5 Things Every Dad Must Do for Emotional Health

The two prisoners stared at each other, only several inches apart. Their eyes locked in an intense confrontation. The taller of the two men initiates: “Let’s step into that fear. Open up to that feeling. I’ll go there with you. I’ve got you.” Kiki, the shorter one had a sister who died, and he was unable to mourn for her. Taught at an early age by his father to suppress his feelings, his body automatically rejected feelings of sadness and tears. They were considered weak. The taller one continued, “She’s gone. Don’t run from it. Feel it.” Kiki breathed in, his body shuddered, and he collapsed into the man’s arms and mourned the loss of his sister for the very first time.

The support group gathered around Kiki and encouraged the great work he had done. If you’d like to see what I just described, check out the documentary The Work. It’s about a prison therapy program. Outside people are invited to participate in a therapy intensive with convicted prisoners. In 17 years, 40 prisoners who have participated in the program have been released from prison. None have returned. One of my biggest takeaways from the documentary is we all have work to do to be healthy, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Our kids will either benefit from or be hurt by the state of our emotional health. In no particular order, here is the work of every man.

1. Reflect

We all develop coping mechanisms to deal with our pain. Some are healthy, while others can be destructive or make us feel stuck. That’s why it’s important to reflect on what we do and why. Think about how we’ve been hurt, who did it, and how it has affected us. Sometimes we need wise people who can give insight as well. What sets you off? The more we know ourselves, the stronger we will be.

2. Mourn

Certainly, when we lose loved ones, we mourn, but there is more to consider. The loss of dreams, innocence, the end of a relationship, failure, the loss of a job, betrayal, failing health, or maybe even the loss of the way we think things should be are all things to mourn. Mourning helps us process the reality of what happened with our emotions and thoughts. It gives us closure. Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there is a time to mourn. Unfortunately, too many of us bury our feelings of loss or run from them. When we do that rather than experience, confront, and perhaps even embrace our feelings, they remain repressed below the surface.

3. Heal

First and foremost, you need to have a desire to heal. Some people have a difficult time letting their pain go because it has defined them for so long. But when pain is left lingering, it can easily turn into bitterness, dysfunction, or a skewed perception. Find the support that can help you heal and find closure to your deepest hurts. Maybe it’s by talking to someone and receiving revelation and validation. However, if it’s trauma, your emotional health will need the help of a professional. Seek it out and do it.

4. Forgive

We’ve all been hurt by someone. In the show Ted Lasso, one of the characters refuses to forgive his father because he doesn’t want to “give him that.” Coach Lasso tells him that forgiveness isn’t something we give the other person; it’s something we give ourselves. And there’s definitely truth to that. Forgiving helps us detangle emotionally from the person or people who hurt us. It relieves us of the job of prosecuting and allows us to put our energy, effort, and gifts toward something more positive and productive.

5. Mature

Mature people are responsible, accountable, self-aware, and exhibit a high degree of self-control. Anytime a man is lacking in these areas, people get hurt, especially if that person is a dad. Our children pay the price for our immaturity. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” It’s every man’s job to grow and mature. The people we love the most are counting on it.

Sound off: What else do men need to do for emotional health?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you do when someone hurts your feelings?”