One of the results of fatherlessness in our most recent generations is that as a society we have done away with the concept of healthy and loving discipline and correction. Fear of abuses and lawsuits, and memories of harsh punishments have made many in our society recoil at the idea and react by throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water. Harsh treatment, punishment, and abuses are inexcusable. In the words of Jesus: any perpetrator would be better off having a millstone tied around their neck and be thrown into the sea to drown (passionate morbid Jesus), than to endure the consequences of such behaviour, it’s so important that it’s recorded in three of the Gospels (Matt. 18:6, Luke 17:2, Mark 9:42). Those atrocities, however, never represented the story of the majority, and were not cause to throw out healthy, loving, and necessary correction and discipline. I noticed as I was reading the book of Hebrews chapter 12 that discipline is directly linked to fathers and respect. In our generations recently, discipline has been rejected, fatherlessness is epidemic (even when there is a father present)* and respect mostly nonexistent. The lack of self respect leads to lack of respect for others, which are symptoms of a love deficiency (whether from absence, a lack of discipline, lack of affirmation and too much criticism, or in extreme; abuse). By allowing this degradation we have failed these generations. We have failed them, because we have not fathered them, because we have not disciplined, and because we have not disciplined, they do not understand love. They think love is something entirely different. It looks more like entitlement. And they will have a crisis when something goes wrong, when things don’t go their way. And when they learn that God identifies as Father (and Love) and when they learn certain theology, and when they discover experientially that life is hard, how will they relate this to God the Father (Hebrews 12:6, Proverbs 3:11-12)? How will they relate this to love? Without discipline we completely fail an entire generation of human beings, not only in relational functioning with other human beings, but with God. The rampant inability to cope with and engage with life, as a result of this void, has mushroomed into an epidemic of mental/emotional instability and illnesses that largely don’t exist in cultures where fatherhood is present and respected, of which healthy, loving discipline is part and parcel. Ambivalence of fathers and authority figures has also done damage. To be clear, healthy discipline and correction is kind, albeit not nice, should never be harsh or angry, but an appropriate consequence of chosen behaviour (not a mistake) deemed harmful or disrespectful to self and others, whether physically or emotionally, and is never one size fits all. Some children are strong-willed, curious, and their drive/passion and curiosity overrules their empathy for others, and some children are sensitive and value connection over their own needs, to a fault (they need to be corrected and taught self respect and healthy boundaries usually more than they need to be disciplined), but most fall somewhere in between. All need fathering* if they are to grow up understanding what love really is. Another core tenet of fatherlessness and the lack of discipline is an erosion of self respect of the parents and other authority figures. This lack of self respect translates to a loss of respect toward others or in reverse: hypocrisy, both vicious cycles that feed on themselves. Although the lack of discipline may look like a form of respect toward another it’s actually self protection or ambivalence, neither of which is respect. Self respect and respect of others does not allow abuses either way, it confronts behaviours that will inevitably lead to all sorts of destruction, it differentiates between needs and wants, and it doesn’t treat people like “less than” when they’re not fulfilling your expectations. Respect is love, love allows freedom to choose and to experience the consequences of choice, while always keeping the home fires burning for those ready to realign themselves with love.
* Fathering is something that can be done by both males and females, generally most males are wired for fathering, but males can also mother very well, many females can father very well also. I have heard of single mothers who took the job seriously, taking the bull by the horns when “fathering” their teenage sons, doing what was necessary to establish a healthy respect for their authority. Those mothers also had no problem conceding that they couldn’t, and shouldn’t, try to do it all, and so found noble and trusted men in their extended family or community to build relationships with their children. Wise single fathers have done the same, enlisting the help of female friends in order to bring balance in areas of shortfall.