Traumatic Traits of Fatherless Men
by Joseph Mattera
There is a dearth of fatherlessness in the world and in the church today. The emotional and spiritual effects of this have been nothing less than catastrophic! The following are some of the symptoms of fatherlessness. (This can be applied to both natural and spiritual fathers.)
I. There is an insecurity and/or a sense of inferiority because of neglect, lack of affirmation, or abandonment.
Some men continually walk around with insecurities that negatively impact the way they relate in business, ministry, and marriage. They never fully trust their abilities and hence, they don’t always trust others around them to do the right thing towards them. This sense of inferiority causes them to try to hide their low self-esteem by projecting a machismo persona full of confidence, but inside their souls they are always afraid.
II. There is a fierce independence because of a lack of trust of all authority figures.
Some men who have experienced fatherlessness have a hard time inwardly submitting to any form of spiritual authority, even if they outwardly attempt to do so. They mostly make their own decisions without getting real counsel, and if they do get counsel, they will ultimately do what they want anyway because they don’t believe anyone fully looks out for their interests.
III. There is a great competitive drive due to comparisons with other men.
Some men’s insecurities result in them constantly comparing themselves with other men. If they are ministers, they compare themselves with fellow ministers in their region. They are always trying to out-do other men as if ministry were a sport. For example, I know some ministers who, when talking about themselves or their ministries, constantly make statements like “our church is growing in record numbers,” or “we have the largest pastoral group in the city” or “we are the church called of God to reach the city.” They use competitive language with a super-spiritual religious tinge, but it is merely fleshly competition that is not purely motivated by a leading of the Lord.
IV. There is a selfish ambition driven by an innate sense of trying to please their fathers.
Many fatherless men are psychologically living their lives to prove themselves to their fathers (whether alive or dead) that they are valuable, that they are worthy of their father’s love. The interesting thing about this is, they may even hate their fathers emotionally but not be aware that they are emotionally geared to finally secure the approval of their fathers. (This can also apply to spiritual fathers.)
V. There is an inability to relate to their own biological and spiritual sons.
I have tried to minister to men who have not had the benefit of a natural father’s input and love. Many have no clue as to how they can emotionally connect with their sons and daughters.
One man I know didn’t do anything but play video games with his son. When I asked why he couldn’t have a decent conversation with his son, he told me he tried but didn’t know how. He confessed that he had no idea how to be a father to his son because he never had a father in his life.
VI. There is a lack of comfort around spiritual fathers.
Many fatherless men with anger and trust issues regarding their fathers have a hard time when they are with those in the Body of Christ called to be spiritual fathers–especially one assigned to that (fatherless) man. They clam up and stop speaking freely, or they get nervous and try hard to know how to relate and please them, or they hide their struggles from them because they are afraid the spiritual father will use it against them and hold them back from their destiny.
VII. There is confusion as to their purpose and identity in Christ.
Many fatherless men have a hard time internally trying to figure out who they are and what they are called to do. They struggle with their identity. They may even be the most successful business people in the world but they are never sure of themselves and often grapple with confusion, fear and anger, and don’t understand the root cause of it all. Some of the highest suicide rates in the world are in the most affluent demographics of our nation. This shows that worldly or even ministerial success can never fill the vast void in the souls of many fatherless men.
VIII. When a man feels threatened by the success of his spiritual sons.
When fatherless men become spiritual leaders, some tend to use spiritual sons to advance their own agendas but never make room for them to blossom and reach their potential in Christ. They feel threatened when their sons begin to come to maturity; they are afraid to let them preach or lead to the fullest capacity because the insecurities in their own souls causes them to compare themselves with their sons, and it torments them. Hence, they hold their sons under their thumbs. This results in many sons becoming frustrated and rebellious, starting their own churches, or even leaving the faith.
IX. When it is hard to connect to the love of God the Father.
Some fatherless men have a hard time fellowshipping and enjoying their Father in heaven because they have a works mentality with God and try to approach Him with their own sense of perfection to prove their worth. This is because they didn’t have a good earthly model of fatherhood from their natural fathers and have no understanding of how to relate to God the Father and His unconditional love.
X. Having an autocratic style of leadership in one’s churches, businesses and families.
Because fatherless men never emotionally connected with their earthly fathers, many do not know how to relate or trust others who work for them or are under their care in their families. The result is a top-down autocratic style of leadership that doesn’t leave room for meaningful input, counsel, or shared leadership decisions. They may even preach teamwork but ultimately the decision-making process is limited to what they want.
XI. There are often feelings of loneliness and emptiness because nothing satisfies the hole in their hearts.
No matter how many people are around them, many fatherless men often feel like outsiders–never able to fully enjoy the company of others because they are not comfortable in their own skin. They don’t know where they fit in and are constantly gripped with a sense of emptiness that no amount of activity, crowds, money, accolades, or success could fill.
XII. There is an inability to enjoy the present and a desire to always focus on an unreachable future.
Many fatherless men are always striving, never satisfied, and never happy. Thus they are always looking to a better future and never enjoy the present.
XIII. There is continual friction with other leaders and men.
When some fatherless men become leaders, the combination of competitiveness, insecurity, and lack of trust proves to be a deadly combustion that leads to much friction with other marketplace or church leaders. They are always thinking that someone is plotting against them, or speaking badly about them, or is trying to undermine their ministry or work. This leads to frosty relationships and even outright quarrels and divisions.
At best, many fatherless leaders have superficial relationships with those they deem threats to their leadership and keep them at arms length unless they need them for something that advances their agendas. Titus 1:13-14 teaches that to the pure all things are pure, but to those defiled is nothing pure. This teaches that we often put our own spin on events in our lives and project wrong motives onto other people because we ourselves have impure motives towards others.###
We urge you to also read: Reclaiming Fatherhood and Restoring Fathers (Part 1)
Dr. Joseph Mattera has been in full-time ministry since 1980 and is currently the Presiding Bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York, a multiethnic congregation of 40 nationalities that has successfully developed numerous leaders and holistic ministry in the New York region and beyond. This article was first published on his website at: http://josephmattera.org.
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