Re-Abandonment by Our Father
The repeated experience of abandonment by our father who is still in our lives leads to greater and greater compulsiveness. We are determined to do whatever it takes to one day gain his approval and acceptance. I call this phenomenon “re-abandonment,” when the father moves in and out of the child’s life either literally or emotionally.
Re-abandoning by our father can be experienced in many different ways, each causing us to internalize shame-based false beliefs. Our inborn temperament provides the lens in which each of us uniquely experiences the re-abandonment of our biological father. The way one child responds may be significantly different than the response of siblings.
Here are several common examples of the pain of re-abandonment. Although they are most shaming to a child, these same messages can also be internalized by the wife of a man who is emotionally and spiritually unhealthy. Simply substitute the word “husband” in place of the word “father” in these examples:
- Neglect– “I wish my father would see me and know me.”
- Workaholic – “I must not be as important as my father’s work.”
- Anger – “My father is always angry because of me.”
- Abuse– “I must deserve what my father is doing to me.”
- Criticism – “I’m not good enough for my father.”
- Disapproval – “I have to earn my father’s approval.”
- Control– “I’m powerless in my relationship with my father.”
- Withholding– “I’m unworthy of my father’s love.”
- Invalidation – “It’s because something is wrong with me.”
- Rejection – “I’m not enough for my father.”
- Shamelessness – “I want to be just like my father.”
Bound by Performance and Approval
The uncertainly caused by our biological father’s re-abandonment traps us in a perpetual “performance-abandonment” cycle that adds shame upon shame upon shame to the child’s heart.
The effect of father wounds always results in low self-esteem, a deep emotional pain inside, and a performance orientation that makes us a “human doing” rather than a “human being.” While salvation in Christ makes us a new creation, it does not necessarily address the woundedness inside. Only our perfect heavenly Father has the ability to do that!
How Fathers Often Miss It
- Love and affection. Instead of focusing on loving his wife, he is on the receiving end of her love toward him, anticipating her to be the initiator and pursuer. Then he justifies his anger when she falls short in meeting his needs.
- Protection. Instead of protecting, he controls the members of his family in a dictatorial fashion, whereby he threatens them, abuses them, or instills fear in them. He becomes the one his family needs protected from.
- Leadership. Instead of leading, he avoids his responsibility and allows his wife to be in control and carry all the responsibility of the family. He becomes a little boy – another child – that his wife needs to “mother.”
- Provision. Instead of being a provider, he looks to his wife or someone else (i.e., in-laws, welfare, church) to provide for the family. Or he may focus so much on materially providing that he is unavailable for anything else except his work, thus neglecting the other facets of his responsibility.
- Faithfulness. Instead of being sexually faithful to his wife, he engages in relationships outside his marriage (either emotionally or physically) or escapes to the fantasy of pornography. The deeper his compulsion, the more authentic intimacy with his wife is lost.
- Stability. Instead of creating a consistent and stable infrastructure, he neglects and abandons the needs of his family. As a result, family members live in fear and insecurity, which most men have difficulty comprehending.
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