My journey with my biological father, who is diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, is where I have learned the most about forgiveness. The schizophrenia manifested in some unspeakable and dangerous ways. I spent much of my life in anger wondering why he would treat me and the ones I love the way he did.
After 25 years of separation, I finally reconnected with him to find peace in my heart and answer some of the questions I had lived with my entire life. The reunion was tender and our relationship has grown with the help of medication and healthy and strong boundaries.
Upon our reunion, one thing I really wanted was an apology. I wanted the apology to acknowledge everything that happened and how damaging it was. I never got one. This confused me. I knew he was grateful that we were reconnected, yet he was not apologizing for his behavior. Does he not know how much he hurt me? Does he not know how I have lived in fear or how many tears I have cried all these years?
Eventually I came to the realization that I cannot make him apologize. Even if I could, it would be empty since I would be forcing it and it would not be coming from him.
I was still carrying the weight of the anger though. This did not make any sense at all. Why would I carry the burden for something he did? I wanted, actually needed, to let go of the pain since it was affecting my health, my relationships, and really, my entire life. This is when I decided that instead of an apology, I would forgive him. YES! That is what I will do. I will forgive him!
I tried and I tried yet I did not know how to forgive. I read forgiveness books. I talked to people about how they forgave. No matter what I did, I never got there. I was at a loss for how to truly forgive him and was in deep despair thinking I would have to live with this poison for the rest of my life.
Then one day he called and sounded heartbroken. He said he did not know I felt that way about him. I was not sure what he was talking about. He elaborated saying he had seen one of my articles about how I thought the illness made him a monster. My heart sunk to the tips of my toes thinking about how he felt seeing that.
I thought we had talked openly about everything yet this was new for him. I explained what it was like when he would show up places unannounced or when he called every freshman in the phonebook when I started college trying to find me. He listened. He then explained his side of the story. He said that he was never trying to terrorize me. He was only trying to make sure I was alive.
This hit me hard. He was stalking me to make sure I was alive? Whoa! In his mind, he does not think he did anything wrong. He did not need to apologize nor did he need my forgiveness from his perspective. He thought he was doing what any protective father would do.
This changed everything for me. All those days I so desperately prayed for answers. I finally got some. In no way am I condoning his behavior. It has taken a lot of therapy to move through the trauma and I am still working on it.
And, I have found compassion and empathy for him. What is happening for him with the illness that made him think I was not alive or those behaviors were okay? What is happening for him creating all the rage? So much of the weight of what I was carrying was lifted. I felt lighter than I ever had before. And, to be totally honest, there is still more to go. It is a process – a journey.
The illness is not my father. My father is another human who is experiencing schizophrenia. I do not need to forgive him. I need to accept him and love him unconditionally with healthy boundaries. In doing so, I found my freedom.
– Who in your life would you benefit in forgiving? Or accepting?
– Is there somewhere you need to apologize and ask for forgiveness?
I know it is not easy – and, what is hard tends to have really big rewards.
Let me know if ever I can help you in finding your freedom. We will set up some quality time to go deep within so you can find the courage to forgive or ask for forgiveness and live with greater freedom too.
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