Why I struggle with Father’s Day


     I don’t know how I feel about Father’s Day. If you grew up going to church as I did, it was severely juxtaposed to Mother’s Day. On Mother’s Day, we greeted them with roses and preached sermons on how great moms are. Kids made “Why I Love You, Mommy” crafts. We even honored the newest, the oldest and, for lack of a better word, most fertile (why we gave gifts to the one with the most kids seemed trite; the best I could tell, what they REALLY needed was a vacation from being a mommy!).


     But then came Father’s Day: At some point, Harry Chapin’s 1974 song “Cat’s in the Cradle” got referenced, stories of failed fatherhood abounded, and a challenge to “be a godly father” thundered from the pulpits. Oh, and then we got the obligatory men’s devotional book, which I’m quite sure remained a paperweight.


     As a young pastor, I fell into the same mode until I started having kids. Then it changed a little bit… Okay, a lot! And the longer I pastored, the more I realized that Father’s Day had quite a composite of emotions surrounding it. I found that I had no single sermon that hit the breadth of experience sitting in front of me — from amazing fathers to anonymous fathers and everything in between.


     Here are a few of the larger categories, though there are several more (applied to stepfathers as well):


◼︎ 4th Member of the Godhead Dad — Like my wife, many out there had a wonderful father who transcended expectations. These men led godly lives and loved their families.


◼︎ Great but Secular Dad — These men were highly committed to their families, provided well, and showed up at dance recitals. But there was little or no spiritual influence or guidance. Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods seem to have had dads like this.


◼︎ Physically Present but Emotionally Absent Dad — These men provided, or at least carried their weight. Levels of love or animosity toward them are determined more by the child and their personalities than by the father. Angelina Jolie and Kate Hudson fit this category.


◼︎ Abusive Dad — This is a tough one. Whether emotional, psychological, physical or sexual, this dad leaves an indelible mark. It causes some to rise up and be strong; others are crippled for life. Father’s Days are exceptionally difficult for this person. Oprah Winfrey and Joyce Meyer had this dad.


◼︎ What Dad? — There are some who have never gotten to know their dad and, in some cases, have no idea who he is. The father’s absence can alternately create longing for or rejection of that person forever. President Barack Obama and Shaquille O’Neal had this dad.


     So why bring all this up? Well, Father’s Day is a great day to challenge any and all fathers to be the best dads they can be. But it also is a day to celebrate your earthly father (if possible) and/or your Heavenly Father. And that’s really my hope in writing.


     First, if you’re like me and your father was good to awesome, then take a moment to write and tell him. If he’s no longer with you, write the letter anyway. It can be very cathartic. Then thank your Heavenly Father for making it possible to have that father.


     Second, if memories of your father are painful, seek to forgive him in every way. That might require some counseling or therapy, but it can — and must — be done. Everyone in your life, and especially your children, need you to. Then thank your Heavenly Father that He will never leave you or forsake you.


     Finally, if you have little to no memories of your earthly father, thank your Heavenly Father for having drawn you to Himself. He is the father to the orphan!


     This magazine is read predominantly by women, and my articles tend to be too long for men, but I still need to say to those fathers still reading: Happy Father’s Day!



Dan Hall is an executive and strategic coach to leaders and executive teams. He also works with organizations on team building, conflict resolution and communication skills. He and his wife, Hazel, have six children and four grandchildren. You can reach him at