NBA superstar LeBron James recently posted a picture of himself on Instagram along with an open letter to his father:
"Like wow dad, you know what, I don't know you, I have no idea who you are but because of you is part of the reason who I am today. The fuel that I use -- you not being there -- it's part of the reason I grew up to become who I am. It's part of the reason why I want to be hands on with my endeavors ... So me in a position allowing people around me to grow that maybe wouldn't have happened if I had two parents, two sisters, a dog and a picket fence, you know?"
His Instagram comment: "Because of you Pops! Thanks all along. Could have said why me with u not being there but look what I made of myself."
In spite of the "thanks," reading between the lines one could hear sarcasm, pain and anger about his father not being present.
"I can so identify with where LeBron is coming from," says Kenneth Braswell, executive director of Fathers Incorporated. "I am a black man whose pent-up rage for my absent father drove me to do what I believed to be the right thing, for the right reason and with the right justification. Then I found out it was all wrong."
Braswell believes, and research concurs, that there are hundreds of thousands of boys and men in America harboring pain and anger as a result of father absence.
"The biggest lesson I have learned in life about my anger towards my father is: The more anger towards the past that I carry in my heart, the less capable I am of loving in the present," says Braswell. "It is essential that fatherless sons are supported in multiple ways to address our pain and anger appropriately so we can be positive male role models for all children."
In an effort to deal with the pain and anger, Braswell gives these words of advice to those growing up without their father:
• Acknowledge the anger. Many males put forth a tough exterior, but on the inside the anger is raging. Acknowledge it.
• Embrace forgiveness. It takes a strong person to forgive someone they don't feel deserves their forgiveness. When you don't forgive, you allow pain to reside in your heart. Forgiveness gives the benefit of understanding and closure.
• Embrace your heart. When you embrace your heart, you want to release anything that causes pain. The only way to do that is through love. You cannot do it through hate.
• Communicate through transparency. You have to find a way to communicate your feelings, not just express them. A lot of what fatherless guys deal with is a result of not wanting to talk about what is happening on the inside. This really isn't about the other person, it is about you releasing yourself in order to grow.
"My goal is to be a positive role model for my son and other children," says Braswell. "Every now and then, I felt like I had to tell the world I was OK and that my father was insignificant in my life in order to suppress the fact that his absence was extremely significant in my life.
"I will never be able to offer the world my best based on the hatred of another, especially not the hatred of my father."
Julie Baumgardner is the president and CEO of First Things First. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.