I believe in the power of forgiveness.
I never really understood what forgiveness meant. When I felt treated badly, it seemed natural to hold on tightly to the anger and resentment.
I never expressed anger outwardly. Instead, I let it stew. My righteous indignation toward those who hurt me was a shield from my pain. Most of this indignation was directed at my father. I blamed Dad for everything bad that happened to me.
Over the years, his misdeeds and shortcomings became the scapegoat for my own. The fact that I hadn’t become an alcoholic like him was justification for being irresponsible, dishonest, and thoughtless.
Throughout years of struggle, dysfunctional relationships, and little to no career advancement, I never took responsibility for anything. I laid all my troubles on Dad.
Then a few years ago, something shocking happened to me: I became a father.
One night, as I watched my newborn son sleep, studying his beautiful face, I suddenly became filled with fear. I was convinced I would screw him up—that all my problems would wash over him, tarnishing his perfect soul. Strangely, while panicking about my son’s impending doom, Dad popped to mind.
I sat there in the dark, surrounded by the soothing sounds and smells of my baby’s room, and I thought of how Dad must have felt when I was born. I knew at that moment that he never intended to hurt me. I realized that he loved me just as I loved my son. I knew that he had done the best he could, even if it wasn’t always very good.
I forgave my father that night—for all the times he got drunk, embarrassed me, or hurt my mother. I forgave him for not being around. I let go of the resentment I’d held toward him for so many years. I stopped blaming him.
Maybe my reasons were not very noble. Maybe I was afraid my son would blame me for whatever problems would inevitably fall his way. But whatever the reason, for the first time, I saw my dad as a real person. I knew he didn’t drink to hurt me. He drank because he was flawed and hurting. I knew that if I didn’t forgive him, I would never have the kind of relationship I wanted with my son. If I kept blaming him I would never start living my life.
Dad hadn’t asked for my forgiveness; he’s never acknowledged that he’s done anything wrong. But I realized that in forgiving him, what I was really doing was taking responsibility for myself and my own actions.
Forgiving my dad changed my life. I accepted him for who he was and that set me free. My eyes are open now to my own failings. And I discovered that forgiving someone is both an innately spiritual act that brings us closer to a higher power, and a uniquely human act that connects people in a way that strengthens us all. It is a powerful thing. This I believe.