Growing up without a father was just one of the many reasons why author Kia Stephens decided to write a self-help Christian book about how not having a good relationship with a father has taken a toll on far too many daughters.
Stephens’ book, Overcoming Father Wounds: Exchanging Your Pain For God’s Perfect Love, delves into how many women have grown up with complicated and often pain-filled relationships with their fathers.
Stephens not only provides stories of biblical women who had complicated relationships with their fathers, but also offers advice to women whose painful relationships with their fathers have led to them having what she calls "father wounds."
In an interview with The Christian Post, Stephens said she was inspired to write her book because of her own experiences growing up without a father after her parents divorced when she was 3. She said she wanted to reach women who grew up in similar circumstances.
“A father wound is synonymous with father absenteeism. That can occur by way of divorce, abandonment, abuse, incarceration, drug addiction, an affair or premature death, or physically present but emotionally absent father,” Stephens explained.
Stephens, the founder of Entrusted Women and a contributor to iBelieve and Proverbs 31 Ministries, said father wounds can manifest in various ways. Being wounded in this way, she said, cannot be seen like a laceration or bruise, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t treatment and healing needed.
“We could have a spirit wound, and I liken that to having a difficult time engaging with God as our Father — that's where we commune with God through our spirit. But, for many people, because they're viewing God through the lens of their biological father, they may perceive God to be like their biological father, be that distant, dominant, a dictator, a loser,” Stephens said.
“When it comes to an emotional wound of the heart, it's just as damaging as physical wounds if left untreated, if left unhealed. It can impact the heart of a woman for her entire lifetime.”
Stephens said she struggled for many years with father wounds that manifested in poor choices in the men she dated.
In recent years, Stephens said she was able to reconcile with her father by meeting with him and forgiving him for abandoning her due to his struggles with alcoholism.
“It's from her father that a woman should be prepared for her unique role as a wife and as a girlfriend. Her first interaction with the male gender is with her dad. A father is going to teach a young girl her worth, her competence, who she is apart from her anatomy,” Stephens said.
“But when a woman does not have those influences, and that guidance from a father — a good father — then she is likely to begin the journey of engaging with the opposite sex on her own, potentially with costly results, potentially attempting to derive that which she did not receive from her biological father.”
Stephens said the first step that a woman must take is admitting she has father wounds because it is impossible to address a problem if a person refuses to admit it exists. She also advised women struggling with father wounds "to secure a counselor, a licensed professional counselor that can identify wounds that sometimes are not visible even to ourselves."
"We may be functioning in a way that appears healthy to us, but then when someone else has direct access to us and insight into our lives, they are able to help us,” she continued. "A licensed professional counselor is able to point out some pitfalls and wounded areas that we may not see readily on our own.”
Once someone who has father wounds finds someone they believe they want to marry, Stephens said, they should seek couples counseling since "marriage is tough" and "marriage is hard."
"It is challenging and everything that's in us that hasn't been dealt with, that wounded place that we haven't addressed, it will resurface in marriage,” Stephens said. “I really encourage women to do the hard work. Often that's going to require saying, 'I'm not going to date for a time' and saying, 'I'm going to give my life to the Lord."
Stephens advises women who don't have a devoted father to seek out other fatherly and God-centered men to be role models in their lives.
“Looking back, I would have liked my father’s presence there. But I do want to also say that I had some father figures in my life,” she said, noting that she had a second cousin who "was like a father figure for me."
“He escorted me in a cotillion. He helped me buy my first car. He paid for my gas. He gave me a gas card when I was first out on my own. I had another father figure in a pastor that let me tag along with him and his family. He also served as a father figure in my life. And so, I'm grateful for those men who were there when my dad was unable to be.”
To any woman who has unhealed father wounds, Stephens said seeking God is the key to healing. However, according to Stephens, receiving God’s healing can be a long process, as it took her years to begin seeing God as her Heavenly Father and to forgive her earthly father.
While Stephens' earthly father has since come back into her life and he has apologized for abandoning her, she knows that reconciliation with an earthly father will not always happen in the lives of many women.
“I don't want to specifically say just read my book, and that'll take care of all of your physical and all of your sexual abuse wounds. I don't want to say that. I want to say that my book is definitely a resource that will help you on your journey,” she added.
"But even in my book, I offer several tools, practical tools that I've used. One of those tools was counseling. And sometimes the wounds in our life are so deep, and so traumatizing that we need more than a book. We need more than a podcast. We need licensed, professional help.”
Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.