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Some Thoughts for Father's Day by Aaron Hecht

(Aaron moments after he first became a father)

I became a father for the first time 11 years and a few months ago.

It was one of the most profound changes that had ever come to my life, bigger even than getting married or moving to Israel. I could write a book about all the changes becoming a dad brought to my life (and maybe someday I will) but I have a more modest goal for this blog, and that is simply to help anyone out there who has a less-than-ideal relationship with this phenomenon of fatherhood.

The word "father" appears 1,511 times in the New King James version of the Bible, so I think it's safe to assume that it's a topic of some importance to God. Another way we can be sure it's important to God is by looking around at the tremendous efforts the Enemy is making to attack fatherhood and tear it down.

Fatherhood in particular and masculinity in general have become the targets of tremendous scorn and contempt in many Western countries. I recently saw a video in which a female professor of something called "Gender studies" at a prominent British university was being interviewed about a book she'd recently published on the subject. This individual was very caustic and spiteful in many of her comments during the interview, and her British accent made it that much more epic. But one line really stood out, when she said "The only thing I don't like about the phrase "toxic masculinity" is that it's a bit redundant, not unlike the male human beings it describes."

Gosh, that's harsh.

But harsh as it may be, the attitude it reflects is sadly not unusual.

As the late Billy Graham once said, "A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society."

This trend started before I was born and it's not something that can be fixed or even seriously addressed in a short blog like this one.

Instead, on this Father's Day, I'd like to try and do what I can to repair some of the damage that's out there by sharing a few thoughts with anyone who has a difficult relationship with the phenomenon of "fatherhood". I'll do that by writing an open letter to men who have recently become fathers and they're not sure how to proceed because their own father didn't set a very positive example for them.

Although this letter is meant for that specific target audience, I think other people will benefit from reading it. This might include women who maybe like a man but have a hard time trusting him to become their husband and potentially the father of their children. It might also include women who are married to a man who they wish was a better father, or to children of a father who is absent, neglectful, abusive, pathetic, or otherwise less than ideal.

Last but not least, I think reading this letter might be helpful to parents of sons who are about to or have recently become a father, and you'd like to help them in their new role.

In short brothers and sisters, ANYONE out there who is, or who knows someone who is, a father already or about to become a father, or who might soon become a father, and you'd like to help them be a GOOD father and thus become a point of light in this catastrophically dysfunctional world we live in, then this blog is for you.
Dear New Dad,

Mazel Tov!

Being a dad is one of the most fun things in life. But it's also very challenging, and aggravating, and expensive, and heart-breaking,'s move on.

I know you had a less-than-perfect relationship with your own dad and you want to be a better father than he was so your children have a better experience than you did. I know exactly what that's like, so let me give you a few things that I hope will help you with this.

My dad was deeply imperfect, but he was present for most of my childhood and although there are many patterns of behavior he had which I try very hard to avoid emulating, there are also a few things he did right that I DO try to emulate.

So my first nugget of advice to you is to write down some things that your dad did that you wished he hadn't done, and then when you're finished with that, go through the list and forgive him for each of these things, one by one. If he's still alive, or even if he's not, write him a letter telling him you've forgiven him for these things and thanking him for showing you a bunch of things to NOT do.

It might be difficult and it might even be strange to do this, but it'll do you a lot of good, believe it or not.

When you're done with that process, write down a few things that your father did that you think were positive and that you WOULD like to emulate. Write down the things you're grateful for that he did and put that in the letter next.

I know it's possible that your father impregnated your mother and then abandoned her and you and you've never met him or even know his name. But even if that's the situation, just thank him for taking this action which resulted in you having the opportunity to exist.

If you've got more that you can thank him for, then do it.

Thank your father for teaching him things that you SHOULD do in life, no matter how short or long that list might be.

Conclude the letter by telling your dad that you'd really like to restore the relationship with him and invite him to be part of the life of your new child. Make it clear that there will be very strict boundaries to this arrangement, especially if your father was physically, emotionally and/or sexually abusive, or if he was absent. But tell him that the mistakes he made in the past are forgiven, and you want to redeem whatever time you have left to be in a relationship with him, as well as admit your need for his help.

Once again, this can be VERY difficult for you and maybe also strange, especially if your father is no longer biologically alive.

But here's the thing, whether he's biologically alive or not, whether you've ever met him or not, your father lives in your head. Your memories of him, good, bad, and in between, form an image you have of him in your mind, and that image will live as long as you do.

It will be impossible for you to ignore, much less get rid of it. This image, whether you're consciously aware of it or not, will affect every relationship you have with other people, especially your own children.

That's why you need to forgive your father for any mistakes he made or wounds he caused you, not for his sake but for your own sake and the sake of your children. You need to rehabilitate the relationship you have with your father so that you can have healthy relationships with other people.

Last but certainly not least, you need to make peace with your biological father if you want to have peace with your heavenly Father.

It's a well-established fact that most people have an image in their mind of God that is very similar to their biological father. If you want your children to have a good relationship with God then you need to make it a very high priority to make sure they have a good relationship with you. Their mother should also make that a high priority. It's not good for mothers to teach their children to have a bad attitude toward their fathers, but as Ephesians 6:4 says; Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

In other words, do what you can, where you can, with what you have. Whatever the situation is, make the best of it. If you're blessed to have a normative relationship with your father, thank God for it and take maximum advantage of it.

If your relationship is not normative, try to do what you can to restore and redeem it as best you can. Remember, you're not (only) doing it for him, you're doing it for yourself and you're doing it for everyone else in your life who depends on you for anything, especially your own children.

To sum up, writing a letter to your dad in which you tell him all the things you've needed to forgive him for, thank him for the things you want to thank him for, and inviting him to be reconciled and take an active part in helping you raise your own children is a great way to start your own journey of fatherhood. This is true even or perhaps especially if your father is no longer alive.

If he is alive, then maybe you can actually send him this letter you've written. If he's not, then maybe you can go to his grave and read it to him, or if that's not convenient just read it in front of a picture you have of him.

Last but certainly not least, I implore you to pray for your biological father and thank your heavenly Father for him. Doing this will soften your heart towards him, if that's necessary, and it will also be a way to obey the Fifth Commandment to "Honor your father and mother, so that your days may be long on the earth."

Getting back to Ephesians 6:4, how do you avoid provoking your children to anger, or as some translations say "exasperating" them?

I can't give you all the answers to that question, but I have a few.

As your children grow up, be intentional about spending time with them, teaching them about the Lord and many other things they'll need to know in life. Remember that NO ONE will have more influence on them then you, and that includes if you neglect them, which will teach them that they're not worthy of being loved and this will cause them all kinds of problems.

So make an effort to make an effort.

Another one of the best things you can do is surround yourself with older men who can offer guidance and direction to you. If your own father isn't in the picture for whatever reason, or if he is but he's not very helpful, seek counsel from older men who you can trust to give you good advice and set a good example. The life of a Believer is meant to be lived in a community, and this is one very important reason for that. None of us can do this alone, we all need each other.

One last bit of advice I'd give you is to be willing to admit it when you make a mistake and ask your children for forgiveness. This will go a long way towards easing any wounded feelings they might have and keeping your relationship with them solid.

Don't believe the old line that "children are resilient." There might be some truth to that, but all too often this gets used as an excuse to treat children badly and/or carelessly. The scars this will leave on their hearts, and the damage it will do to their lives, is beyond any measure of "resilience" they might have.

Just think about how many things you're still angry and hurt about that were done to you when you were one of those "resilient" children.

Finally, be willing to forgive yourself. Don't make excuses for your bad behavior, but don't be too hard on yourself either. You're only human, and you're doing your best. It doesn't help anyone to beat yourself up or dwell on past failures.

There's a lot more you need to do in order to be a good dad, but that's a really good place to start.

Being a dad is hard work, but it's also a lot of fun, so enjoy it!

Your pal,

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