I was 38 years old when I forgave my dad.
Did he actually do anything “wrong?”
My little girl voice said he did – up until that moment. I spent almost 30 years wanting him to be different than he was. To be loved different than I was loved. To be given attention like I wanted attention.
He died when I was 26 of a heart attack after 4 long years surviving a debilitating stroke where he lost almost all ability to talk. He could say 3 words, “yes. no. the other.” That was it.
In the last year of his life, I went to visit him at the rehab center he walked to each day. I talked with his speech therapist after they were done with his session. She said to me, “You know, your dad talks about you all the time in his own way. He’s very proud of you.”
The words hung in the air like smoke seeping from a smoldering fire.
My heart didn’t know what to do. I wouldn’t allow myself to feel then, but I do now, and I tear up as I write this.
Sometimes gifts come in the smallest moments of time.
I didn’t make amends with him before he died. I didn’t grieve at his funeral. I went on – resenting – wanting him, and my past, to be different than it was.
Resentment gave me the ability to blame him for not having a healthy relationship with men, for being able to hate him and hate men, and to prove I could be as strong as a man. Resentment allowed me to be a “victim” of his parenting, or lack of, as I saw it then.
But what resentment cost me was far more then what I was getting out of it. It cost me my power in taking responsibility for my life, it cost me healthy and open relationships with people, it cost me peace and happiness, and it cost me the ability for my heart to be free.
That is the four letter word I’m talking about. FREE.
A free heart to truly love. It wasn’t possible as long as I still resented him. I didn’t know what it was like to be free until I forgave him. It was literally like taking a 10 pound brick off my chest that I didn’t know was there. I felt free to fly.
Some say resentment is like “taking poison while waiting for the other person to die.” When I forgave him, I experienced first hand what the poison was like. I could see it now that I was on the other side of it.
On the spiritual path, resentment is said to be “a glass ceiling” to awakening. It is. You can only go so far with a closed heart.
I couldn’t have forgiven him on my own. I was guided through the process in the More to Life weekend.
From knowing the power of forgiveness first hand, I bring clients through this process so that they can be free. What I see is almost like magic. They tell me they don’t feel angry toward their mom or dad anymore, or that they feel so much more connected to their spouse than before. It’s a life changing act.
To forgive means to let go of any hope that the past will change. It doesn’t mean you condone or agree with what happened. It means that you surrender to or accept what has happened.
Was my dad wrong in the way he parented? Now I can honestly say no, because there was no right or wrong way to parent, just the way that he parented. Every person does their best as a parent with the skills and the consciousness level they are at.
Even the ones who abuse. It’s what they know. And a good chance they were abused too.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean to not have boundaries. Boundaries are important. It means to let go of wanting the past to be different than it was. Period.
I now choose to think of the times that I loved with him – when I swam circles in the pool holding on for dear life to his shoulders, laughing uncontrollably; or the times when he piled me, my brother, sister and as many neighborhood kids could fit on the special ‘wide’ wagon he built and pulled us around the neighborhood singing at the top of our lungs (those were playfully called the “diggum diggum rides”).
Open to the possibility of forgiveness. To be FREE in your heart to live and to love. This is what I want for you and what is possible.
Categories: Conflict & Forgiveness