Father Wounding

November 1, 2021 John R. Hatfield 0 Comments

John R. Hatfield



A physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional hurt or blow causing damage and harm. Eliciting feelings of anger, sadness, and pain.


Lifegiving, involved emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. Someone you can trust and not be afraid to share your feelings, fears, and hurts with. Someone who takes responsibility to protect, provide, be present, affirm, and care. The one who blesses.

Isn’t the dynamic of the father-son-relationship totally puzzling at times? All dad’s make mistakes, some are graver than others. My father made mistakes with me he regretted, and I too have made mistakes with my sons and daughter I regret. Many of us have been deeply wounded by our fathers. We felt unloved, unwanted, unaccepted, or were constantly on the treadmill of trying to please him, longing for his father affirmation and father love. Others of us wish he would have been more involved, more present in our lives. For many, our father was a stranger, nothing life giving passed between us.

Because of divorce or a mom raising us as a single mother, many of us never knew the man and we feel cheated and others of us didn’t care that we never met him, we learned to navigate life without him. And sadly, several of us were shamed by our father as well as abused and tormented physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually and are in the midst of recovery from the trauma.

Some of our mothers after a divorce used us as weapons of punishment in their hatred and unresolved anger towards him. To condemn and bad mouth him in an effort to destroy the father son/daughter relationship they desperately needed. 

For years I hated my dad for what he did to me, my sisters, and my mom physically, emotionally, and mentally. The day he threw me against the wall in a strangle hold in front of my best friend or the day he hauled my mom back into the bedroom physically and emotionally abusing her were a couple of traumatic moments. As a sixteen-year-old, when he did this, I ran to the phone to call the police but couldn’t do it because of shame. If I would have done it then everyone would quickly know the chaos of abuse that was occurring in my home. Our reputation would have been destroyed if the dysfunction was exposed. My deep desire for affirmation and acceptance from the community prevailed at this moment in time. I put on the mask and pretended everything was fine. The image must be maintained at all costs. I didn’t make the call but felt guilty and even judged myself for not having the stones to do what was right.  I have often wondered how my life and our family would have changed if I had the courage to have made that call. 

Because of my dad’s depression and prescription drug addiction I became the father figure to my sisters and the emotional husband to my mom. Responsibility called my name at an early age. I remember feeling responsible to paint the outside of the house at the age of fourteen. I was taking the role of my dad.

 I was embarrassed of him, had no respect for him, and in my soul rejected him. I longed for other men to be my dad. Looking back, I felt so alone. I hid and pretended all was fine, no way would I be vulnerable with my true feeling. I sucked it up.

 I desperately desired for a father to love me, take responsibility for me, and father me because I was emotionally detached from mine. My wrestling coach and some of my friend’s dads filled this void but not completely. I was always looking and longing for a father figure in my aloneness, but no one knew. Another painful memory was my senior year in wrestling. I was losing a lot of matches, not my fulfilment of my senior dream. My masculine self-image was wrapped up in sports and it was being unraveled. I was headed to the Wichita Heights tournament and asked my mom when she and my dad would be coming. She said, you better talk to your dad. I went into the family room where he was laying on the couch watching TV and asked, He laughed and said, why should we come, all you ever do this year is lose. My parents had never missed a wrestling match since 7th grade, as well as football games, track and field events or band concerts. I was devastated. I went into the tournament and in my first match I went into an overtime and lost by one point. I went down into the locker room and curled up in a corner and wept bitterly. It was a defining moment in shattering my false masculine self-image, which later I realized was a good thing. What I desperately needed from my dad was acceptance not based on my performance in sports. I needed his empathy and understanding and his loyal love. I was already heartbroken because I was getting my butt kicked. I needed him to say, Johnny, I know this must be painful, but I want you to know my love for you is not based on you winning. There are good lessons to learn from what is happening that will make you into a better man, that is the most important dynamic occurring. Just know son, I feel bad, and I know it’s painful, but I won’t leave you. This is a part of life; you win some and lose some and it will forge deep and lasting character. Sadly, this did not happen, and it became a watershed moment in declaring my hatred, rejection, total abandonment, and separation from him. I left him and he knew it. I wanted nothing to do with him. A father’s masculinity has power that can be used for good or for bad. I needed his powerful masculine affirmation, love, understanding, protection, and acceptance. I needed him to see what was going on in this boy’s life and use his masculine power for my good. What I deeply needed from him as a boy he didn’t have the maturity and ability to give, to enter my pain and speak to me as a man to a boy. 

As fathers we will always have regrets from wounding our children. There is a simple solution but fear, arrogance, and a wrong concept of what it means to be masculine and a father, rules us negatively, stopping us from bringing healing and restoration with our children. 

We have bought into the lie that we must always be right, we never make mistakes as it defines us as weak not strong, and it keeps us stuck. We minimalize the pain we dispensed and want to ignore, pretend it wasn’t that bad, and bury it because of our own pain in being the inflictor, violating our own virtues we proclaim. We strangely believe it will go away with time, thinking time will heal all things when it doesn’t because there has never been an authentic conversation concerning the hurt and taking responsibility for our action. We also believe that if we do lots of good then it will tip the scales in our favor with the child we were in conflict with. It doesn’t. True strength as a man is in the form of being vulnerable. It takes courage to be humble and honest. Owning our shitstorm is masculine maturity, making excuses, blaming, and pretending all is well is a picture of never growing up, of still emotionally operating as a little boy, being arrested. Our fear rules. We must break this cycle. We must enter that fear arena and fight to bring healing to our children through starting the conversation of our mistakes, choosing to be strong through honesty and transparency, apologizing and correcting what we destroyed so trust will be restored.

Six Healing Truths

  1. Courageously break through your fear and bring up the hurtful event.
  2. Ask them how they were hurt from what you did or didn’t do.
  3. Listen and do not defend.
  4. Ask them how you can make it right.
  5. Apologize, say you’re sorry, and ask for forgiveness.
  6. Change your behavior proving you listened and are committed to transform.

During all of this my dad continued to pursue me. It was weird, but he did it. I rejected every pursuit and wanted nothing to do with him to be aligned with him. Pretty much, go away, I’m done. An aspect of his pursuit was to bless me with his words. He started saying after anything I was involved with or did that, he was proud of me and that he loved me. At first it was like rain falling off the protective raincoat I was wearing representing my hatred and commitment to never allow him to hurt me again. But he kept pursuing me with his changed behavior and his words of affirmation. Finally, little by little, I started opening the raincoat to feel the rain and then took it all the way off. His love penetrated me. Of course, it wasn’t perfect, and I had to learn to stop judging and criticizing and stop the unattainable standard I held him too. I needed to let it go and forgive him. A powerful and unforgettable moment is when we entered the conversation concerning our estranged relationship my senior year in college. I drove home from Kansas State University with the main purpose of apologizing to him. I started by telling him I was sorry for how I had treated him through the years. No more than after those words came out of my mouth he started weeping and proclaimed repeatedly it wasn’t my fault, but it was his fault and would I forgive him. It was a defining moment for my healing, and it was a defining moment for him. I had never seen him weep, that was monumental. It was the beginning of a long road to healing for us. Later in life when I had children and started making my father mistakes it broke my unattainable standard, I had held him too. I now had a compassion and understanding I never had before for him. 

My sisters and I were at his side as he passed. We held him and talked to him. My mom had passed six weeks earlier. I was the speaker at his funeral. It was a beautiful time to honor him. I was at peace in my soul. I talk to him periodically about my failures and how he has marked me with his legacy.

My Father’s Legacy

  1. He always said he was proud of me.
  2. He always told me he loved me.
  3. He constantly pursued me, especially during my rejection of him.

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Father Wounding was last modified: November 1st, 2021 by John R. Hatfield