“Identity is bestowed!” by Phil Davis

Posted on July 18, 2008 by


I was reading the following excerpt from The Sacred Romance today and felt it so connected with my story and one of the short-comings of my own father.

…we develop a functional self-image, even if it is a negative one. The little boy paints his red wagon a speckled gray with whatever Father left in the can after putting a new coat on the backyard fence. “Look what I did!” he says, hoping for affirmation of the wonderful impact his presence has on the world. The angry father shames him: “What do you think you’re doing? You’ve ruined it.” The boy forms an identity: My impact is awful; I foul good things up. I am a fouler. And he forms a commitment never to be in a place where he can foul things up again. Years later, his colleagues wonder why he turned down an attractive promotion. The answer lies in his identity, an identity he received from the impact he had on the most important person in his world and his fear of ever being in such a place again.

I’m reminded that so much of what our sons will come to know and believe about themselves is passed on or bestowed to them from their father. I spent some time a few days ago apologizing to my own son for expecting perfection from him. We had been watching “Disney’s The Kid” and towards the end of the movie, Rusty’s father becomes so exasperated with him that he begins to yell and shake him accusing him of something he did not do- it’s horrific to watch and it really stuck with me. As the story unfolds, you come to see that a vow had been made at that moment by an 8 year old little boy…”I will NEVER cry again”. And for 32 years, until his 40th birthday, he doesn’t. That’s a remarkable illustration of the power of a father.

As a father, I so want to affirm Cooper and let him know how much I delight in him and how his father’s heart is filled with love for him. Yet too many times what I bestow on him is a message of “You’re not good enough and you’ll never get it right.” And so, when my sin is unmasked, I must go to him and ask forgiveness making sure he understands the truth – “You are incredible, I am proud of you, and I am crazy in love with you.”

As I write these words, tears are streaming down my face. I have yet to hear these words from my own dad. Yes, I imagine it’s true but it was not bestowed to me as part of my identity…to know in my innermost being that I am the apple of my dad’s eye! I was left with the task of finding that part of my identity on my own, and for the better part of 30 years I’ve been looking for ways to feel that I matter to those that mean the most to me. Fathers, this is so crucial…we must not miss this role we have!

This is one of the driving forces behind The Father’s Heart Weekend. If I’m not intentional about carving out moments with my son, they won’t happen on their own. Time goes by too fast and the demands of life are too draining. I must do this for my son, and I must do it now.

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