It can be one of the most powerful relationships in a woman’s life…or one of the most painful. Kia Stephens tackles this important issue with The AllMomDoes Podcast host Julie Lyles Carr; the connection between our experiences with our fathers and how it influences our marriages, careers, and spiritual lives.
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- Book: Overcoming Father Wounds
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Purposely your life, God’s purpose. Listen at onpurposely.com.
Julie [00:00:14] I’m Julie Lyle’s Carr. This is the AllMomDoes podcast, and we have been in a series on growing in your spiritual life and your spiritual walk. And we have just a couple episodes left on this series. I do want to encourage you, if you haven’t yet, check out some of the previous episodes and see what resonates with you. See where there’s something that could be of help to you as you continue to walk more closely with God as you continue to search and seek out in your relationship with Him. And so we just have a couple episodes left, but boy, are they two great ones blockbusters. So I have someone on today, Kia Stephens, who is tackling, man, such a tender topic, such an important topic. But before we get to that Kia, introduce yourself. Tell the listener where you are living, the family, the hobbies, your favorite coffee, you know, all of the important stuff.
Kia [00:01:08] All the things, all the things. Hi listeners, my name is Kia Stephens, and you can find me over at KiaStephens.com. I live in the ATL. I spend most of my days running around after my kids. I have a 14-year-old and a 12 year old and a hubby of almost 20 years, so it’s pretty crazy. I don’t drink coffee. I like tea, a chai tea, a good chai tea. I think I got everything. Did I get everything?
Julie [00:01:36] I think you hit it all. I think you hit it all. I myself Kia, I’ve been transitioning a little bit more into the tea world in the mornings. I’ve always liked tea in the afternoons, but I’m trying to, I’m trying to move on. As the listener knows, I moved to decaf a few years ago and Kia I have to tell you, a lot of my friends thought it was like a signal for pay the ransom money, like they thought it was me trying to signal out to the world something was really wrong. So, I am getting more into that tea world in the morning, and I feel very calm. I feel like I’m doing something not quite as octane as coffee, but listener. I know that you probably are a coffee drinker, and we still support you too. It’s all good here in is.
Kia [00:02:13] We’re all in the body of Christ.
Julie [00:02:14] Absolutely
Kia [00:02:14] Tea drinkers and coffee drinkers. We can all get along together.
Julie [00:02:18] Absolutely. We’re all just walking in the truth together, so. Well Kia, I love that we have some people in common, and you’ve been on some different avenues and platforms that I think are so great. And part of your primary message, and this is what I really want to dig into today, is what it means to overcome father wounds. Now, I know from my time in women’s ministry that because we see God as our father, if we had a great relationship with our dads, then we may just think that our relationship with God is the same thing. If we had a really difficult relationship with our dads, then we may have a hard time seeing God as a father. If we had an abusive relationship from our dad, that brings on a whole other side of things. Or if our dad was not in our life either because of his own choice or because he got called home early, whatever the thing, this place of our relationships with our earthly fathers and its connection to God, wow is such a tender place for a lot of women. Now, I don’t want to just presume that everybody knows what we might mean by the phrase father wound. So, Kia, can you unpack that for us? What do you mean when you say that?
Kia [00:03:31] Sure. If you did a Google search and look for the term father wound, it’s going to say that it’s synonymous with father absenteeism. And when you think about all the myriad of reasons why a father could be absent in the life of a daughter or son, although I’m speaking primarily to women, it could be by way of divorce, abandonment, abuse, incarceration, drug addiction, or a physically present father, but an emotionally absent one. So there was some point in that woman’s life where her father wounded her by his absence, whether it was a physical absence or a mental absence or an emotional a lack of empathy. And that is how I describe a father wound.
Julie [00:04:17] How many women today do you think are dealing with this absence of a father figure in their lives? Because we know that with growing rates of divorce, of moms who are raising kids as single moms, a variety of things, that number seems to be growing. What are what are you seeing in your work that indicates where we’re at with that?
Kia [00:04:38] Sure. Well, statistics say that one in four children grow up in father absent homes. Now, those statistics don’t quantify whether or not that is a child, that is a male or a female, but I would venture to say probably half. So maybe, that would be like one in two women might be growing up in father absent homes. And then on my blog, my original blog, I kept a running survey. I had about 950 or so women that had completed that survey, and so many were saying they had father wounds. They had not been able to get over their father wounds. Their children had father wounds. Their mother had father wounds and their father had father wounds. So I was seeing a lot of generational father wounds, how it was just impacting the family, by and large, not just that sole individual woman, but her entire family had been impacted by the wounds.
Julie [00:05:37] Kia, do you think it’s valid or in the way that you look at it, in the way that you are interacting and ministering to women to say that a dad who seems to be very, very distracted or a dad who maybe has a career in the military, or we have families that now mom lives with the kids on, you know, on one coast and dad is pursuing things on another coast. Does that fold into your definition of absenteeism? Do you find that that is its own special little category, or is that something that seems to be an issue as well when it comes to the way we look at father wounds?
Kia [00:06:11] Sure. I definitely think it depends on that individual woman, how she’s been impacted, When was she impacted, what she two? Was she three? Was she four? Was she 20? And has she been able to get over it? You know, we’re trying beings. We are body, we are soul and we are spirit. So, things are going to impact us differently depending on our personalities, depending on our quirks and our sensitivities. Are we extroverted? Are we introverted? So, it’s really difficult to quantify what would be a father wound for each individual person. But certainly, if the father is unable to respond tenderly to a daughter that’s sharing a picture when she’s five, that would impact her or it has the potential to impact her, or if a father is unable to attend a volleyball game and he said he would or he’s not there for the sex talk. And it opens up Pandora’s box of relationships for that girl who has to navigate male/female relationships on her own. So I really think that it runs the gamut depending on that woman. But certainly, there are things that fathers provide specifically for their daughters. They provide nurturing. They provide a lens through which she views the male gender. They provide a lens through which she views God. They teach her value and her worth. So if a father isn’t able to do that, that is definitely going to create a wound inside of her. And as sure as I’m talking, I’m sure your listeners, some of them are able to identify with the words that I’m seeing right now.
Julie [00:07:51] Absolutely. Kia, I want us to dig more deeply into the impact interpersonally for ourselves. But I want to speak for a moment directly to the listener whose nervous system has just shot into flames because she is having to raise kids in a situation where dad is absent, he is not involved. There has been a divorce. Perhaps there’s been a death. Perhaps there has been just an abruption in terms of the father of these children wanting to have any interaction with them. What can you say to her right now to help bring the temperature down just a little bit so that she feels equipped to listen to the rest of the conversation without this sense of, oh, my goodness, I’m hearing this from Kia, I know these things are important, and this is not something my kids have. What am I going to do? So what do you say to her?
Kia [00:08:42] I would say that God specializes in these types of situations. I share my story in my book, my parents. It was not ideal. It seemed very romantic. They met on a cruise ship, but that marriage was short lived. And so shortly after they got married, my parents got a divorce when I was around three or so. And so all of the statistics and everything, they applied to me, They applied to my life. But look at what God has done. God is able to take the broken pieces, the shredded pieces of our lives, the things that seem irreparable. And he is able to make a beautiful portrait of his grace and his mercy and his compassion and his unfailing love in the lives of his people. So I would encourage the listeners to know that your situation is not beyond the reach of God. No matter how you may have separated from your husband or your children’s father or whatever stance he’s taken in terms of not wanting to be involved in the lives of his children. That is not beyond God’s reach. God specializes in in situations that feel impossible.
Julie [00:09:57] Now, you referred to this. How did this topic for you become the topic that became something you had such a passion for that you wanted to share about, that you wanted to minister with? And you’ve mentioned that your mom and dad divorced. So walk me through how that situation and experience grew into this desire to help other people on this particular topic, a father wounds.
Kia [00:10:20] Grew is the exact right word. You know, it didn’t start off initially. I didn’t really see there being a problem for me with being in a single parent home until I was in college. And I went to an all-girls, all women’s college. And I remember being in the dorm room of a friend and she said, I built this bookshelf with my dad and for whatever reason that was my scales falling off of my eyes moment where it was like, Wait a minute, she had a relationship. You can’t just build a bookshelf without a relationship. And it impacted me that I want what she had. I missed something. Everything wasn’t rosy. It was my aha moment, so to speak. And I remember doing the best I could to get out of her room because I didn’t want anyone to know I’m crying about this. And I had a good old fashioned ugly cry and that really set the wheels in motion for me in terms of pursuing my father and pursuing this relationship that I so desperately longed to have.
Julie [00:11:25] Absolutely. How do you think that at a young age, maybe even before you had this revelation about, oh, wait a minute, there is a different way that people go about this dad thing. How do you think that that impacted as you were beginning to learn about God, as you were beginning to walk in relationship with Him? Because again, we use that phrase all the time about our Father God, He is the Father. Jesus referred to him as Daddy as Abba. How did that inform your relationship with God?
Kia [00:11:56] It really challenged it. You know, I grew up in the church, so all of the stories that you hear in the church, I never questioned them. I believed everything. I went to Sunday School Baptist Training Union. I went to church two or three times, you know, So I was that child, and I was I didn’t question what I believed. But when I began to look at issues of my soul, my mind, my will, my emotions, it really challenged me to ask God, are you able to address these issues too? This father wound that I’ve discovered, this absence, this void, this vacuum that I sense in my soul, that I’ve been filling with all of these different substitutes that are not capable of satiating the longing in my soul. God, do you have something to say about this? Are You really able to do immeasurably more than I could ask or imagine? So there were a lot of times where I really wrestled with God. There were times I found myself angry with God because I didn’t understand how God could be omnipotent and omniscient, how He could know what every woman needs or what every girl needs to grow and develop and be healthy and functioning and have healthy relationships. I couldn’t understand how He could know that and not provide every single daughter with a wonderful, loving, engaged father. And so I sat there for years and years and years. I do not want to give the appearance that it was something that was quick and microwavable. It was not. It was nestled deep inside of a crockpot of God’s sovereignty and grace and mercy. You know, I had to sit with that and and come to terms with the reality that God is sovereign. And what that means is that sometimes He allows bad things to happen to good people. This is the age-old question, right? God, if You’re really good. Why do You allow…Fill in the blank. But the place that I came to is that God is able to use those painful, difficult, hurtful places in my life as a display of His goodness and His mercy for humanity. Look what He did in my life. I wrote a book. I started a podcast. I’m going back to help other women who have experiences similar or just like mine. To say God is able to do this in my life. He most certainly can do it in yours.
Julie [00:14:38] Absolutely. Kia, help us understand, because you had your bookcase revelation, right? There may be women who are listening to this saying, Well, you know, my mom raised me great. My dad wasn’t around, but I did just fine. There may be other women who are very much in the vein of saying, Oh, yeah, I can show you poor choice here, here, here, and here. I can show you issues in my identity and myself, my sense of self-worth that have to do with my dad not being part of my life in this way, this way, and this way. What are some indicators that we may want to take a look at things that may be popping up in our life practices, habits, thought patterns, mindsets we may have, that might indicate we have some father wounds we need to go back and address and take before God and get some healing?
Kia [00:15:26] Sure, and that’s such a great question. I remember another time, Julie, when I was sitting in a service and the minister was talking about dating, and so he creates this hypothetical situation like he’s in a bar or someplace, and he says to a hypothetical woman, “Do you have daddy wounds?” And the woman says, “No.” And then he says, “Oh, well, I’m not interested in you because I’m looking for a woman that comes into this relationship roaring, angry, and blames me for everything that she’s mad at her dad about.” And right, right, exactly, exactly. So I’m sitting here saying, Wait, I’m sitting here married next to my spouse, saying, wait, is that what we do? Like, you know, oh my gosh, you know? And so he continues to unpack it. And I have this revelation that it’s possible for a woman who has unresolved issues with her father to redirect that to her spouse in marriage. That was one indicator that was evident in my own life. Also, just my lack of confidence, my lack of certainty, my obsession with performance driven mentality. Yeah, you know, where it’s like if I want to get this affirmation or I want to go about getting these other needs met, then I’m going to perform to get it. And there’s something different to be said if you’re driven. I’m a driven person but driven in terms of just that’s your natural makeup, there’s a difference between that and feeling the pressure to perform so that you can get your needs met. You’re fearful if the performance stops and the accolades stop, and the affirmation stop, that’s an indicator. Another very big indicator would be our relationships with the opposite sex. And H. Norman Wright says in his book, Always Daddy’s Girl, you know that the father is the lens through which women begin to view all other relationships with the opposite sex. They teach her how a man should engage with her. And so, for women who didn’t have a father to provide that type of guidance and to say this is who you are and this is how he should treat you, that woman is left to fend for herself, often with detrimental results of how to engage with the man, sometimes engaging with him as a need meter. You meet this need for me or because my father didn’t. And and that is also an indicator.
Julie [00:18:08] Three excellent indicators to take a look at really powerful. And I want to go to the second one for just a second, because I think there’s something really interesting there. This idea of performance and needing to prove worth and looking for approval from the opposite sex in that way. You know, I know a lot of women Kia who dad was in their life, dad was engaged, dad was a good dad, but dad had high expectations. And, daughter was forever trying to measure up and then enters a work world in a career world where really some of that is reinforced again, that a woman is having to do X amount more or cover more territory or keep all the things going. That idea of needing to perform for our father, I think, bleeds over for a lot of people, even if they don’t have what they would consider a discernible wound bleeds over so much into their relationship with God. Do you see this in churches, you see it with women in ministry, that that’s a place where we need to be really thoughtful and how we’re approaching needing to prove ourselves in spiritual places?
Kia [00:19:17] Mm hmm. I wanted to add a question. Do you see this in yourself?
Julie [00:19:21] Oh, of course. Yes. I’m raising my hand. I’m actually asking for me.
Kia [00:19:24] Yeah. Asking for a friend.
Julie [00:19:25] Yeah
Kia [00:19:26] No, definitely. You know, I think churches, you know, God love them because I’ve been in church my entire life. We do place such an emphasis on performance and service. And have you joined the children’s ministry? Have you done this? What have you done for God today? Get on your feet. Praise the Lord. But the reality is, is that God is pleased with us. He’s pleased with us without us working for Him. And that has been something as a bonafide worker bee. That is something that I’ve discovered. You know that if I don’t write a book, and I don’t do a podcast, and I all I do is wake up and I spend time with Him, God is already pleased with me. And I think it’s important that we separate the experience that we had with our biological father, with who God is, because God is not the same as our biological father. Sociologists say it’s common for people to perceive that God is like the father or fatherly figure that they had in their lives. But that is not correct. God is merciful, God is kind, God is compassionate. God is all knowing. God is all knowing about us. We often say God is all knowing, but we’re thinking about, Oh, He knows what’s going to happen tomorrow and He knows what happened in the past and He’s connecting history with the future and this and that. But no, God understands the intricate intricacy of who we are, our Enneagram and our DISC, or our Myers-Briggs score. He understands our strengths and our weaknesses. He understands what we’re what’s sensitive to us. He understands that thing that happened to us in middle school or high school. He understands our quirks and our nuances. So certainly, He understands our desire to be loved unconditionally without having to perform, without having to to do anything. So definitely, I think that is something that as the church we can emphasize all the more for those of us who have had a tendency to feel like we have to perform to get love and get affirmation.
Julie [00:21:42] Right, Right. Kia, I’ve probably got a listener out there who’s like, “I’m going to make my husband listen to this. I’ve been telling him how important this relationship is between him and his kids.” But I feel in our culture we do something that’s very interesting, and this is with fathers and sons and fathers and daughters. But let’s focus on the fathers and daughters’ moment here for a second. There is that place of the dad who my dad pushed me. You know, he made me do this. He made me do that. And I’m the better for it. You know, it was dad boot camp. We were up at this time of day and we did these things. There’s kind of that modeling of one type of father. On the other hand, and in that way that we seem to do in our world and in our culture, there’s the 180 degrees, right? It’s the dad that we personify is the one that the little girl is his little princess. And he does everything so lovely for her. And she comes to rely on this man because, you know, her dad just does everything. And he’s so kind and he’s the one who shows up in the middle of the night and anything that she needs. And we sometimes see this captured around an event, say, like a daddy/daughter dance. And I think daddy/daughter dances are lovely. I think that’s awesome. But it is not the sum total of how a dad prepares a daughter to understand what a relationship with a husband should be like, what a relationship with male coworkers should be like all of that kind of thing. So, address what in the course of your research and taking a look at this, having done a deep dive, what does healthy fathership to a daughter look like? Because again, I feel like we’ve got this these polar opposites that become these avatars for who are dads supposed to be. And I got to say, if I’m a dad trying to figure out how to father a daughter, well, and these are my two choices, both of those seem problematic. So, where do you think it should all land?
Kia [00:23:41] I would definitely say on your knees. You know, I don’t know if you if all of your listeners are believers, but I honestly, I’m thinking about that scripture that says love your neighbor as yourself, but you can’t really love your neighbor if you don’t know how to love God first. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, all your money, all your strength. And to say father, someone, I don’t see how you can truly know how to be the father that your unique child needs without connecting with your Heavenly Father. If there are men that are listening, and even if there are wives, they’re listening to that saying, “I’m going to force my husband to listen to this.” My recommendation to the wife would be to get on your knees and to pray for your husband that he might be able to be the father that your child needs, that he might be able to connect with God, his heavenly Father, because God is the perfect balance, right? Even if we perceive our dad to have been a great dad or where we appreciated him being firm or we really reveled in him being very permissive and overly doting. The true measure of a father is to look at fatherhood through the lens of God. Our Heavenly Father, God lavishly loves us, but He also chase into those that He loves. He doesn’t just let us run around here on Earth and do everything we’re big and bad enough to do. No, He says there are consequences. There are boundaries, He teaches us. So I think this question of what fatherhood should look like should take place on our knees. If we are looking at human beings, they’re still human. Human beings are flawed, and they are we are finite, we are prone to sin.
Julie [00:25:36] We’re a mess.
Kia [00:25:37] We’re a hot one. A hot. Capital H, capital O, capital T. So, I wouldn’t say idolize or look at any earthly father, but I would say, start on your knees. If you’re a wife praying for your husband or if you’re a husband listening, just pray for yourself. Start on your knees.
Julie [00:25:57] I love that you bring up that we need to seek God about raising our unique kid. One of my books is called Raising an Original is very much on that focus that so often in our parenting we come up with a agenda or we come up with a model that we think, Well, this guy’s a great dad or this gal’s a great mom, so that’s the way I’m going to do it. And while there can be wisdom in having mentors and seeing how other people things did, no one else has ever raised your kid and what your kid needs may be really different. My relationship with my own dad, he was very practical in many ways, and he was very much about raising us for the launch and there were things that maybe he would do differently if he’d had a chance. There are things that I think really stuck and were important, but I did love that mindset. We knew from early on that many of the things he was talking to us about and I was the only daughter and I have two brothers, but he was very much wanting to equip us for a launch into life, particularly on the career front. But I would say to moms and dads out there. The other component of really being launched into life, of course, having your spiritual base, but is also those interpersonal relationships and making sure that someone has the skill set and the experiences with you to know how to engage in great interpersonal relationships. And that brings me to this point. Kia, you’ve written a book talking about, you know overcoming Father wounds, which of course indicates that you yourself have walked through father wounds. What is your relationship like with your father today? Did you talk with him about writing this type of book? How did he feel about you putting a message out there publicly? What was all that like?
Kia [00:27:39] Does your dad know you’re doing this podcast?
Julie [00:27:41] Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly.
Kia [00:27:44] Yeah. I have a good relationship with my father. I’m so grateful to have seen God’s hand in really bringing some restoration to that relationship and a lot of transformation in me. When I set out on this journey, I had an idea in my head of what I thought that relationship was going to look like. And so, I set out with all due diligence to make it happen, just add water and stir. But then I realized that that’s not how things work. When you engage in a relationship with anyone, specifically a father and you haven’t been in their life, then you accept that person for who they are. And the Lord had to teach me that. And it took many years. And the other thing that the Lord began to show me is find redeemable qualities. What is redeemable here in this situation, what is praiseworthy in this situation, what can you thank God for? And so I began to do that, and the Lord helped me to be thankful for what I have rather than what I longed for. And what I longed for oftentimes was a fantasy version of this fictitious father I created in my mind because of my father’s absence. To be more specific. I had to share, I had to for the publisher’s sake, but then also for my own sake sit down with my dad and share with him the contents of this book and get his permission. Get his permission to share the story. And I’m so grateful to my father for his willingness to allow me to expose his scars with the world, so to speak. He did that so graciously. He has apologized for his absence in my life, and my dad is at a stage now where he’s so tender to the Lord. He is so broken over the mistakes that he’s made. And he’s compassionate towards me. He’s kind towards me. And so, I have a great relationship with my dad.
Julie [00:29:57] That’s beautiful. And, you know, not everyone gets that. But you point out something that is so critical, which is there is the fantasy, there is the expectation that we put on our dads, on our moms, on our spouses, on our kids. And then there is that place that is so beautiful and I’m so glad you’ve been able to find it. It is really a place of restoration when we can find it, when we can truly accept for someone, for who they are and what their role in our life has been, and be willing to see what that means from this point forward. Not everyone is called necessarily to reconcile with a father if there has been abuse, challenge, rejection. So this is not I don’t Kia hear you saying that everybody needs to go running headlong. Make the phone call, try to reengage.
Kia [00:30:47] No, not not at all Julie. In fact, in my book, I have a list of questions that I think every woman should go through and ask herself and maybe even go over it with a counselor, with a trusted friend before you dive headfirst into trying to build a relationship with your father. And one more thing real quick Julie I just want to say. I want to point out the “ing” on overcoming in my book. It’s present progressive. It means it’s ongoing. It’s not a period, it’s not a stopping point. I am not telling the listener that I have arrived. I have not arrived. There are still moments that I cry because in accepting who my father is, that’s also accepting there may be some things that I longed for and I desired in terms of our relationship that I will not receive, but I choose not to focus on that. And so I want to offer that encouragement because just as you mentioned, there may be some women that are listening that are saying, “Well, good for you, Kia. That’s great. God gave you a little bow and a cherry on top, but that’s not my situation. I can not engage with my father. He is not safe. I have to put it these boundaries. I want to say that God’s grace and His compassionate love is still available for that circumstance and in that situation. He is still able to exchange your pain for His perfect love, even if it is a less than desirable outcome. God is there. He is right there in the midst of it.
Julie [00:32:15] That’s beautiful. Such wise counsel. I love that about present progressive. That is fantastic. Overcoming Father Wounds with Kia Stephens and I’m so excited for listeners to be able to hear this, to be able to pass this episode along to those who they feel would really benefit through this. And you’ve got this book coming up. One thing that I love that you’re doing, this is a limited time thing. So listener, jump on there when you go to get his book. She is partnering with Wellspring Living, which is a nonprofit that provides domestic sex trafficking victims and those at risk with specialized recovery services with residential and community-based programs. Every time that you can go on and you can purchase books that can be paid forward and given to the women in that situation, that’s a short time. So if you’re discovering this particular episode, you know, quite a while from now might not still be in play. But for today, for now, be sure and check that out. And Kia, where else can listeners go to see what you do? Encounter you? See your social media, all that kind of stuff. Where’s the best place to go?
Kia [00:33:16] The best place to go is Kiastephens.com, and you can find all my social media links and podcast links and anything else that I have coming up. Any of the writing that I’ve done for Proverbs, or I believe a crosswalk that can be found there.
Julie [00:33:30] Awesome. Awesome. All right, listener, you have your marching orders. Go check out more about Kia and all the exciting things that she’s doing. And hey, would you do us a big favor? You know, Rebecca is amazing at putting out the show notes each and every week. And we would love if this episode has really spoken to you, if it means something for someone in your life, would you go ahead and share that? Sharing the podcast is one of the best ways that we have to know that this has resonated with you and to make sure that people are getting the encouragement and the hope and the wisdom and the counsel that they need. So be sure and grab that link and share it with someone you love. And as always, we’ll see you the next time on the AllMomDoes podcast.