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The Day I Forgave My Father

“When one forgives, two souls are set free.” Author unknown.

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

I was angry with my father once. He was 500 kilometres away so no heated words were exchanged but my mind seethed with resentment.

What had I against him?

One thing: the fact that I’d been brought up to view myself as not part of this world.

In my childhood home the words of Jesus Christ recorded in John 17:16 had been taken to an extreme.

They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

As I grew up I was taught to keep others at arm’s length. Unlike me, they hadn’t been chosen by God. No one from school or work ever came to my place. I was polite to my peers but never intimate, because according to biblical prophecies they would very soon suffer the curses carried by the four galloping horsemen of the apocalypse: oppression; war; famine; death. While the world writhed in sinful suffering, I would ride on the wings of an eagle to the rose-coloured rock fortress of Petra, in Lebanon.

So as I grew up and matured, a cold-heartedness enveloped me like a total body shield, saving me from the give and take of normal human interactions. Honest, open conversations weren’t possible because I wasn’t supposed to have any opinions except those expressed in the Bible. Compassion wasn’t a necessity because people deserved what they suffered. Every day I prayed for God’s kingdom to come so the world would be a better place, and placidly believed there was nothing I could do to ease its misery.

With these ingrained beliefs I hovered in the shadowy periphery of life — in the world but not of it.

Now, aged 41 and with organised religion finally firmly behind me, I had a desire to connect to others.

But I didn’t know how.

And it was all my father’s fault. I stood there transfixed with this thought, sensing anger rising.

It wasn’t the heated, impetuous anger that makes people’s fingers clench and eyes glow red. It was more the slow birth of what I sensed could become a dark, brooding anger that would feed on festering thoughts until the day I died.

Then a still, quiet thought found a way through the morass of accusation and bitterness in my mind:

“Is this really true?”

I hadn’t yet come across the self-enquiry principles of Byron Katie, who uses this as a key question when helping others take ownership of their life and emotions, but, like it does with her clients, this question I asked myself stopped me in my mental tracks.

Was my father really responsible for my actions as an adult? Could my timidity and lack of human warmth be placed totally at his door? Was my inability to relate to people in an everyday manner his fault?

That simple question - Is this really true? - helped me quickly realise that if I was old enough to point a finger at my father I was old enough to shoulder the responsibility for what I had become.

At his essence my father was a gentle, thoughtful, conscientious man trying to make sense of the world, searching for a purpose. He found a religion and followed it until the day he died.

Perhaps it was time for me to emulate some other words taught to me by my father, spoken by Jesus Christ and recorded in Luke 23:34:

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

It was time to forgive my father for the part he’d played in my present state of dysfunction.

And then I had to forgive myself for continuing on so long with a way of life that had shown fault lines for years.

Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

It’s tempting to sprinkle forgiveness like it’s gold dust. Just a tiny bit. Not too much. But as an unknown wise person once scribbled on a wall:

“When one forgives, two souls are set free.”

Maybe I’m not the sort to be angry for long. Maybe other people battle with this emotion their whole life. I’m not trying to simplify what can be a complex and powerful emotion, or telling you to ignore something that’s broken and needs to be mended with skillful words and caring hearts.

I’m just talking about the ease with which we can set ourselves and others free by the simple expediency of forgiveness.

Forgiveness comes more easily when we acknowledge we are all in this together. Just like my father before me, I have to find a path and live my purpose. That’s what each one of us is doing. We all make mistakes. We all stumble. We all fall. We all need a helping hand up again. We all need forgiveness.

Most of us see ourselves as individuals. We think we know where we finish and another person begins. But the latest scientific discoveries tell us we’re a cosmic soup. We’re composed of lightening, moonbeams and mud. There’s stardust in our bones and the unifying spirit of consciousness pouring through our pores like water.

So, if it’s at all possible, let forgiveness flow from you like water.

Let forgiveness shine from your eyes like warmth from the sun.

Fling forgiveness wide with an open palm, as if you’re blessing the land and all its people.

Because you are.

With love, Marlane

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