September 29, 2020

Forgiving Dad

Written by Shana Schutte

Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – September 29, 2020

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

My dad had a winsome personality. He could easily make friends with strangers. He was a talented writer and draftsman. He liked to make people laugh and was always ready to share a joke. But just like me, just like all of us, everything about him wasn’t positive. He wasn’t the greatest dad. When I hear women talk about how their dad was emotionally tender toward them, how he always remembered their birthdays, and treated them specially, I can’t relate. My dad was present, but emotionally absent. His body was in our home, but his affection was lacking and I grew up feeling that my father was passive in his love for me. 

I always felt I had forgiven him, and when he passed away in 2005, I still felt at peace about his relationship with me and my siblings even though I wasn’t happy about it. I thought, “He did the best he could with the tools that he had.” 

Then I married and for the first time in my entire life I started to feel angry about the way my father had been emotionally uninvolved with me and my siblings, how he made us feel that we were a financial burden, how he put his life and entertainment ahead of us, and how he was unfaithful to our mother. The stark contrast between the way my husband cared for his girls and the way my father cared for us was huge, and that contrast reminded me of why I had many of the troubles I did in my twenties and thirties with men, money, and life direction. I felt I’d been set up. 

I got angry and I felt the hurt of being emotionally neglected. And instead of feeling like I had forgiven my father, I started to feel some bitterness toward him. This was new as I always felt I had forgiven him. 

One day, I heard a podcast that helped me turn a corner and begin to let go of the hurt I felt in my relationship with my father. During the podcast, a guest talked about reframing our negative life experiences. She said that in all of our stories, we develop a narrative about ourselves, others, and the situation we experienced. For example, “This person was bad” “I was dumb” “I failed and will always fail.” And in my case (on days when I allowed my flesh to rule me), “My father was a jerk and he didn’t love me the way I needed to be loved which is why I made some pretty stupid decisions in my life.” 

As a part of reframing one’s experiences, the guest suggested taking another look at what happened to you by infusing compassion into your story to see yourself through gentler lenses and by looking at others with greater compassion too. That sounded like Jesus, so I thought I would give it a try. 

When I took at a look at my relationship with my father through the gentle lens of compassion, I felt so sad for him. He had always felt like the black sheep in his family. He felt like he couldn’t succeed in life and these wounds of inadequacy made him search for significance everywhere else but in our family. And, he was so very young when he became my dad. He was just twenty-two. A babe indeed. 

What came out of seeing my dad with compassionate eyes was a feeling of love for him. I found my way back to my dad, but this time in a more honest way. I love my father and I know he loved me. He just didn’t know how to give us what we needed. But he did the best he could with the tools he had been given, just like we all do. 

As I write this, tears are streaming down my face. I forgive my father. And, I rejoice that I will one day see him in heaven and we will have the relationship I have always wanted. And, in the meantime, I will remember he gave me so many good gifts and I received many of his good traits. And, the struggles I experienced because of his influence have made me who I am today. God has used them for my good and definitely for His glory. 

What about you? Are you holding some bitterness or unforgiveness toward someone for how they hurt you? Go back and look at the situation and try to understand their perspective with compassion. Then, be gentle with yourself too. Finally, remember that God is always at work to bring good out of bad, no matter what happens in our lives. 

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

Prayer

Lord, I know that most people are doing the best that they can in their lives. Sometimes they hurt others because of their own hurt. Help me to remember this and see them with loving eyes of compassion. And help me to forgive myself for how their life has negatively affected mine. Please help me to remember that you work all things for good. Amen.


Application

If someone has hurt you and you are holding a grudge toward them, write a letter expressing your sorrow for their pain and let them know you forgive them.


Related Reading

Acts 17:26; Mark 11:25; Matthew 18:21-22

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Comments

  1. Joe says:

    Thanks so much for the tender-hearted, transparent encouragement.

  2. Susie says:

    I so identify with you Shana!! My father was also hard on his seven children, and all of us suffered. However, when he developed Alzheimer’s, he couldn’t maintain the facade anymore; the hard, outer shell that he had used to protect his fragile psyche simply evaporated and I we got to see his tender side. God is indeed always working for good. My father had to “die” in to order to live.


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