Have I forgiven my father?
Recently my former college roommate, Kathryn, asked me if I have truly forgiven my father for what we did thirty-eight years ago this Saturday. I wanted to spit out the usual answer: “Yes, of course.” Yet, when she asked I hesitated.
How do you answer a question when the answer is not black and white but shades of gray?
One thing I have learned about forgiveness is it is not black and white. It is not a one time only event. It is more like layers.
Let’s say there are ten layers of forgiveness.
Imagine an onion if you will. Well, the first layer is very challenging to get through. The skin is hard and it can be difficult to break open. But once you do, the skin sheds fast. Remember, the entire time you peel an onion you are also exposed to the smell. And even though it smells, the minute you add it to your favorite food a new taste emerges that most people enjoy. That is similar to forgiveness.
Once you begin to peel back the layers and forgive yourself (and others), there is vast treasure chest of new freedoms you find within yourself and are now able to experience, sometimes for the first time.
So the first step of forgiveness can be down right hard. The next few layers shed more easily because the process has begun. But there are more layers and more layers. And they are subtle. We have not reached the heart of the onion yet. As you get closer to the heart, once again, the onion is more challenging. The same with forgiveness.
It's one of the reasons why when I started on my forgiveness path I didn't do it alone. I needed support. I needed witnesses to my willingness. I needed someone to be there incase I needed to be encouraged and loved. I bet the same goes for you.
Are you willing to shed the resentment, guilt and worry that stems from unforgiveness?
Are you open to living your life as you rather than through the filter of "can't do this" and "can't do that"?
"I Can't" has its roots in unforgiveness.
Let me be frank: When you have unresolved resentment, unfulfilled dreams, have been disenfranchised or disenchanted...there's forgiveness work to do.
I can say that I have forgiven my father, as well as my mother, to such an extent that it no longer affects my daily life. I am able to share my story in my talks, tapes and books. I am able to see my parents for who they were. Two scared people who didn’t know how to get past their own insecurities and fears but desperately wanted to be loved. Not unlike 99.9% of the population.
My father just didn’t have the emotional intelligence, the skills or awareness to handle my mother’s rejection so he killed my mother and himself for fear that living without her would be too painful and shameful. For him, death appeared to be the only alternative. My father’s fear killed my parents.
I have forgiven him for his false thinking and for his lack of self-acceptance. I have forgiven him for loving my little sister best. I have forgiven him for taking my mother away from me. I have forgiven him for leaving us with no money or caretakers. I have forgiven him for doing the deed in front of me. I have forgiven him. Most days.
When I became engaged, I cried the day I picked out my wedding dress. It just didn’t seem right that my mother wasn’t there to celebrate. When I was divorced eight years later, I cried again. Where was she when I was in so much pain? Did I forgive them? Yes. Did I have to dig deeper, go to the next level of forgiveness? Yes.
Just because I have forgiven them, does not mean I don’t get angry, hurt or miss them. There are moments that I long for them, imagining their smiles and aching for their affection. At those times, I embrace the memories and remind myself to be willing to forgive once again.
Forgiving my parents has helped me heal other areas that in the past I would of labeled unforgivable. And forgiving my parents, helped me to forgive myself.
And if you are anything like me, forgiving yourself may be the hardest thing to do. But you don't have to do it alone.
Feel the freedom of forgiveness today.
Learn the skill now and use it for a lifetime.