Father wound. It’s the name given by mostly Christian leaders to describe the hurt that many people have as a result of growing up in a broken home. In some cases, this wound is a direct result of an abusive father or an absentee father. However, many father wounds are created indirectly with no direct fault of the father.
Father wound is a word that comes up at men’s conferences often, but it’s not exclusive to men. Father wounds cause us to have a distorted view of our Heavenly Father. We tend to view our Heavenly Father through the lens created by our earthly father. The word itself describes a deep aching hole that many of us have. It gives a word for what might be the greatest pain in our life. Healing that wound is the first step toward truly understanding and receiving His love.
Reject The Lie
Each person’s wound is shaped differently. These wounds are created from a false interpretation of events and internalized as a statement of value about the person. For me, my wound said, “You’re not valuable.” Growing up in a single-parent home, I had the best mom on the planet. My dad did the best he could with the situation he was in. However, neither was able to spend a great deal of time with me. As a young person, I interpreted this to mean that I wasn’t worth spending time with. This is a lie from the enemy.
While the context of the verse above here is Jesus’ rebuke of the unbelieving religious leaders, Jesus was describing the devil here. From the beginning, the devil uses lies to cause us harm. The father wound might be one of the devil’s greatest accomplishments. This is a lie about our identity.
This father wound has a certain shape. For those that suffer from it, we’ve tried to fill it with ill-fitting solutions of the world. Medication, addiction, and bad relationships are often used to try and solve this puzzle of a wound.
God Did Not Create The Wound, But He Can Heal It
God did not create this wound just like He did not create suffering. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, they exercised their free will and chose a life without God leading. Yes, Genesis reads as if God is punishing them after that. I used to read it that way too. However, if instead, you read it as a heartbroken parent lamenting to his children about the consequences of their actions, it tells a different story.
Who was also there at the beginning? The devil. His first entry in the Bible is as a lying serpent that only wants to separate us from a deep relationship with God. From the garden through the Old Testament, humans struggled to regain that relationship with God.
However, today we have the solution to that father shaped hole in our lives. We can accept His adoption!
Accept Your Adoption
For me, my healing began when I realized that my earthly father was not really the issue. The issue was that I believed a lie about who I was. My identity as a person had nothing to do with my earthly father! I am a child of God. I am so loved that my Heavenly Father would send His only Son for me (John 3:16). A perfect, loving Father that calls us His masterpiece (Ephesian 2:10). My life changed when I stopped looking at salvation as a “hoop to jump through” and instead realized it was an adoption to accept. Accepting this adoption was the only solution to my father shaped puzzle.
Your Earthly Father Is Human
There’s a pithy statement that says, “hurt people, hurt people.” It greatly minimizes the pain but at the same time the statement isn’t any less true. Whether you were directly hurt by a hurtful father or indirectly hurt by a father that was not present, it’s important to understand that dads are human. Humans tend to take out their pain and frustration on those they are closest to. This doesn’t excuse abuse. It’s just a reminder that we are all fallen, not just fathers.
No matter how intentional or unintentional, you will need to forgive your father for this wound. When my wife and I were involved in the marriage ministry at church, we would hear horrific stories of fathers. What really touched my heart was when someone forgave their abusive father. However, sometimes it’s easier to forgive someone’s direct actions versus someone’s inaction.
In the neighborhood I grew up in, most of my friends had fathers who were not present in their life. This absence left a void. In leadership, we say, in the absence of information people assume the worst. The same can be true when a father is not there to speak identity into a child’s life. There is a whole generation of adults right now that would say that they have some form of a father wound chaining them down. The key to unlock this chain is forgiveness.
To Be Healed, You Must Forgive
Forgiveness is not permission or exoneration. It’s allowing God to take care of it. When we fail to forgive, we create a debt that cannot be repaid by the other person. We wait as an angry victim for the day when our often unknowing perpetrator will come to their senses and grovel for forgiveness. It’s like that old adage, “[unforgiveness] is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.”
How To Forgive
In Enemies of the Heart, Andy Stanley describes a practical process of forgiveness. I’ve added in my own edits for the sake of healing the father wound.
Start With Prayer
Your Heavenly Father is the one who wants you to forgive. Personally, I don’t think God wants us to forgive because we were forgiven. I think He wants us to forgive because He knows what destruction unforgiveness can do in our lives.
- Pray specifically about the person you’re angry with. If it’s your father, name them. It can be helpful to use their actual name vs “earthly father” or a term of endearment. Doing this isn’t meant to be disrespectful but rather to remind you that they are a person and child of God too.
- Pray specifically about what they owe you. You must identify how you were wronged. Like presenting a case before a judge, you need to spell out the offense.
- Pray specifically that you forgive your perpetrator for the action. “Cancel the debt,” as Andy Stanley would say.
- Pray and ask God to heal the wound. Ask Him to fill that void. Ask Him to help you fight back the negative memories and reopening this wound.
Below is a prayer that has been modified for this blog that originally appeared in Andy’s book. I challenge you that instead of praying “Heavenly Father” pray “Daddy.” Something in me shifts when I approach God with such a loving term.
Heavenly Father, _________ has taken _________ from me. I have held on to this debt long enough. I choose to cancel this debt. _________ doesn’t owe me anymore. Just as you forgave me, I forgive _________. I fully accept your adoption! Forgive me for believing the lie, __________. From this day forward, I believe Your truth about me as your son/daughter. Help me keep your word before me and drive out any lies that I hold in my heart. Daddy, heal my wounds. I pray all this in Jesus’ Name!
Forgiving someone is a choice. Once you do, you’ll feel a weight lifted off your shoulders. That yoke is gone! However, the memories will still be there.
It’s up to you through Christ that strengthens you to fight the memories and keep the case closed so you can live healed from the father wound.