The morning after I posted my blog last week on the topic of forgiveness I received a phone call from a man I have never met before. He told me that his sister had forwarded my blog to him and it had really resonated with him.
Tom and his sister grew up in a home with a father who was a physically and verbally abusive alcoholic. His mother was the stereotypical “little woman” who lived in fear of his father’s frequent tirades.
Childhood, for both of them was fear-filled time spent constantly trying to stay out of dad’s way and not do anything that would set him off.
As Tom moved from his teens into early adulthood his feelings for his father began to shift from fear to intense hatred.
Tom’s mother died suddenly from a brain aneurysm when he was 15 and, as a single parent, his father became even more mean-spirited and verbally abusive.
Somewhere around the time of his 20th birthday both Tom and his sister decided to never again have any contact with their father as he was the cause of their lost childhoods and everything else that was wrong in their lives.
Tom believed his upbringing caused him to become somewhat socially awkward. He has had great difficulties with relationships and finds it very difficult to trust anyone. His sister’s many damaged relationships very closely mirror his own.
Their dad died six years ago and neither of them attended his funeral.
For many years Tom viewed life as an unfriendly and hopeless experience and blamed his father for everything that did not work out the way he had hoped.
He saw many of his father’s behaviours in himself which further added to his resentment.
Eighteen months ago Tom’s life radically changed. It had been years since he had last attended a church service but when a friend invited him to join her at church one Sunday he had reluctantly gone along.
That morning the pastor gave a sermon on the power of forgiveness. He said many of the same things that were mentioned in last week’s blog and as Tom listened to him speak he felt a strong need to go back in time and forgive his father for all his terrible deeds in order that he could begin to start living his own life free of the burden of anger.
He developed some sense of empathy for his father when he realized that his father’s life was spent battling the demons which resided on the inside of a bottle.
Tom told me that forgiving his father completely changed his perspective on life. He realized that his father was a severely flawed man, ravaged by the disease of alcoholism, whose outward expressions of anger towards his family were probably fueled by his inner feelings of self-loathing and disgust.
Forgiving his father removed an enormous weight from Tom. For the first time he felt free of the outpouring of negative energy that had consumed him for many years and he realized that rather than blaming his father for his own shortcomings he chose instead to use his father as a really good example of a really bad example and he began to make more positive choices in his own life.
He told me that he actually felt a sense of gratitude to his father for allowing him to experience firsthand the outcome of aberrant behavior and for showing him how not to be.
Tom told me that by forgiving his father he was not in any way condoning his father’s egregious behavior but it was allowing him to set aside the anger and resentment that was causing so much stress in his own life. He realized that the only person being harmed by all those years of carrying those destructive negative emotions was himself.
After hearing Tom’s story I asked his permission to write about it. He granted permission but asked me not to use his real name. He told me that, while he and I have never met, his sister works in an organization where I have done some work and knows me quite well. She is embarrassed by her upbringing and would not like her friends or colleagues to know that she is the sister referred to throughout this story.
Tom’s only regret is that his sister is unwilling to follow his lead. She refuses to forgive her father and thus the guilt feelings she harbors for him are wreaking a destructive path through her life.
I do not know who Tom’s sister is but I hope she reads this blog and follows her brother’s lead. Letting go of the pain caused by years of carrying around hatred may well become the greatest gift she will ever give herself.
And Tom will be much happier too.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
P.P.S. I have a question for those of you who are reading this blog and for those of you who have accepted my “30 day challenge.”
Would you be interested in connecting over the Internet via a live webcast? This would enable us to have meaningful 2-way dialogue and to discuss far more than is permitted in the limited space of a blog.
If you are interested in participating in a live webcast, please send me an email to email@example.com and I will get back to you with details fairly soon.
Also, please give some thought to being a guest blogger. If you, or someone you know, has struggled with letting go of anger or bitterness, or if you, or they, have experienced the freedom that forgiveness brings, please share your story. Stories inspire, and perhaps through your story, someone’s life will change in a way they never dreamed possible. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your story.