For men, atonement with our fathers is central to our lives. That’s why it’s central to The Heroic Journey. There are many thoughts on this, but most center on woundedness. The suggestion is that fathers wound their sons. Now, fathers get blamed unjustly for many things, and wounding their sons may be one of them, but an authentic man takes responsibility for things. An authentic man will take on a burden even if it is not his. We do this because it’s in our nature to take responsibility. It goes like this: we cannot change what we do not own, we want to change what is bad in the world, so we take ownership. This is why many men take responsibility for hurts their sons feel, even if only to heal them. In either case, whether we have hurt our sons or not, pain is part of life. It’s one price men pay for loving, and sons love their fathers, who love them in turn.
So what is a heroic answer to the pain between fathers and sons? Speaking as a father of eight sons myself, my reply on a podcast recently went like this: whatever wounds we inflict, we can heal. This is the power of masculinity and fatherhood. When sons take an active role in healing their wounds, all the better.
Confront your father’s love [or lack of it]. Use that as a way point on your own Heroic Journey. Forgive your father, forgive your son, and heal that vital connection. If your father [or son] is difficult, persevere. Remember that eight is the age of reason. While a child of eight is too young to sort out adult problems, you’re likely much older than eight if you’re reading this and that should put things in perspective. Eight is the age of reason, so get it together and make peace with your father; it’s heroic.
When I was a soldier in Germany we used to go on maneuvers with our German partnership unit. One of the German Tank Commanders had painted on his tank main gun barrel, “Frei aber leinlich,” which means “Free but lonely.”
In the Heroic Journey, peace between father and son is followed by the journey’s end. He must make a decision. He has learned, grown and faced his fears. He has encountered beautiful women and overcome temptation. He has reconciled with his father. Now, it is heroic to go home, but will he?
It’s tempting to refuse. Once you can fly, why land? Maybe freedom is so exhilarating you want to stay free but lonely. It’s tempting to escape with what we have learned. Home, however, calls us back. The challenge is to return a better man with the treasure, the experience, of what you have learned and offer it to others every day. If we get this right, we return as ourselves, but more than ourselves, and we bring our lessons home to serve others. If you can do that, if you can become the comfortable master of two worlds, the classroom of your past and the daily giving of your present, you live a life of greater freedom, and the little adventures of every day can strengthen you.
Reconcile with your father and go home to your loved ones-- it’s heroic.
Be bold, be authentic, be masculine.