orthodox spirituality | Unbalanced Fatherhood

Unbalanced Fatherhood: On the Verge of Absence and Unhealthy Control – Part 2

In our last blog, we talked about the crisis I’ve noticed in fatherhood. We also talked about the love between God the Father and God the Son and how this type of love is the perfect example of the fatherly love between a father and his children.

God blessed me by giving me the opportunity to serve a large parish. However, on Sundays, I probably see few fathers who are standing next to their children. I acknowledge that many of the boys are deacons, hence they have their own designated area, but this still doesn’t justify that very few fathers are caring for their children or young youth during the liturgical services by providing guidance or even simply praying next to them. Somehow, the role of the father in teaching and leading his children in the path of righteousness, worship, and orthodoxy has been on the decline and is missing in many families. We forgot the scriptures that tell us, “We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, the deeds You did in their days” (Ps. 44:6) and “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship” (John 4:20). The modern-day understanding that our children’s Christian education is the churches’ and the mothers’ role without the involvement and leadership of the fathers is wrong and unbiblical. It’s the father who was called to be the priest of his family when he got married. He should lead the prayers in his house, teach his children the Bible stories, ensure their continuous reading when they grow older, check on their spiritual growth, teach them how to fast, and safeguard their walk in the path of righteousness. He isn’t to do this alone but with the mother: “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother” (Prov. 1:8). The father is also partially responsible when the children turn out to be ungodly: “Yet they did not obey Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers” (Jer. 7:26).

Social pressure is at the top of the list of reasons why we are facing this problem. The American dream—owning a home in an economy that is very challenging and grasping after a glamorous lifestyle—has invaded our Orthodox homes. Society calls on us to get rich, buy a bigger home and a nicer car, and own the latest gadgets, while our Christian and Orthodox convictions attempt to persuade us to sell what we have and follow Him. Most fathers, falling into the trap of work and a busy life, end up ignoring their priestly vocation and fail in their duty to be a true presence of Christ in their families.

A recent study found that 20 million children in the U.S. live in homes where their fathers are physically absent, while millions more live with fathers who are physically present yet emotionally absent. If this were a disease, the government would have treated it as an epidemic. One must wonder what happened to the natural fatherly emotions and feelings toward our children, such as love, care, tender-heartedness, etc.! Even these natural emotions are on the decline; we see fathers distant from their children both emotionally and physically, and they are even willing to just leave them behind for the opportunity of a job offer in a remote city or a divorce. This decline in natural feelings toward our children might be due to several factors, but it might also be due to sin. Indulging ourselves in sinful acts like hate, pornography, perversion, love of money, and other sins gradually kills in us these natural and God-given feelings. We have the famous story of Cain killing Abel, his brother, because of jealousy. The Scriptures also tell us, “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21); that is, when we do not glorify God through our actions, our hearts are darkened, and we even lose our natural, God-given emotions toward our loved ones.

We will stop here, and until next week, let’s pray for one another to be what God has called us to be. 

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