Sunday, September 14, 2008

Song of my father

Father's Day in the LDS Church is usually simply a celebration of fatherhood. Generally, all the talks (sermons) that Sunday in church are about how great it is to be a father and/or how great the speaker's father is.

One Father's Day, though, was quite different for me. I was 23 or 24, not married, still in school. The first speaker in church said something like, "Don't ever do A, B, and C to your kids. It will mess them up permanently." The second speaker said, "Don't do X, Y, and Z to your kids. It will scar them for life." "The third speaker said, "They're right. And don't ever do D, E, and F either, because they're just as bad."

You get the picture. That day, unlike every other Father's Day I've experienced in the Church, the theme seemed to be "What not to do as a father." And the thing was, every one of those things that ruin a child's life, from A to Z, was how my father treated me growing up. My home had been dysfunctional and emotionally abusive.

I already had "self-esteem issues." The talks that day were too much for me. They simply confirmed what I already thought I knew: I'm broken, I'm scarred, I'm messed up. Permanently. I'll never be whole. I'll never be well. I went straight home after that meeting, without staying for the rest of the services. That was the first time I'd ever done that. In fact, it remains the only time I've ever had to flee church because I was hurt by what was preached there.

But I didn't need to be hurt. What I didn't realize then, and what those speakers in their well-meaning ignorance didn't know either, was that all of us were wrong. Human beings are more resilient than any of us understood. I was already well on my way toward healing. Was I -- am I -- scarred? Yeah, a little. But broken? Messed up? No. Not permanently. I've actually turned out all right.

Your father is broken
But you’re not
Dented and bent
And maybe not in one piece
But somewhere underneath it all
You are strangely okay
Almost unscathed
Under everything that hurts

Those are translated lyrics from a song called "Kaputt" by the German band Wir Sind Helden. It's one of those works of art that tells my life better than I can. Because that's me: dented and bent, and maybe not all in one piece, but underneath it all, strangely OK.

So much is broken
But so much isn't
Each of the shards
Reflects the light
There's so much broken
But among the flames
Among ashes and rubble
Something was good

You found it
And you've got to carry it
For yourself and for everyone
Who asks about it

I've found that something good, and I'm going to carry it.

(H/t: Main Street Plaza)


  1. Your message is a timely and much-needed reminder right now, because of two young boys about whom I've worried quite a lot lately. Thanks.


  2. I've come to the conclusion that it's very hard to actually "ruin" someone. Maybe really horrendous abuse can do it, but even that's just a "maybe." People are so resilient.

  3. I remember reading this in September, probably before Mrs. D made her comment (which I don't remember). It's a comfort to see that the sentiment is correct. Something was good. Something is good. All shall be well and all shall be well.

  4. Kids are resilient. They have had to deal with inadequate parents for centuries and humanity is not yet extinct.

    After studying history, politics, sociology, and primate anthropology for decades, I am convinced that, however messed up we are, we are doing a better job raising children than our forbears.

    That's something.


What do you think?