Saturday, June 17, 2017

How to do Father's Day when your Dad is Darth Vader

The relationship I have with my dad is, well, complicated at best.

I love him. I love my father like I love no man in my life. I will always love him. And he will always have a special place in my heart that no one will ever take.

That being said, my dad, for all of his wonderful traits, was an abusive man. I saw was, even though he is still alive and we speak briefly, because I have placed the necessary distance from him in order to keep myself emotionally and, at certain points in our relationship, physically safe.

The truth is at one point in my life, my dad became everything I despised about the male gender: misogynistic, womanizing, unfaithful, violent, dishonest. He, at times, felt more like the villain of my short story than the hero I even at those young ages knew he was supposed to be. He felt more like Darth Vader (Star Wars) than anything else. There were epic battles, hurtful exchanges, and periods of silence and distance I know for sure hurt us both. That compounded upon the fact that he was indeed my dad, that I was half him, and that his reign of pain and terror didn't just affect me but my many siblings and their mothers as well hurt me deeply. I learned to keep my tender heart on guard and incased as to avoid pain that I had almost become accustomed to.

However, the truth is also, as I got older, that there were moments where I did see him trying, where he was doing his best, and where genuine love for me was expressed.

But my at times rocky relationship with my dad has not embittered me for Father's Day. Over the years, I have learned so much that has actually helped me celebrate fathers, even mine, on Father's Day:

1) Honor him, even if that means not being like him
I have vivid memories of my dad breaking promises and being absolutely frightening to us. I hated the way that being around him made me nervous and unsure. So, I promised myself that I would never let anyone, especially not the little ones in my life ever feel that way. I would try my hardest to do the things I said, I would do my best to be a woman of integrity and of my word. I would lower my voice, be tolerant, patient, and kind, especially to kids. In that way, I fulfill my faith commitment "Honor thy mother and thy father, so that thy days be prolonged and it may go well with you" without putting myself in a potentially dangerous situation.

2) If it is safe (physically, emotionally, spiritually) reach out and wish him a Happy Father's Day
I plan on speaking to my dad on Father's Day, if for nothing else, because it is the right thing to do and I have placed him at a distance where I can be safe. If you can speak to your dad and it won't do any harm to you, then do so. But be wise and keep yourself at a safe distance, whether emotionally or physically.

3) Let it go
Ever met someone who was unforgiving? Ever notice how bitter and resentful that person is? Nobody sets out to be that way, but letting the hurts of life steal your sweetness makes you bitter.

Forgiveness is vital for your sweetness and your sanity. Carrying around resentment only ruins your life. It may make the other person feel bad, but at the end of the day, the only person trapped by your resent meant is you.

Forgiving someone is not letting someone off the hook. There is a huge difference between Forgiveness and Restoration. You can (and should) absolutely let go of the slights and abuses without restoring someone back to the place where they once were. In fact, sometimes, that is the only option.

4) Do not let that relationship affect your other "fatherly" relationships
I have been blessed by being surrounded by a plethora of fatherly relationships. Awesome and whole men like my step dad, family friends, ministers, reverends, and the like have all filled a fatherly function in one way or another. I have received more wisdom, help, and kindness from these blessings to my life than I can count.

If I let the complicated relationship I had with my dad affect that, where would I be? I would have missed out on all of the joy and advice that has so enriched my life.

5) Find a dad to celebrate
This really helped me. Those dad's above really blessed my life. It is easy to celebrate them. But even if those dad's weren't there, I can look at my peers and celebrate them. I can look at friends and celebrate them as fathers. There are dads everywhere you look, whether biological or spiritual, they are everywhere. Find a few and tell them what a good job they are doing.

6) Don't spoil Father's Day for others
Here is the truth: Father's Day has become this embittered platform for the hurt to rant and rave about the problems have as a people with the dad epidemic. I understand that. And that discussion has a time and a place.

But Father's Day isn't about you and your feelings. It's a celebrations of the dads who are doing right. For dads who have been there and did well. For dads who may be gone but their spirit lives on in their children who remember them. If you cannot find a dad to celebrate, do not take to social media or find a place to rant and spoil it for the good ones.

7) Celebrate your Heavenly Father
God is the ULTIMATE Father. He created Fatherhood and stands as the perfect representation of that. Having a relationship with my Heavenly Father helped me do all of the above and then some with my own dad. Psalm 27:10 says "Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close (NLT)". I could "punish" God by keeping myself far from Him because of the father he gave me here, or I can realize that ultimately, God is my Father and that my earthly father is as flawed as I am, forgive him, and let the love of my Heavenly Father fill the voids I felt by earthly dad.

In Matthew 7:9-11, Jesus talks about how loving our Heavenly Father is using this example, saying "What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? "Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" Jesus, in essence, is saying that no matter how "good" or "bad" your dad is or was, no one can beat the love, provision, grace, and kindness of our Heavenly Father.

So whether your dad was the villain or the hero of your story, make the choice to make this year a happy Father's day. The choice is in your hands. May the force be with you.