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.


If your Relationship With Yourself needs help, I encourage you to explore couples counseling

And if my words resonate with you, I invite you to contact me