We all desire affection, acceptance, attention, affirmation, and appreciation. As little children, our parents get the first opportunity to bestow these “Five A’s” on us. Should our parents fail to take their “Five A” responsibilities seriously, they can leave wounds in us — wounds that if left untreated can hamper the way we view ourselves and hamper our ability to have healthy relationships.
Many of my friends can attest to this, including the three below.
Julie grew up with parents who compared her to her older sister. Because her sister got a lot more praise than her, she felt as if she was not good enough. She felt unaccepted and unloved. As a child, it crushed her confidence in school and she began to seriously doubt her own ability. As an adult, she started looking for love and acceptance wherever she could find it. She found it in the arms of men who made her feel loved and accepted so long as she was sexually intimate with them. Since she was praised for her sexuality, she thought to herself that sex must be the only activity she was good at doing — at least better than her sister who stayed on the straight and narrow path. When I met Julie a few years back, she could not hold down a job, slept with men for money, and suffered from bulimia.
Martial’s mother showed him little affection and attention. She was so numbed by the sudden death of her mother — who had been her rock and was helping her navigate an abusive marriage— that she abandoned Martial. As a child, Martial blamed himself for his mother’s neglect. As an adult, he becomes depressed whenever he is not in a relationship. And should his relationship fail, he finds a way to blame himself. When his ex-wife cheated on him and left him for another man, he blamed himself for not being perfect. He told me ‘Its not her fault, it is mine”.
Felia was raised in a home with a loving dad and an intellectual mom who was cold and exacting. Wanting the approval of her mother, she chose the intellectual route and obtained a doctorate in her field of study. Alas, she still did not get the affirmation she craved from her mom. In her relationship with her husband, she craves affirmation constantly and cannot stand to be told that she has put a single foot wrong. When there is any disagreement, she becomes extremely combative and verbally abusive. She becomes the person she does not want to be. She becomes her mom.
Just like Julie, Martial, and Felia, we cannot choose our parents. We also don’t get to choose whether we receive the “Five A’s” or whether we are left with a wound.
What we can choose though is the degree to which we let the wound affect us. We can choose to get bitter or choose to get better.
While there are myriad of ways to get better — most involving some form of therapy or counselling — the way I got better involved neither. I got better over a very short period by considering these words that Jesus spoke:
Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven — Matthew 23:9
Soaking in these words, I realized that there is a difference between my father and my dad. My father is the One to whom I belong. He is the One in whose image I am made. He is One who determines my identity. My dad on the other hand is simply a care-giver. He is a steward. His stewardship is meant to last about 18 years or less, after which his job is done. But my father is different. His job is never done . He never leaves me nor forsake me.
I realized that my father did not wound me. It was dad who wounded me. Thus I realized I did not really have a father wound. I realized I was expecting my dad to give me only that which my father could give. By placing my “Five A’s” expectation on my dad, I was making him equal to my father, and in essence telling my father that I did not need him. In other words, I was idolizing my dad and dishonoring my father!
I also realized that the only way my dad could possibly come close to giving my the “Five A’s” is if he gets it from his father, who also happens to my father. I realized I was suffering because I had not cut out the middle-man.
Once I fully grasped the gravity of this revelation, my anger and pain at not receiving affection and affirmation from my dad was gone. I did not need them from my dad, I needed to get them from my father. So I shifted my focus from my imperfect dad and placed then squarely on my perfect father. I allowed him to speak in my heart and mind. As I got to know my father more, I found his words to be true:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest — Matthew 11:28
You don’t have to suffer from your daddy and mommy wounds. You too can go to your perfect father and have give you the very thing you crave. He is waiting.