Try this simple exercise. Write down five positive and negative traits of your father. Now look at those traits. How many of them are true of you or the person you married? Truth is, we are attracted to people who are familiar to us. Often, we unconsciously seek out partners that remind us of dad and mom or we become much like our parents.

You may be thinking—this is a good thing or no way, I am completely different!

Look again. Working with hundreds of couples over the years, the pattern is clear-we take on the traits of our parents. So let’s begin with the positives.  Dad’s influence is powerful. My father is stable, a man of integrity and faith. I married someone just like him. My dad can also be hard on himself when he makes a mistake and hesitant to take risks. Those two characteristics would apply to me. My dad is in me in ways I may or may not recognize. Unconsciously, I found parts of him in my husband too.

So this Father’s Day, focus on the positive and honor dad for pouring good things into your life. List those positive traits, tell him, or write them in a brief note. Sometimes, we focus too much on the problems and not enough on the good things we get from our parents. This doesn’t mean we ignore problems when they arise, but it does mean acknowledging the good stuff too!

Later, you may want to reflect on those negative traits and decide how much of those are in you or the person you married. Making those traits conscious allows you to understand the attraction you have to specific people and work on those issues in your marriage and yourself. Then, you can change those things that need changing and keep those parts you value.

And even if your parenting wasn’t stellar, you do have a heavenly Father who provides you with all you need and is capable of changing hearts and patterns of behavior as we yield to Him.

I recognize that not all dads are good at giving unconditional love and acceptance, but your heavenly Father is. He never rejects, abandons or makes you earn His love. He is always present and ready to give you good things. The good news is you can’t find negative traits when it comes to God the Father!

So even if you and dad have issues, honor dad this Father’s Day by focusing on the good parts you got from him. Then work through any hurts during the year and be intentional about making change. Ask the Holy Spirit for help to make change and be more like Christ.

Happy Father’s Day! 

How Dad is a reflection of you