Kirk Franklin on Growing Up Fatherless: It’s Made Me Insecure

Kirk Franklin

Gospel singer and songwriter Kirk Franklin is no stranger to the spotlight. With over 20 years of experience as a recording artist and having received five Grammy Awards, Franklin has had a long and successful career. He’s also managed to keep his faith and stay married to his wife of 23 years. Yet Franklin says all the success he’s experienced hasn’t alleviated the mental health challenges he’s faced in his life—including a deep-seated feeling of insecurity.

“I’m always the most insecure man in the room,” Franklin told his biological father one day. Kirk Franklin grew up not knowing his father and not being very close to his mother, either. While his father was dying of cancer, the singer admitted to him that not having the affirmation of a father really contributed to a lot of problems in his life.

Kirk Franklin Getting Real on The Breakfast Club Radio Interview

Kirk Franklin appeared on The Breakfast Club radio program to talk about his new album, “Long Live Love”. While radio hosts Charlamagne tha God and Angela Yee were interested in the new album, which Yee described as “jammin’”, the interview mainly focused on the personal struggles Franklin has faced in his life. Yee pointed out that Franklin was very open and forthcoming, despite the evidence that suggests culture holds Christian ministers to a higher standard than other people. She pointed to the criticism other ministers face, such as John Gray, and how it was surprising to hear Franklin so willingly talked about his issues.

“As I reveal, I heal,” Franklin said in response to Yee’s observation. “I come to the table with a lot of PTSD, with anxiety issues, with depression,” the singer explained. He is eager to talk about these things openly because of the way mental health issues are often seen as a weakness in the church. “I like to talk about those things because those things are always taboo to talk about in church,” Franklin explains. There is a tendency to try and “pray everything away” in the church that Franklin believes is not helpful.

The singer said he has been in therapy since he was 18 years old. He’s struggled with abandonment issues since he learned as a young kid that his mother wanted to have an abortion, but his aunt (who adopted Franklin at the age of four) convinced her not to. This revelation, coupled with an absent father, created a lot of problems for the budding music artist. While growing up, Franklin sang in church choirs and his talent was recognized early on. By the age of 7, Franklin had already been offered a recording deal (which his aunt turned down for him), and by 11 he was directing the music at a church.

All the success and the time spent in church didn’t stop him from getting in some trouble, though. In the interview with the Breakfast Club, Kirk Franklin addressed his complex view of the abortion debate by saying that while he is pro-life due to his own experience with his mother, he has also paid for an abortion himself. He admits he is in no way complicit when it comes to the problem of abortion in America, acknowledging that when his girlfriend was pregnant during his wayward years he took her to receive an abortion. When Charlemagne pointed out that that couldn’t have been entirely his decision, noting that his girlfriend had to agree to end the pregnancy, Kirk Franklin expressed his belief that sometimes men sway women toward abortions.

Franklin summarized his beliefs on the abortion debate by saying “I am pro-life, but I still believe that I don’t have a right to force a woman to do anything with her body. The same way that I can’t force somebody to come to Jesus Christ.”

Making an unfortunate choice when faced with an unplanned pregnancy wasn’t the only thing Franklin feels regret over. He also admitted to the radio hosts that when he got married, his insecurity and lack of understanding about how to be a good husband almost cost him his marriage early on.

Kirk Franklin Learning to Be a Good Husband and Father

Kirk Franklin and his wife, Tammy, spent a period of four years going to therapy together as a couple. He says it saved their marriage. “I don’t know how to be no husband,” Franklin said, alluding to the fact that his father wasn’t around to show him an example of a good husband.

Despite his own father not being able to show him a good example, though, Tammy did have a present and loving father. Tammy’s father was a “super dude” who was able to raise Tammy to be a “strong woman,” according to Franklin. He recalled an incident early in their marriage when Tammy’s parents were staying with them. Franklin was coming off the success of “Stomp”, a song that gained popularity in both the gospel music and secular music spheres. He admitted he was “feeling himself” and acting foolishly because of it. When the couple got into an argument late at night, Tammy woke her parents up because she thought Franklin was disrespecting her. Franklin says the older couple didn’t say much but grabbed both of their hands and knelt down to pray against what they perceived to be a spiritual attack. Franklin implied the experience really humbled him and he apologized to Tammy.

Now, he admits, with daughters of his own, he would want his girls to do the same thing Tammy did if they were faced with a similar situation. He gives Tammy a lot of credit for sticking with him. She “married a bipolar Christian”, Franklin said.

While his success in music couldn’t ease the feeling of insecurity in Franklin, he says the support of his family really speaks to him about his worth. He says (with a smile) he’s touched by their validation of him because “they ain’t gettin’ paid to.”

Even If You Know God, Mental Health Issues Don’t Just Disappear

During the interview, Kirk Franklin really emphasized the fact that God doesn’t magically make someone’s life better once they start following him. After all the years of walking with God, Franklin says the mental struggle still affects him. When asked why he waited four years to make another album, he admitted it was probably due to his ongoing struggle with insecurity.

Circling back to the topic of mental illness, Franklin says he’s “seen people try to shout it away, try to speak and tongue it away” without addressing the physical side of the struggle. Simply trying to address the spiritual side of the issue won’t help, though. He explains: “You’re a body and soul, and so to minister to the whole man, it’s the right thing. It’s the godly thing to do.”

Franklin concluded the interview by implying it doesn’t do anyone any good to pretend they have all the answers or that their life and faith is perfect. “I can impress you talking about accomplishments, but I can impact you talking about my mistakes,” he said.

* You can help provide daily inspiration and encourage meaningful conversations with the men in your life. Buy Vince Miller’s book “Thirty Virtues That Build A Man” and share it with a man you want to encourage.

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Megan Briggs
Megan Briggs is a writer and editor for ChurchLeaders.com. Her experience in ministry, an extensive amount of which was garnered overseas, gives her a unique perspective on the global church. She has the longsuffering and altruistic nature of foreign friends and missionaries to humbly thank for this experience. Megan is passionate about seeking and proclaiming the truth. When she’s not writing, Megan likes to explore God’s magnificent creation.