“The willingness to forgive is a sign of spiritual and emotional maturity. It is one of the great virtues to which we all should aspire. Imagine a world filled with individuals willing both to apologize and to accept an apology. Is there any problem that could not be solved among people who possessed the humility and largeness of spirit and soul to do either -- or both -- when needed?”
― Gordon B. Hinckley
Unlike Mother's Day, Father's Day does not receive equal fanfare. As my father is no longer here, I tend to not celebrate. Even when he was alive, celebrating Father's Day never received the planning and importance I reserved for Mother's Day. In my youth, there were many things I disliked and even hated about my father.
For many years, the greatest tension between my dad and I was his drinking. My dad was an alcoholic. Every time his drinking impacted my family's lives, I hated him. His ability to control his drinking wavered. Sometimes it made him the good party host, other times, an angry lunatic. It was so unpredictable. I remember feeling there was no way he could love us and continue to drink. How can a child process the thought that the person who created them doesn't love them enough to stop harmful behavior?
As I matured, I searched for the reasons for my father's behavior. My mother always said he was a different person after returning from Vietnam. How could he not be? He had not only trained others to kill, he had killed. It was his job and he was heavily rewarded for doing it. I can't imagine how anyone can resolve that within their soul even if it was for the "right" reasons. I looked at my father's drinking as salve for a pain I would never understand. His behavior was not a fair measurement of his love for me. He was clearly missing or lacking in self love. His demons kept him from loving fully. He self medicated to ease that pain. I began to see him as someone who needed compassion and patience. I am grateful that I resolved my anger and we loved and appreciated each other, flaws and all. I know my daddy loved me and he worked hard for his family and community. Even though his drinking effected me, it had nothing to do with his love for me. He deserved my unconditional love and respect. How many of us wish the same when we fall short in areas of our lives?
If he has fallen short, forgive your father. Forgive him for not showing up, forgetting the important things, being too strict, working too much, not hugging enough or touching too much, whatever the case may be. Forgive the father of your children for not giving you or your children 100%. Forgive your family members who don't step up as father's when you know they were taught better. Forgive them for not having enough love for themselves. Forgive them for you.
Forgiveness is not forgetting or an invitation to sit at my table and let's chat. Forgiving does not mean I trust you now and I'm going to allow you the chance to hurt me again. No sir. It is not a desire to be friends or absolution for inexcusable behavior. Forgiveness is about you. Father's should love their children enough. But sometimes they don't. Love them anyway. Love them for you. Love them for your child. Loving someone when they least deserve it, is when they need it the most. You cannot say you want peace and love in your own life if you are unwilling to give it to others. Forgiveness removes disappointment, anger, disgust and leaves room for love. Whether the other person is aware matters not.
There are many dads I feel could be doing a better job, I love you anyway. My forgiveness is a work in progress. It takes time and effort and won't happen overnight. But we who choose to live a life full of love and happiness, must allow the pain and disappointment to slowly melt away. Only then can we allow our hearts to open fully and accept and share love. Fix your mind on working towards forgiving. When I think about my "do better" dad's list, I turn my focus on me and the work I have to do. I've thought about what I would love to say if ever given the chance. I don't ever have to recite these words or make an attempt to have them heard. I write these words for me. Participation by the other parties is irrelevant:
You hurt and disappointed me. Repeatedly. That hurt has changed the way in which I love and trust others. It is getting in the way of me loving myself fully and being loved the way I deserve. I will not allow that hurt to prevent me and those I love to share in God's greatest gift. I forgive you. I forgive you for not recognizing your own pain and transferring it upon others. I forgive you because I am better, wiser and ready to receive all the goodness I deserve in this lifetime. I am moving past my judgement of you as a father and focusing on being a greater me. I can't change you or make you do what is required to be a better father. I pray you resolve your issues so that you can enjoy the pleasure of being a parent before it is too late. Instead of cataloging your lists of wrongs, I am choosing to celebrate all of the good things that occur. I forgive all of you and I pray you can forgive yourselves. Happy Father's Day.