A Father’s Love
This story illustrates the power of forgiveness to transform relationships.
When I was 15, I thought my father was a jerk who was always on my back. He always had me working on something, whether it was my homework, cleaning the rain gutters, or mowing the lawn. I wanted him to talk to me more. I wanted him to listen to me more and take more time with me. When we did connect, it was while working together, like when we built a stand for my keyboard in the garage with his power tools. My dad was always working. That was his thing, and as a teenager, I was always mad at him because I wanted him to be different.
One time he said to me, “Steve, out of all my children, I think you gave me the most trouble,” and I believe that is probably true. It was not that I did a lot of bad stuff in middle school or high school; I was just in his face more than my siblings and I repeatedly challenged him when I did not like something he did or did not do.
A few years later, at a personal growth seminar, I realized that my dad had given me the best he had. He knew how to work, and that is what he taught me. I realized that his way of loving me was to teach me how to work. He was loving me in his own way, but I never understood that when I was a teenager. I also realized that maybe he did not want to talk to me too much because I was always giving him a hard time, and I realized that my lack of communication with my father was my responsibility.
In that moment, I let go of my grudges towards my dad for not being what I wanted him to be and I started loving him for the father he was. My father was dependable and was loyal to my mom and all of us children. He loved us and was always even tempered and fair in his judgments. He worked hard and provided whatever we needed, and he made sure all of his children could pursue their dreams. While he hadn’t been one to talk about his feelings or listen to my problems, he gave me the best he had to give every single day of his life.
When these thoughts hit me, I immediately called up my dad and apologized to him for giving him such a hard time over the years, and I admitted that I had been the jerk in our relationship. I told him that I realized that his pushing me to work was his way of loving me, and I thanked him for giving me such a good work ethic, which has been such an asset in my life. I also asked him if we could start over and have a better relationship, and from that day on, my communication with my dad has been remarkable. Today, he always approaches me with a hug and says, “I love you.” He is encouraging and supportive, and he goes to great lengths to let me know how he respects me and believes in me.
Let me say a little more about my dad. He was an orthopedic surgeon, and when I was little, he and my mom moved the family to Ethiopia where he was a medical missionary for quite some time. He operated on leprosy patients who had been crippled for many years and would restore their ability to use their hands again, or he would operate on them so they could walk again. The Ethiopian villagers thought he was a great shaman and said he had magic in his fingers after seeing their family and friends able to walk again after many years of being lame beggars in the street.
My father also pioneered crucial techniques in surgery on leprosy patients, and after some years in the mission field, he came back to the United States and enrolled orthopedic surgeons from around the country to go over to Ethiopia. They stayed year round in month long shifts to teach the Ethiopian doctors about orthopedic surgery, so because of my dad, they now have orthopedics in Ethiopia. He is truly a great man and today I am proud to be his son. However, I still remember that when I was 15, I thought he was a jerk who was always on my back.
Mark Twain once said that when he was 15, his dad didn’t know anything, but when he turned 25 he was amazed at how much his dad had learned in 10 years. For me, I gained the relationship with my dad that I had always wanted when I let go of my resentment towards him and began to love him for who he was. My dad began to open up to me when I stopped blaming and criticizing him. Suddenly, he transformed before my eyes, but the person who changed was not him, but me. He had unconditionally and truly loved me all along. I just wasn’t able to see it at the time because I was blind.
Today as I look at my own incredible sons, I finally understand how my father felt about me, and I’m so grateful that I had my father. I am grateful that his loving me all these years has helped me open my eyes and learn how to see.
Like in my relationship with my father, forgiveness is
essentially seeing through the illusion of your core fears and understanding the truth of the essential goodness of yourself and those around you. The following ideas more clearly define forgiveness. Applying these ideas to your relationships can empower you to more easily realize forgiveness in yourself
and in your relationships to increase your joy and fulfillment.
1. Forgiveness is realizing you misunderstood the other person. It is about releasing judgments that cause resentment and block communication.
The way to find happiness in life is to forgive yourself and others. Forgiveness is not about overlooking another’s faults or bad behavior. It is about realizing that you misunderstood the other person in a fundamental way. When you want others to be something they are not, you set yourself up for frustration and heartache. When others do not live up to your expectations, you hold resentment, which creates barriers and blocks to healthy communication.
2. No one else needs to change for you to be happy. Your happiness or lack of it is your choice.
To some extent, we all live under the false assumption that we can only be happy when others in our lives change in some way. We hold grudges, we complain, we manipulate them to change, we threaten, and finally we leave when we realize that others are just not going to change to suit us. This state of affairs gives us a sad life. Ultimately, your happiness is up to you and no one else. To have the kind of relationships you want, learn to be the kind of parent, child, or friend you want others to be for you.
3. Happiness comes through changing your perspective.
The following steps can help you create joyful and fulfilling relationships and can help you have the love and respect you have always wanted. These steps do not require that you compromise your principles or sacrifice your life goals. All they require is that you let go of the negative emotional habits that you never needed in the first place. Finding happiness only requires that you change the way you look at others. As Wayne Dyer said, “Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.” When you see your family, friends, and yourself in a different light, they miraculously change right before your eyes into the people you have always wanted to have in your life.