Paulie was never sure his dad wanted him, let alone loved him. Most of the comments Paulie's father directed toward his son were critical. Paulie could just as well have been named Screw-up. That was his father "jokingly" called him.
Paulie tried and tried to earn his father’s blessing. He was always obedient. He went out of his way to be helpful. He was determined to get good grades at school. One day, Paulie was so excited about his report card that he ran all the way home, clutching it like a prisoner holding parole papers. He had earned all A’s and one A-minus. He couldn't wait to show his dad.
His father's response? "How can you get an A-minus in English? What’s wrong with you?" Despite his honor roll status at school, at home Paulie was failing at what mattered most—winning his dad's approval.
As was his habit, Paulie tried another approach. One Saturday, while his friends were out playing, Paulie spent the entire day doing yard work. He wasn't asked to do it. That's why he thought it would make even more of an impression on his dad.
Paulie spent the entire day mowing, trimming, and edging. He didn't merely rake the grass, he combed it. He excitedly awaited his dad's return from fishing with his buddies. Paulie was in desperate need of an "attaboy." Surely this will do it, Paulie reasoned. This will get Dad's attention.
But once again, Paulie was disappointed. His dad came home, walked into the house, and the first words out of his mouth were, "Who left the rake out? How many times do I have to tell you?"
Little boys like Paulie often grow up to be adults who struggle with one of two things: perfectionism or apathy. People who grew up in ultra-critical environments with either keep trying and trying to finally "get it right," thus earning the approval of others, or, they will say, Why bother? What's the use?, and withdraw.
Whether they become people-pleasers or people-avoiders the inner need is the same: those who carry this father wound desperately want to feel loved and valued by others.
The spiritual struggle for the love-deprived plays out much the same way. Some set out to do all they can to prove themselves worthy to God in an effort to gain His approval. Others simply say, I can't possibly be good enough so why even try?
Psychological studies have shown that children who receive physical affection, warmth, and affirmation from their parents—particularly their fathers—are much more likely to have closer marriages, deeper friendships, better mental health, even greater work success than those who don't. Fathers who bless their kids with love, encouragement, acceptance, and a sense that they are valued, are equipping those children to become well-adjusted adults with strong sense of internal security.
There is little doubt that missing out on a dad's blessing can have a tremendous effect on a child, well into their adult years. But just because a child misses out their father's blessing doesn't mean they have to miss out on the Father's blessing.
The wonderful truth is, no matter who we are and what our family history, every one of us has a Father who loves us, who encourages us, who values us more than we can begin to comprehend. He is a Father who loves His kids with a love that cannot be earned. He loves us when we get all A's. He loves us when we get D-pluses.
There is no need to spend our lives pleasing or avoiding people as a result of a dad's critical words. When our earthly fathers fail us, our Heavenly Father stands in the gap, arms open wide to give us the blessing we seek.