I am thankful for my “deadbeat” dad and encouraged by his example. Why? Because his mistakes have taught me what not to do as a father!

Among the most inspirational figures in my life – who encourages my parenting style and has a significant impact on me – is my “deadbeat” dad.

He wasn’t a successful father, but his failures have helped me try and avoid failures of my own. I find inspiration in a paradox of thanksgiving: the man who most inspires me to be a better father is the very man who failed to be a father to me.


Such is the life-giving irony of redemption. Redemption stares into the life-taking bits and broken pieces of life and moulds something new out of it. What was perhaps designed to be an inherited evil has been turned around for good.

Salvaging the Pieces of the Past

Goodness is found in how – in the face of pain and loss – we can salvage pieces of the past. We study these pieces and ask, what can those moments teach us? If we are guided right, the result is an education that benefits us rather than subtracting.

This phenomenon is, in many respects, a lived rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in

The inherited cracks in my father’s parenting (or lack thereof) let the light in for me. This light mends wounds by providing me with insights into how not to parent, when to parent, and when to hold back as a parent.

A Paradigm Shift to Redemption

Although I’m as fatherless now as I was back then, the light of redemption pierces through the cracks. This paradox of thanksgiving enables a paradigm shift. I’m lifted out of the clichéd “daddy issues”. I am lifted up so that, even in breathtaking, gut-wrenching darkness, the breath of life still exists.

Star Wars also provides an illustration of this. Piecing through the darkened Vader shell, Anakin Skywalker reappears. In the final moments, a father saves his son by putting himself between the ambition of evil and turning away from the destructive tool he had become.

When we look back, we see how Anakin, not Yoda, taught Luke (and even Leia) the most critical lessons in fighting like a Jedi Knight.

My father was no Jedi. Neither am I.

I’m not blind or trying to gloss over the tragic consequences of his fatherly absence. I have lived – and continue to live – with them. There is no candy-coating the bad to twist it into some kind of good. I’m averse to applying pseudo-psychological fluff to abusers in order to justify paternal failures.

My point is that good is brought to life in spite of the bad. Welcome to the road called redemption.

Falling Forward into Victory

I write this in full awareness that what was meant for my defeat, my Father in heaven turned it into a greater victory.

Cracks let the light in – the light of gratitude and forgiveness. Redemption salvages the unsalvageable. This is the essence of redemption. It is what answered prayer looks like. It is grace over the abyss. Redemption begets reconciliation and welds what was broken together again.

I can be thankful for my “deadbeat” dad. I can be encouraged by his bad example because it has forged within me an awareness of how not to be a “deadbeat” photostat.

There are a thousand life skills my father never taught me. There are also important life skills my father did teach me without speaking a word. By not being there for me, my father taught me to be there for my own kids.

I believe this is the practical example of Denzel Washington’s notion of failing forward. “I want to fall forward. I figure at least this way I’ll see what I’m going to hit.”

My father’s many wrongs are only made right because I refuse to let those wrongs be my wrongs too.

Published On: November 5th, 20210 CommentsTags: , , , , , , , ,

About the Author: Rod Lampard

Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.

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