The absence of a good father figure is a major area of concerns in our society. This absence has an impact on both sons and daughters. The impact is different in different gender. In the male, it is often converted into anger, aggressiveness, ambition, and workaholism. Richard Rohr has much to say about this.

Krista Tippet interviewed Richard Rohr on her website On Being on 13 April 2017. During this interview Living in Deep Time, a wide range of profound topics was touched upon.

MS. TIPPETT: You used the language of “father hunger.”

FR. ROHR: Yeah, father hunger. It’s driving so many things in our culture, even this whole corporate world of the younger male’s need to please the big daddy and get his pat on the back or his promotion.

MS. TIPPETT: I think it’s such a mystery of the human condition.

FR. ROHR: I know, I know.

MS. TIPPETT: That also, in some place you describe someone speaking to you about this father hunger and kind of in the middle of their life and realizing, calling it, saying they realized it was a chasm, a canyon, the emptiness and pain left of a relationship with the father that wasn’t there. And the mystery that we can get very old, and that can still be with us. That this is not something that you just outgrow.

FR. ROHR: No, no.

MS. TIPPETT: And it’s incredible how we can be defined by these broken relationships across a lifespan.

FR. ROHR: Yeah, I’ve had men older than me weep with me, still wanting a daddy, because they never had a father figure. It’s heartbreaking, really.

MS. TIPPETT: You say something that I just want to understand, where you say that “when positive masculine energy is not modeled from father to son, it creates a vacuum in the souls of men, and into that vacuum demons pour.” And you say among other things, they seem to lose the ability to know how to read situations and people correctly. Why is that? Obviously, that can be crippling professionally, personally, but why — what is that connection?

FR. ROHR: Here’s the answer that comes to mind now. I don’t know if it’s the best one. But young men who haven’t been validated by an older male — because we look to our same-sex parent for validation — and when dad doesn’t tell me I’m a man or a good man or acceptable son, I think your first 30 years of life are so frantic, you don’t have time to read inner emotions. Your emotional life — there’s no subtlety to it, there’s no nuance, there’s no freedom, there’s no grace, there’s no time.

I often see it in airports. In 46 years, I was on the road, and you’d see these people rushing through airports, neither looking to right or left, like a deer caught in the headlights. When you’re a deer caught in the headlights, trying to survive, I don’t think you develop an inner world. Do you understand? It’s just the whole life is externalized, and the soul is not born. And that’s why, again, suffering for so many becomes the only path because it’s the only thing strong enough to lead you into the world of grief, for example, or sadness or pain. And those tend to be the holes in the soul that awaken the inner world.

And so an important part of every initiation rite was grief work, letting men get in touch with their unfinished hurt and begin to talk about it with other men. That’s when the floodgates opened, and all of this success that they shined with externally they finally could admit was all a charade. Everything changed after that.

The transcript of the interview here