Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Steve Jobs - It's Complicated

It's been a week since Steve Jobs, visionary to a bevy of incredible dreams, passed away. I was amazed with the surfeit of commentaries about the man, his many accomplishments, and thousands of bread crumbs many writers left behind for us to piece together. All of these on the day of his death or shortly thereafter - the very next day.

Yet something is missing in a majority of articles and postmortem op ed's - something complicated.

As a fan who has studied Steve Jobs for years I notice there is a pink elephant in the room in a majority of pieces written about this man. This elephant has a name and his name is - Abdulfattah John Jandali.

Abdulfattah, as you may or may not know, is Steve's biological father. According to John C Abell, writer for, Jandali recently learned (2005) that he was the biological father of Steve Jobs. He and Steve's mother, Joanne Simpson, had a strained relationship. It was not until after she became pregnant with Steve, moved out, placed him for adoption, returned home - and became pregnant by Abdufattah again - that Joanne and AbduFattah were married. Only later did they separate and finally divorce.

This is where the complication begins...

It begins with the learning of Steve's conception, his early development as a child and young man and on into the final man the world just witnessed passing away. If I can be so bold, as a seasoned student of the man, there appeared an evident and gaping hole to Steve's heart. Prominently displayed for all of us to see through interaction after interaction and story to story coming out of his first time as leader of Apple, then magnified in his return to Apple in 1997. Suffice it to say, I believe a significant Father Wound motivated, shaped and drove Steve Jobs in an array of incredible directions. His wound is our wound. As sons of men it is one each of us as sons relate to, yet many of us rarely speak of.

From a simple human and biological standpoint, an intentionally involved and loving father who affirms his son regularly through his sons development from childhood onto manhood is uniquely beneficial. Of the many responsibilities a Father has is the key responsibility to see his children succeed in the fulfillment of their desires and dreams.

Abdufattah wasn't there for his son in this key regard for many reasons.

As the story lines have been previously written, Abdufattah wanted to keep and raise his son with Joanne when they discovered they were pregnant. However, Steve's mother Joanne wasn't ready for parenthood and she decided to place their baby for adoption. As well her parents were dead set against her marrying or having any part of Abdufattah's life at the time. She, with a begrudged Abdufattah placed Steve into the loving home of Paul and Clara Jobs.

It's at this point a striking kinship between the man who grew up as Steve Jobs and the men Guys For Life serves, a plethora of sons not reconciled to their true fathers begins to appear.

The Kinship is this: "Children living a life without affirming Fathers fulfill their deep need for personal/spiritual affirmation ANYWAY they can.

Coach For America's founder and pastor Joe Ehrmann writes that as young men develop they will define the terms of 'What a Man is" through three unique categories - the Ball Field, The Bedroom and the Billfold. In layman's terms a boy defines manhood, first through the Ball Field, through his athletic abilities in school as a maturing child and adolescent. Moving forward in age, young men define their manhood through the second gate - The Bedroom. In this period, their culture and peer dynamics influence and mold young men through their conquests sexually. Progressing through the first two stages the final category presents itself - The Billfold. The majority of men today define what it means to be a man through their success or failure financially.

In each category of the three "B's", according to Joe Ehrmann, a father's affirming love and intentional leading of young men through each category is paramount for a young man's development.

What I believe I witnessed with Steve Jobs was:
  • Steve as a young boy was not an athlete [no biggie]. By contrast he was an introspective computer enthusiast with close friend and mentor Steve Wosniak. Wosniak affirmed him in this role - this was Steve's Ball Field.
  • Moving forward Steve as a young man found it exhilarating to be seen with and date notable women. Most well known was his dating of the folk singer Joan Baez - this was Steve's Bedroom.
  • Finally as a mature adult we come to Steve's stepping down as CEO of Apple this past August. At the time trough circulated stories, Steve's personal financial worth was estimated at $7 billion dollars. Tirelessly leading Apple as Steve did netted this man amazing personal profits - this was Steve's Billfold.
When it comes to men our ministry serves:
  • Young men in the absence of an involved Father struggle to make themselves known as competitive players on the Ball Field of Life. They live by the success of their accomplishments athletically on one end of the spectrum while at the other end, if no athletic roots take hold, they discover ways to make themselves shine. Sometimes that shining is apparently extrovert or it's withdrawn an introverted. In any case, young boys WILL find a way to make their own Ball Field [I.E. Sports, Computers, Computer Gaming, etc.].
  • The numbers don't lie. more than 2.5 million men ages 15-24 will discover they're a Father this year. With men of little Fatherly influence, young men are left to decide themselves how they're going to address the Bedroom of manhood. Yet don't be fooled, a great number of this yearly harvest is in The Church as well as outside of it. Both secular and Christian families are affected at the same rate.
  • Finally, as they come of age and are dealing with unexpected pregnancy men without direct input from loving Fathers are left to protect their Billfold as best possible. For them the solution is easy, a quick fix - because - a child would change everything. They hold precious the expectation of what it means to be a man through their wallet. Five guys every minute under the age of 24 are making that decision as we speak - to abort or not abort. Steve Jobs was 23 [read more here].
Watching Steve through this prism of a Father Wound and then corroborating the high numbers of men our ministry counsels, the kinship between Steve and these guys becomes apparent. Men growing up without a loving, involved father during their development leads many men to fill an affirmation hole anyway they can. Many discover what suits them best and for a host of personal, psychological and spiritual reasons trudge on never knowing if its right, if its the best or if they're in danger of harming themselves or others.

Interestingly enough, in the famed movie "Pirates of Silicon Valley" the TNN film produced in 1999 about the founding of Apple and Microsoft when scenes regarding Steve Wosniak [Steve's closest friend early on] and Steve Jobs became deeply personal the Father Wound would reveal itself. As Wos, would try and pry the family door open to get Steve Job's to open up and talk about his real birth parents Steve Jobs wanted no part of the discussion. Vehemently Job's would slam the door shut, every time on his friend Wos. I firmly believe there was profound truth to these scenes placed in this movie. They merely scratched the surface to Steve's complicated nature as a person.

By no means do I mean to discount the roll Paul Jobs accepted and lived out as Steve's loving adoptive father in the lat 50's. I do believe, however, in all my readings of Steve over the years a great deal of Steve's interactions with other people, be it personal or business, are blemished with the pain of Steve never receiving or processing the affirmation of his paternal father - Abdulfattah John Jandali.

I wonder, what would Steve be like as a man today, what would have happened to him all along the way, how might Apple be different - how might God have been glorified IF Steve was affirmed by his biological Father.

We'll never now. And so it remains - it's complicated.

Till next time,


  1. I am no expert on Steve Job's life, but it does seem to me you are leaving one important detail out. He was adopted and probably had an adopted father. I do not know what he was like, but you give no mention to him at all. To act as if he could have no influence on his son at all seems to be a stretch. I am a father of four children, two of whom are adopted. I know the adopted children will have unique struggles that my biological kids will not, but I also know I am still capable of making a difference. I do not think you meant to do this, but you were pretty dismissive of adoptive parents and the role they can play.

  2. Annie, thanks for the comment. However, if you read the full posting, I did make mention of Paul Jobs, Steve's adoptive father as a loving father to Steve. He is mentioned in the ninth paragraph as well as the third paragraph from the end.

    No, this article is not dismissive of adoptive parents by any means, it is rather, a deeply complicated look into Steve's willingness or unwillingness to have his biological father as part of his development.

    If you do a little research you will see at one point Steve hired a private investigator to find his parents. He found both his mother and his father - yet only reconciled with his mother.

    Why is this?

    As I stated it's complicated.

    Praise God for adoptive Fathers.

    In Christ Jesus, we are all adopted. Amen.