I grew to hate my dad growing up. Hate, and I don’t use the word lightly.
Sure he was there when I was a kid, and he was a good financial provider, but it felt like every time I’d take one step towards him he’d take two steps back. It seemed he was so busy trying to make a living, he had no love or concern for me whatsoever. He was almost cold towards me, and I could never figure out why I kept falling short of his expectations.
Comparatively, I suppose I didn’t have as much to moan about as others, but when you’re a boy, seeking your father’s approval, and never feel like you get it, that really messes with your head. I felt I was constantly reaching out for confirmation and encouragement, and he was constantly pushing me away. All I ever wanted was his love and support, and felt no matter how hard I tried, I never got it.
Over time, my anger turned to bitterness, and my bitterness to hatred. When I had a seizure and almost died, however, our relationship hit a turning point.
It was about an hour after my first back surgery (I’ve had two thus far). I was groggy following the procedure, but talking and laughing. Suddenly, my eyes rolled in the back of my head, my back arched up and shot straight off the bed and I was in full seizure mode. My wife, Laura, was the only one in the room with me, and said I made some type of weird, creepy noise she’d never heard. She ran out into the hallway and screamed, “We need help in here NOW!!!!”
It was so traumatic she still, to this day, won’t talk about it.
My dad’s face was the first one I saw when I woke up about 9 hours later. I was in a dark room, and Dad was sitting right beside my bed. I was confused, with no memory of the seizure, and he grabbed my hand to calm me down.
“I love you, and I’m proud of you. I hope you know that,” was the first thing he said.
I was in my mid-twenties, and it was the first time he’d ever said those words.
A couple weeks later, after hearing Pastor Stan Welch deliver an excellent sermon on “forgiveness,” I called Dad.
“I don’t know if you realize how bad of a job you did as a father when I was a kid, or at least how bad of a job I thought you did. I don’t know if you even think you did anything wrong, but I just wanted to let you know I forgive you. I’m letting it all go; the hate and bitterness and everything. I can’t carry it anymore, the load is too much for me to bear. I love you, dad.”
Ever since then we’ve been buddies. We text or e-mail nearly every day, and go to church together on Sunday. Conversation comes easy for us. He may have had trouble expressing his emotions when I was a kid, but has learned to do so over the years, and is an amazing grandpa and great-grandpa. My grandson calls him, “Papa Bob.”
I love that man, and am proud of all he’s accomplished, as a banker, as a Christian and as a man.
So that’s my tale of forgiveness.
The way I figure it, ya gotta forgive that person for whom you’ve been harboring hatred. Even if they don’t realize they did anything wrong. Forgiveness isn’t just for them; it’s also for you. Forgiveness takes a weight off our shoulders, and breathes fresh life into our spirit. The load of bitterness and hatred is too much for us to bear over a lifetime.
I love you, Dad.