HOUSTON (BP)–Buddy Griffin’s first exposure to the Men’s Fraternity curriculum was also his most painful.
Invited to hear author Robert Lewis speak at a conference nearly two years ago, as Griffin listened to the Arkansas pastor discuss his childhood problems and an alcoholic father, it struck a deep nerve inside.
“I could relate to what he was speaking about,” said Griffin, director of men’s ministry at Sagemont Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Houston. “My own father never told me he loved me, never hugged me and I could never please him or measure up to his expectations.
“As I was listening, I felt like someone punched me in the stomach because what Dr. Lewis was sharing was exactly like my relationship with my dad. I just didn’t want to ‘go there.’”
Although Griffin’s father is a Christian, Buddy said he was emotionally cold and never spent a lot of time with him.
As he reflected about their relationship, Griffin said he realized taking up the banjo and playing semi-professional basketball represented his attempts to earn his father’s approval.
During the conference where Lewis was featured, Griffin was standing by the coffeepot during a break when Lewis approached. When Griffin shared how he had grown up in a similar situation, Lewis asked, “What are you going to do about it?”
“That statement really shocked me,” Griffin recalled. “I had never been asked anything like that in my entire life.”
After responding that he would pray about it, Lewis remarked, “That’s fine, Buddy, but real men do something about it. You need to go to your dad and say that you need him to tell you that he loves you and you need him to hug you.”
Scared, confused and doubtful about the suggestion, Griffin said he wrestled with it for a week. Finally, he asked a close friend if he would go with him to visit his then 94-year-old father in the nursing home to provide moral support.
After exchanging greetings, Griffin told his father he needed to tell him something he might not understand: “I really need you to tell me you love me.”
Although his father acknowledged that in a low tone, Griffin persisted. On his seventh trip back to the nursing home, his father said, “Let’s do it,” eagerly hugged his son and told Buddy he loved him.
Griffin has returned many times for more affirmation. Each time has gotten better, to the point when his father was still alert the elder Griffin expected hugs and mutual words of encouragement.
“It’s almost like getting saved again,” Griffin said of the breakthrough in their relationship. “All the hate and bitterness is gone. I was such a hard-headed, no good guy. I didn’t realize how hate and bitterness toward Dad affected my whole life.”
During a father-son weekend retreat that Sagemont’s men’s ministry sponsored last May, Griffin told the fathers to write a letter to their sons that they would read to them on the morning of the second day.
Griffin told them to include three statements: 1) I love you, 2) I’m proud of you, 3) you’re really good at _____.
“One thing I’ve learned through this is you need to express your love and appreciation to your sons,” Griffin said.
Through the Men’s Fraternity sessions at Sagemont, Griffin saw that many other men likewise needed to resolve problems with their fathers.
The father wound is one of the leading obstacles to men developing a biblical form of masculinity, Griffin explained.
As young men deal with hate, anger and feelings of being overwhelmed because of issues with their father, they often channel those emotions into sports and other adrenaline-laced activities in an effort to forget the hurt, Griffin said.
Sagemont member Tim Donham knows the power of reconciliation; in his case, he had to ask his youngest son for forgiveness.
Divorced from his son’s mother when the boy was just 6, Donham, 62, said even though he saw him and his older brother on weekends, his absence caused both of them deep-rooted emotional problems.
After Donham mentioned going through the Men’s Fraternity sessions on “Quest for Authentic Manhood,” his son wound up also going through it at Fellowship of the Woodlands, a Southern Baptist church about an hour from Houston.
Prompted to share his feelings in the course, Donham said he recognized how his behavior had caused conflicts in the relationship. He then wrote a long letter to his son, apologizing for the wrongs he had done and asking for his son’s forgiveness.
“He eventually accepted that and sent me an e-mail saying he understood why we both did things we did,” said Donham, who owns a business that services heating and air conditioning equipment.
“It’s a hurtful thing when you have deep-rooted pain. It’s stuff you try to bury. But [in Quest] you realize you’re trying to fill a void with something that won’t fill it. My son saw the same things I saw. We came together and reconciled the problem.”