Do you see now that fathers
who cannot love their sons
have sons who cannot love?
It was not your fault
and it was not mine. I needed
your love but I recovered without it.
Now I no longer need anything.
For over 25 years, Richard Rohr has identified something he calls father hunger as “the single most prevalent absence in the human soul, and also one of the most painful.” He underlines the unique importance of identity the same-sex parent passes on to their children. For men, “we cannot be ourselves, we cannot be our own man, or our own father, until we have been someone else’s little boy.”
Father hunger is a deep, often unconscious, need for masculine acceptance and approval.
When this craving goes unsatisfied, it may be a key driving force enabling many of the world’s self-destructive problems. It’s what keep men imprisoned under the myth there “is no other game in town but the game of power, status, and wealth… the game that is played in the boardrooms of corporate America, on the stock and commodity exchanges, on the playing fields of professional sports, in local and national governments, in the ranks of factory and office workers and in the neighborhoods of suburbia,” as Rohr says. It is the compulsion behind doing whatever it takes to please men in power — coaches, CEOs or presidents — deep down almost everyone wants a chance to make Daddy proud.
Too many men spend their lives trying to prove to other men they are men, while often emotionally, spiritually and psychologically still remaining boys who secretly feel powerless. All because they have yet to experience the energy of a father’s love and guidance that says you, my son, already are a man.
When we think about the early connection between a father and son, perhaps we imagine a nostalgic image of them fishing together. It’s a tradition deeply engrained in the American psyche. With good reason, it’s one of the few cultural rituals we offer children positive messages of masculinity.
For those who have had such an experience know fishing is more than the sum of its parts. For the rest of us, like those in the first Nintendo/MTV generation who grew up without much vision for positive outdoor experiences, here’s a little of what we’ve been missing.
- Fostering Conversations You Wouldn’t Have at Home
- Investing in Your Collective Emotional Future
- Teaching Environmental Stewardship
Thankfully it’s never too late to do something for the first time… and let the simple goodness of life surprise you. I learned this lesson over again when Grandpa took us all fishing for the first time.
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Watching my son’s face light up with pride as he reels in his first fish, in the presence of his grandfather, is a significant moment beyond the moment itself. It’s a healing alignment of generations, as one passes on wisdom to the next — an act of affirming positive identity of those who will and must someday become men.