Here a picture of my Dad.  He was engaged to marry another woman when my mother laid eyes on him.  He was a reporter and assigned to cover the various stories coming from the Media Court House.  My mother’s father was a  judge, and my mother was assisting him following her recent graduation from Friend’s Central High School.  Perhaps he was hoping she would study law.  Family rumor says, he wouldpay for a child’s education past high school  only if the child studied law. My mother studied my father instead, lured him away from his fiance and ran off with him to Elton, Maryland where they married.

My mother married down in the eyes of her family and indeed they always lived a life bordering on poverty.  Nevertheless Dad was much respected in our home town.  Moreover, my father adored my mohter;  she adored him a bit less, but still with a love that carried them through good times and bad times.  I am fortunate she knew a good man when she saw him. Many are not so fortunate. My father’s father died when Dad was two; his mom was blind; he and she lived on the kindness of relatives.



So are you doomed if you are a fatherless kid?  What about if your nother  left you or can’t care for you.  My father was not doomed.  Moreover, for many having a father who stayed around and beat you or had sex with you. Believe me ongoing abuse does more damage than abandonment. Not that a lot of theorists agree with me.  The trauma experts tend to.  Those attached to Attachment Theories disagree. These are supported by media and any number of commentators on how we grow including youth leaders, teachers, trainers, coaches and of course, therapists.

As damaging as the statistics seem to be, the fact when a cast a critical eye on the statistics, Mark Twain’s “There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  is at play.  Now.  I am not saying being raised without a loving father is a good thing,  But here are some of the flaws I found with the statistics.

  1. With only two exceptions the problems accounted for from 10% to 30% of fatherless children.  Which mean a 90% to 70% lived as normal lives at the rest of us.
  2. Most of the studies reported were based on small samples.
  3. The studies were generally conducted by those vested in one or another bias.
  4. Simple correlations  were made about very complex situations, particularly when it came to the two statistics that cited higher percentages.  The first was that fatherless boys make up 43% of the prison population.  Worse, of those convicted of murder, 77% were fatherless boys. Read James Garbarino’s Lost Boys for a fuller picture. Racism, low intelligence, poverty, mental illness, on-going abuse, and fathers who kept guns and had a cruel hunter’s mentality were in the mix along with absent fathers.

How do you stay strong if Dad wasn’t around? Two steps.  Practice forgiveness.  All fathers do the best they can given their own childhood., their particular genetic mix, and what life has dealt them.  Theoore Riek, one of the analysts I most admire, believes we have achieved adulthood when we forgive our parents their sins and hop they forgive those we committed against them.

Forgiveness does not mean  ignoring the abuse or abandonment. Nor does it mean pretending to love I think the healhiest form of forgiveness is that suggested by Anglican Bishop, now retired, Desmond Tutu.  He says forgiveness is essentially the act of refusing to seek revenge; to stop the circle of violence.  Both my parents said trying to be better than those who have hurt you was a higher way than seeking revenge.  For me this is what Tutu meant.

One of my Daily Twelve Exercises is practicing forgiveness.  The exercise provides a step by step way to strengthen your ability to forgive.

Next step: Focus on living in the now.  It is all any of us have. Living in the bast is like trying to drive a car looking in the rear view mirror.  All you can expect is disaster.


If you think this post would be of value to another show you care, share.  In time all acts of kindness bless the giver as well as the reciever.

Stay strong I am trying and it is not always easy.



  1. I have wonderful memories of my cowboy father and have written a post about him which will be featured soon. My mom too knew a good man when she saw one and I thank her everyday! I agree, no father is better than a bad father.

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