Who Is Forgiveness Really For?
Healing the Divide Between My Father and Me.
Have you ever had to forgive a parent over a really BIG wrongdoing? Or, are you still holding on to the pain of something someone did to you years ago? Read on. My story may help you.
My Father wasn’t a hugger.
My Father also wasn’t one to shower praise, but had high expectations of his children.
In fact, my Father was a reluctant Father.
There’s a classic story in my family about how my Mom wanted to have kids and my Father wanted a new radio. My Mom won the battle and six births later I arrived.
My Father was a strict disciplinarian and military man. You know the drill. Everyone rises early. Beds made and children dressed before breakfast. (Yes, even on weekends). Daily chores performed by my siblings and me made sure that every surface in the house could literally have been eaten off, despite the number of kids and the large German Shepherd living there.
Impeccable manners required at all times. Children, in the presence of adults, only spoke when spoken to. Any day you might come home to find a “routine” drawer check left the contents of all of your dresser drawers laying on your bed ready to be refolded neatly and put away.
That may not sound all that strict to you, but I’ll spare you the additional details. Suffice it to say, decades later, there are still “Bob” stories floating around Facebook.
My point is, my Dad, Bob Buchanan, liked things a particular way. Period.
Because of that fact, he made a series of decisions that drove a stake into our already tense relationship when I had to move in with him, his second wife and her daughter after the passing of my mother, when I was 16.
There were many incidents, but the list of infractions reached a crescendo over the course of the next couple of years. He…
- Denied me the chance to accept a NASA internship as a rising high school senior, where I could have followed in the footsteps of the Hidden Figures and worked on what was the “concept” of the International Space Station,
- Ruined my 18th birthday by making me read aloud a letter I had written to a friend complaining about the lack of joy in the house, especially at Christmas,
- Kept me from getting my driver’s license until I was 19 years old,
- And the one that drove me to leave his home and never return — gave me an ultimatum following my decision to leave my Engineering major in college: 1) Change my major to Business, 2) Move back home to attend a local college or 3) Pay for myself to stay at Virginia Tech and major in Communications.
I chose 3.
Is my story unique? Probably not, save some of the details.
Are there others who were treated infinitely worse by a father? Absolutely.
Sometimes fathers create physical and emotional wounds which leave us searching for the, “Why?” Maybe it’s because they didn’t have a good fatherly role model. Maybe it’s because they have unresolved issues of their own. Maybe it’s because they are selfish. Maybe it’s because their well-intentioned choices in the name of teaching a lesson just end up creating a bitter divide with their children.
For me, I know my Father loved me in his own way, but he was a complicated and flawed man.
Living with the Decision
After the college decision, I spent the next few years bitter about the ultimatum, but determined to show him. All along the way, I had a meditation practice that I had developed after my mom passed. That practice kept me grounded and focused knowing that I was going to be alright and that the answers would come. I figured out a way to pay for college, met an amazing man who later became my husband, landed jobs in my chosen field and was accepted into a master’s program. Yes, a Masters of Business Administration program.
Throughout that time I kept doing the work of focusing on what I wanted to feel and who I wanted to become, and that work started me down the path to forgiving my Father. I love this quote by Michael Beckwith.
“Real forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.” Michael Bernard Beckwith
The summer between my first and second year of grad school, I earned an internship that required I drive from Williamsburg, Virginia to Austin, Texas. On that drive, I had my breakthrough moment.
Somewhere driving down a really flat road in Alabama listening to “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks for about the thousandth time, I came to the point of forgiving my Father. I finally gave myself the gift of letting it all go. Tears were streaming down my face and I cried a good releasing cry for many miles. Because forgiveness really isn’t about the other person. It’s about YOU. It’s about you finally letting go and giving yourself the chance to heal.
Michael Beckwith also talks about how lack of forgiveness is a form of self-abuse, and how the negative energy of it floods your physical and emotional self with toxins. I honestly believe that this is true.
Forgiving the people who've hurt you certainly isn't easy, but refusing to forgive them could be much more dangerous…www.oprah.com
Now I teach my clients that you have to welcome and feel all of the emotions, steer the ones you want to manage with the right tools and release the ones that don’t serve you. I even teach them what started as personal meditation practice and evolved into a practice I call Daily Mind Gym™.
The Rest of the Story
You’re probably wondering, how the story with my Father ends. After my breakthrough moment, I made the decision that after 9 years, I could make a forgiveness call to my Father. I sat on the floor in the bedroom of my summer apartment, heart pounding, dialed the phone and made the call. I made the call that said that I was alright. That I was more than alright. That I was successful and on my way in life, and that in some part he was right about getting the business degree, but that I had to do on my terms and in my way.
Pause the Dixie Chicks and cue the Sinatra.
Regardless of the expectations of what I wanted him to say on that call, it really didn’t matter. I was good. That call was about me letting go and healing. I forgave him and my conscience was clear.
What he actually did say was, “That’s good, Camille.” several times. And for my Father, a man of few words, that was enough for me.
Less than two months later, he passed.
Now, let me ask again, “Are you still holding on to the pain of something someone did to you years ago?”
It’s time to forgive them. Start the work now. Do it for yourself. It’s one of the most precious gifts you can receive. If you need help, reach out.
Camille Nisich is less stress lifestyle coach who loves to help working parents get past their stress and sleep issues and get to the joyous moments of their lives. In her free time, she enjoys taking adventures with her husband and two children, watching all types of sports and searching for rainbows.
You can find her online at: