Growing up with an absent father can leave one feeling resentful. But forgiveness is key to becoming the kind of dad you never had.
I was born in a peri-urban township called Welbedacht in Lehurutshe, North West. As is the case for many children growing up without a father, it was my mother who single-handedly raised my siblings and me. She endured all kinds of ridicule from her relatives but chose to persevere in spite of these circumstances.
There were many challenges we went through, mostly frustration, as I wished I could have what other kids had. Simple things, such as new clothes, would have been nice. While we witnessed the providence of God in our family, I could not help but be angry at my father for not contributing toward my well-being. I began to resent him. How could a father disown his own son?
This shaped my desire to create an alternative future for myself. I got tired of hearing my friends talk about their dads so much that I decided I would be a better version of my father.
A journey towards forgiveness
At the age of 18 I experienced a turning point in my life when I decided to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. I realised that I was wrong for resenting my father. My lack of forgiveness was not healthy for me. It was holding me back from being who God wanted me to be.
I desired to become a father one day, but I didn’t want to be like my father. So I had to forgive him from my heart as Christ had forgiven me.
Forgiving my father was made easier through faith in God and the father figures who came into my life. Forgiveness was a mental decision first, then a continual process of choosing not to resent him. This even helped me to appreciate that my musical talent comes from his side of the family.
My advice to anyone who is struggling to forgive an absent father is to first acknowledge the anger, frustration, resentment or whatever emotions you have connected to having an absent father. For some of us, these emotions are deeply entrenched so it might be best to seek professional help.
If you are a person of faith, seek out other fathers in the community of faith who can come alongside you. It is important that, while you are wanting to create an alternative future for yourself, you are not unconsciously copying those who hurt you. As the saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people."
Becoming the kind of father I wish I’d had
Forgiving my biological father paved the way for me to become a more loving, present father now. I am married to the most beautiful woman in the world and have been immensely blessed with two children. These two have brought so much joy into our lives.
I have personally purposed to do the things that I never saw my father do: like cooking, washing dishes and cleaning. I do these things to ensure that my children are open-minded about the so-called gender roles in the home.
I make it a point to spend time reading the Bible and praying with my children. Besides going to church consistently, I try to model that being a follower of Jesus Christ is about how we live each day. Our regular devotions are conversations about life issues and how they relate to God.
I appreciate the intimate man-to-man conversations I can have with my son about identity, sexuality, self-image and future dreams. Some topics of discussion are interesting, others fun, and others just plain scary! Above all, I am really thankful to God for trusting me to fulfil this role in my children’s lives and to be the present father I wish I’d had.
Olefile Masangane is married to Mmathapelo and they have two beautiful children. He is a worship leader and musician, and the Church Liaison Manager at Heartlines.
Connect with him @olefilem on Twitter or Instagram.
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