I have issues with my father and my issues have impacted how I view God.
Wait, before you write this off as another God-post… what I really want to talk to you about is your influence with your kids. Even if you don’t have kids, this post will help you learn to talk to your inner man. And in short, spirituality is learning to converse with your inner man.
Our human parents are like a lens through which we learn to view the world. For a while, we see God and the Universe as an extension of how we saw our parents. As our spirituality matures, we begin to see things more clearly.
Recently I wrote about how I have issues with God and how approachable he is as a father. My own father was distant, rigid, cold and hard to connect to. And at times, I have felt the same way towards God.
Male spirituality is a spirituality of building things
I don’t know what you believe about God or about spirituality. I hope that as a man, you have taken time to consider your relationship with God and how you express your spirituality. You don’t need to be religious, but what you believe is like a foundation for your kids. At first they will make it their own and in the end they may believe something very different than you taught them. You will give them a foundation to expand beyond themselves, and yes, even beyond yourself. But it is important that you believe something.
It really is not a coincidence that so many men like to build things (with a hammer, a paintbrush, a pen, a computer). It’s like life is calling us to build a foundation for our kids… a foundation for others to build upon.
Fathers serve a powerful role with their sons and daughters. We teach our families about male spirituality. Male spirituality is different than female spirituality. Male spirituality is the other side of the spirituality coin, with feminine spirituality being it’s complement. Each person will have a mix of male and female spirituality, just as we have a mix of personality factors.
I have learned that male spirituality is where you do and then you understand.
If you want a more technical definition, male spirituality means that you are not afraid to do inner work, it means integrating all of who you are, it is reflective, sensitive yet settled, not addicted to being rational, and it is learning to listen and allow ourselves to be changed. Male spirituality is built on self-understanding rather than self-esteem. Male spirituality has come to terms with the power of our fathers, both the positive side and the negative side: Feeling, believing and whole as opposed to unfeeling, unaffirming and damaging.
A masculine spirituality would emphasize action over theory, service to the human community over religious discussions, speaking the truth over social graces, and doing justice over looking nice. Without a complementary masculine, spirituality becomes overly feminine (which is really a false feminine!) and characterized by too much inwardness, preoccupation with relationships, a morass of unclarified feeling, and endless self-protectiveness. Richard Rohr
My father was not a spiritual man. He never talked about God or about religion. Yet I know that he believed something. I have a bible that he was given as a teenager, March 4 1951. What he did when he received it says a great deal about his view of male spirituality and how many men view spirituality. The same day that he received his bible, he then gave it to his mother.
You may not use the Bible as a tool in your spirituality but I hope you will not miss the lesson here: surrendering the work of spirituality to women means that we lose a little of ourselves, an important part of our masculinity. I regret not having conversations with my father about his idea of spirituality, his grasp on the world.
Why do men surrender our spirituality, our belief, our feeling to our mothers and to women in general?
At least, that is what my father did. My mother was very committed to her faith and that eventually led me into my own faith journey. For years, I was angry at my father for many of the things that he did, and neglected to do in my life. It took a great deal of time for the anger to burn off and to be replaced with understanding.
I believe that each one of us is on a spiritual journey.
What happens when our spirituality is a dark spirituality?
My father’s spirituality was one of honoring work, paying your bills and the importance of keeping your dreams alive. His spirituality was at times a dark spirituality where moods took over his mind, alcohol controlled his actions and abuse took him over the edge. His spirituality was unhealthy, both for himself and for his family.
Because of his darkness, I remember thinking that my father was a monster… yet even monsters have a father. Darth Vader had a father and he also had a son. Each one of us is part of a legacy. We have fathers and we have children. You may not have literal children, but you will very much pass on a legacy to those whom you influence. That influence is part of your spiritual presence.
One of the gifts that our children give to us is the ability to take a second look at what is important in our lives. When you first become a man, you develop your mindset and your beliefs. They may be immature or under developed, but they are yours. Becoming a father (or an influencer), we have another opportunity to further develop our belief. The spiritual man takes the opportunity to go deeper within himself.
For years, I was preoccupied with my father’s dark energy, his dark spiritual presence. My view of who I saw him to be blinded me to the other parts of his life, the other stories that marked his life. His spiritual life was under developed, and I over reacted to what I saw in him. It was natural to react to his presence, rather than to respond to my own spiritual needs and my own spiritual life. In a way, my reaction unintentionally tied my spirituality to his. I am not an alcoholic, but I have developed an unhealthy relationship with food, with my need for accomplishment, and with my need for isolation.
In short, my own darkness and my moods have clouded my vision of what my own spiritual life can be. I fear that sometimes what I convey to my children is that spirituality is limited to Sunday’s and to church. Male spirituality is not a Sunday spirituality.
I have learned that male spirituality is a spirituality of peace amidst being unfinished. I think my father conveyed this in his unending thirst for new things to create. He built walls, built a garage, he renovated and tore down. He raised animals and bought and sold vehicles. He was unrelenting in his pursuit of the next thing. I have picked this up from him, but there is both a healthy and an unhealthy side to this. Unrelenting can become never-at-peace-with-yourself. And this is not a healthy spiritual self. True masculine spirituality embraces the feminine: It binds a spirit of being at peace with a spirit of being unrelenting.
I have also learned that male spirituality is a spirituality of hard things. Dad’s teach their kids that true freedom is not freedom from work, but freedom in our work. One of the lessons that our children need to learn is that our work does not make a living. It takes a life to make a living. Moms can do a great job preparing our children for the world of work, but dads have a role too. Dads teach that there can be joy found in hard, messy things. Dads can help to make the outside world, the work world, become a place where we can truly make a living.
Darth Vader had his daddy issues, but he learned that he was also a father.
If you don’t take anything from this piece, remember that male spirituality occurs when we do and then we understand…. when we work and then we think about our work. Too often, we do and we do and we do. We don’t take time to reflect, to connect, and to relate what we have learned both to ourselves and to others.
Darth Vader had a dark spirituality. But one of the most affirming, powerful things he did is that he went on a search to connect with his children. Initially he thought that the ‘dark side’ would help him to connect. In the end, he realized that he needed to not merely stand up to his son, but stand up for his son. He owned that he was both a father and a man. And he couldn’t connect with his children until he connected with himself.
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Photo by JD Hancock