This is not a Hallmark Card Father’s Day message. There are no shortages of warm and fuzzy Father’s Day cards, quotes and sentimentals for you to read, bouncing around on the Internet.
No this Father’s Day message is for all of us who have, or had, strained, troubled, broken or abusive relationships with dear old dad. So if your dad is Ward Cleaver, count your lucky stars. You don’t need to read on. Go enjoy him. Love him and celebrate him. Just don’t judge those of us who struggle with Father’s Day because we had something far less than “Father Knows Best” for a dad.
To begin with, it’s important to remember, that the bible says, “Honor thy father.” It doesn’t say, “obey your father.” It doesn’t say, “respect your father.” It doesn’t say, “like your father.” It doesn’t even say, “love your father.” Of course, it would be wonderful to feel love for one’s father, however, love is a feeling and feelings cannot be commanded.
Some fathers are lovable. However, some fathers are not. For a myriad of reasons, they are outside the realm of our love: abuse, neglect, absence, abandonment, betrayal—many fathers have simply made it impossible for their children to feel the emotion of love or demonstrate it back. And if you are such a child, of any age, or even if your father is dead, particularly on Father’s Day, when you are bombarded with Hallmark card messages of “love you dad,” you need to hear this at least once today:
NOT LOVING YOUR DAD DOES NOT MAKE YOU A MONSTER.
NOT LOVING YOUR DAD, IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
IS IT SAD? YES, OF COURSE, BUT IT DOES NOT MAKE YOU BAD!
Look, we are not judged by our feelings, rather we are judged by our actions. It would be nice to love dad, however, for many of us, at least at this moment, it may not be there and maybe it never will. What is a choice, what is always a choice, however, are our actions. How do we choose to treat our dads? That is always our choice to make.
To “honor” our father, at the very least, is to treat him with common decency and dignity. Beyond that, there are degrees of honor—if at all possible, picking up the phone and calling dad, speaking to dad in a dignified matter and taking the kids to see their grandfather are rungs as we climb up the ladder of honor. Honor, however, may also mean NOT picking up the phone, NOT visiting or NOT placing the grandchildren into his life. Yes, that is harsh. Of course it isn’t ideal. It’s horrible. It’s hell. However, so is physical abuse, sexual abuse or emotional abuse. Hell is having a father who is a drug addict, a compulsive liar, thief, bully or an all around bad guy. Indeed, there is a commandment to honor one’s father, there is no commandment to subject oneself or one’s children, to abuse, forsaking their honor or your own, to honor an abusive dad. As much as it is a commandment to honor one’s father, equally it is a commandment for a father to make it possible for his children to honor him and some dads seems to do all they can to make this commandment nearly impossible to fulfill.