long for.

    Enjoy your father’s day and may your words in this post, touch others to actually “see” their fathers for who they really are…neither saint nor sinner.

    • Gina Binder June 19, 2014 at 2:36 am - Reply

      Thanks for sharing your story, Beverley. I think the greatest gift we can give any father, dead or alive, is to see “who they really are”. And for some of us, the truest vision comes after they are gone. That was the case for me.

  4. Don Purdum June 13, 2014 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your view. I enjoyed the article! I think how you view these issues is determined by ones experiences, expectations, etc…

  5. Uplifting Families June 13, 2014 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    Great post. I am thankful for the Father’s in my life. They each played an important role if teaching me over the years. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Tina June 16, 2014 at 1:10 am - Reply

    This is a very interesting blog, because it’s not only fathers but actually all people who should not be labeled “saint” or “sinner”. (The only exception I know is my mom, whom I have always called part of the trilogy: the pope, the rabbi and my mom!!) My dad is both saint and sinner. He has said some very hurtful things to me that I will never forget, and he can be the most kind and generous man alive. He’s the perfect example of who each of us really is. I’m glad you found your dad to be human.

  7. Martha Giffen June 16, 2014 at 1:53 am - Reply

    Why do we have to label ANYone? My father was a kind and loving man. His actions in the way he raised me made a HUGE difference in who I am today. I was blessed and honored to be his daughter.

  8. A. Lynn Jesus June 16, 2014 at 1:53 am - Reply

    Beautiful post. Fathers are humans – imperfect like us all. While I adore my father, I know he is a person. I find that more inspiring than thinking he is infallible, or always fallible.

  9. Kungphoo June 16, 2014 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    I liked your point of view.. We are not perfect, but we do our best..

  10. Sharon O'Day June 16, 2014 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    Gina, this is the first realistic post I remember seeing about fathers … triggered by Fathers Day. I remember the day I took my father off the “pedestal” … he had died when I was in my early 20s and I was then about 32. By being willing to look at him as a person, not as a role, I was able to understand his strengths … and weaknesses … so much better. Seeing the foibles did not lessen my love; instead I realized I was loving who he really was. Warts and all.

    • Gina Binder June 19, 2014 at 2:26 am - Reply

      That’s a wonderful insight, Sharon. Seeing our fathers as human, “warts and all”, increases our love and connection. Thanks for sharing your story.

  11. Roz June 16, 2014 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    I always dread Fathers Day- Mine left us when I was a baby and anything I ever heard about him was not good. Your blog post is the first honest piece to put fathers in perspective. Fabulous as always.

    • Gina Binder June 19, 2014 at 2:23 am - Reply

      I’m glad you appreciated the perspective, Roz.

  12. Moo maw Moo maw June 16, 2014 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    Great piece, Gina!

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