The Father Factor

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Rev. Dr. Chris Jackson Relationship Coach

The impact of the Father on personhood and relationships cannot be overemphasized. The Father either becomes a huge help or leaves a huge hole in the lives and hearts of their offspring. This fact alone is reason enough to prioritize healthy Father figures (and Mother figures) for all children, teens and beyond. David Popenoe, author of the book Life Without Father, writes that “fatherhood and marriage are indispensable for the good of children and society.” Popenoe identifies issues such as juvenile delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, welfare dependency and child poverty as being directly linked to the absence of fathers in their lives.

Popenoe is not alone in his assessment as is seen in David Blankenhorn’s book: Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem. Over half of America’s children will spend some part of their lives without their father. This figure rises to about 70% in the African-American community. Blankenhorn declares that no social trend of our time is more dangerous than fatherlessness because it weakens families, harms children, causes or aggravates our worst social problems, and makes individual adult happiness harder to achieve.”

Still not convinced? Hear the voice of African American author Jonetta Rose Barras who wrote the book: “Whatever Happened to Daddy’s Little Girl? The Impact of Fatherlessness on Black Women. She raises the question of whether or not black girls ever fully heal from father-absence or are they left to live wounded, fragmented lives and pass their wounds to her own children? From research and personal experience, Barras states: “A father is the first man in a girl’s life, the first man to look in her eyes, protect her, care for her, love her unconditionally. Fathers fashion their daughters as expertly and as powerfully as they do their sons. When a girl loses this man, she grows up with an ache that nothing else can soothe. Psychologists have found that fatherless daughters are far more likely to suffer from debilitating rage, depression, abuse and addictions; they tend to seek ‘sexual healing’ through promiscuity or anti-intimate behavior, and end up fearing or despising the men whose love they crave.”

Need more evidence? Most people are familiar with the sensational rise and lamentable fall of the late Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Church near Atlanta. Much press attention has been given to the accusations of his sexual abuse of several young men who were members of his church. The case was brought to court and settled for an undisclosed amount. There was enough pain to go around for the alleged victims first and foremost. The church locally and at large along with Long’s family also suffered. It was a painful, public setback for all involved. But what did not get much attention was the relationship between Bishop Eddie Long and Long’s own father. According to CNN reporters John Blake and Chandrika Narayan, the relationship was far from ideal: “His father, Floyd Long, was a stern Baptist minister who was known as ‘the cussing preacher’ because of his pugnaciousness. Long said in one interview that his father was distant and didn’t attend his football games or even his high school and seminary graduation. ‘My daddy pulled back when it came to touching you and saying, ‘I love you,’ Long said. ‘I needed that so badly.’” I rest my case. But we all dare not rest our efforts to make sure all children have access to healthy fathers or healthy father figures who groom and grow them into healthy adults who can then perpetuate the cycle of healthy marriages and positive parenting.

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