“You’re just like your father.” This was the fictional narrative of my formative years.
Instead of using my name when things got heated between us, my family would refer to me as my father.
Regardless of how well-intentioned, the shame was as real as the control it induced.
There was nothing I hated more. There was nothing I feared more than the idea that I might become him, or be like him.
Once I was legally able to, I added my step-father’s surname.
The rationale was as simple as it was naive. A name change would mean the end to the name calling. A different name, meant a different person.
I had manufactured a way to navigate the whip statements. A way around being shamed into submission. A way to neutralise psychological abuse.
A way to honour both my mother and my estranged father.
My late father had his moments. He was complex. A proud man who struggled with his past. He was a man who had opportunities to move beyond the abuse in his own childhood. Unfortunately, he chose a life of victimhood instead.
His failures were chilling and the effects of his flaws wide-reaching. His dysfunctional life had impacted mine.
Parental abuse had conditioned me to fail as a father.
I remember my first days as a new dad. They were days full of uncertainty and questions. A concoction of fear, self-doubt, joy, insecurity, and love.
Would my father’s failures become mine? How would I deal with the inevitable mistakes I was going to make? How can I not make the same mistakes that he’d made? What if I fail too?
Like the trauma from a Nazgul blade tormenting the Hobbit Frodo Baggins. If permitted, the past can hinder the present.
21 years later, self-hatred and self-doubt still creep in.
They’re after the leftovers. The scars from dysfunction.
Neil T. Anderson wrote in ‘The Bondage Breaker’,
‘Two favourite moves of the devil are temptation and accusation. He uses them to pin us down and defeat us…those who give in to his accusations end up being robbed of the freedom that God intends His people to enjoy.’
There’s a reason John’s Revelation refers to Satan as ‘the accuser…’ (Rev. 12:10).
Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome, chapter 8 begins with these words, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’
Skip to verse 15, Paul states, ‘For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
We are well equipped to succeed where others have failed.
By this standard we walk upright, as sons whose inherited darkness has been replaced with the mantle, children of light.
The truth, Jesus said, sets us free.
John 14:6 identifies truth as this Jesus – the objective Word of God made flesh.
In his autobiography, ‘Transformed‘, Remi Adeleke outlines the Navy Seal’s four pillars of tough-mindedness.
- Positive self-talk.
- Goal setting.
Adeleke is a former Seal. He overcame the odds. He received no special treatment. He simply did the best with what he was given.
The Seal’s list is adaptable to fatherhood.
Speak life. Preach truth. Aim accordingly. Don’t quit.
Put your trust in God, your best foot forward, and let Him take care of the rest.
Remind yourself that what was, does not have to determine what will be.
The past does not have to define the future.
I no longer have the hyphenated name I adopted out of fear.
I am my father’s son; I am not my father’s sin.
The cycle of abuse stops with me.
I first published this on Dads 4 Kids. It’s republished here with permission.