Nervous about the words I was about to speak to my father I hesitated to say them even though they were on the tip of my tongue. I had rehearsed them prior to dialing his phone number but even in that moment I wasn’t sure how it would be received. It took me years to reach the point of forgiveness of my father and the understanding of my father as a human being. It took a lot of self-reflection and my struggles as a man to comprehend that my father was human and severely flawed too.
To tell you the complete truth it took the shedding of my old skin to understand the non-existent father son relationship that my dad and I had. Hell; I remember it like it was yesterday but it was a little over seven years ago that I finally found the strength to speak the words I rehearsed. “I just want you to know that I love you and that I forgive you. I want you to know that I’m not angry with you about not being part of my life. I want you to know that mom never said anything bad about you to me and that I don’t view you in a negative light. I hope that we can build from this moment on ” “I love you too son” were the words that came through the phone but no apology.
I don’t know if my father truly heard the words and I’m positive he didn’t know how much internal pain I had been experiencing just a few years prior to that moment but what I did know was that moment wasn’t for my dad; it was for me. That moment wasn’t about my dad, it was about me. The person you need to speak to? That moment will be for you.
For me, that moment was the pivotal moment on my timeline of life that allowed me to release hurt, anger and disappointment regarding our relationship. Apology or not I was set free from the bondage that I had previously been a prisoner of. To put it quite frankly I was a slave to the anger and it was my master. I had to learn to accept the apology that would likely never come so I did.
The reason this is on my mind is because recently Hip Hop Artist Jay-Z said in his “Adnis Footnotes” video (find it on tidal) “All my songs up until this point have been about anger with my dad. As an adult looking back, now I have a different perspective of it. I started thinking, ‘Man, my dad married my mother at a time when everybody was leaving.’ He tried.
My mom had two kids before him. She had four kids by 20. I was the youngest child. They were young. That don’t check the box of what I thought. That don’t check the box of somebody who wasn’t shit. You married this woman with four kids and they was together for 11 years. Now the story gets different.”
Jay-z’s video and words brought me back to the moment when I realized that my dad’s story was different from what I had created in my mind. My dad married my mom who had one child prior to them getting married and they were married for thirteen years. In those thirteen years is a story of a flawed man who tried but that I didn’t know because I was too young to understand. The video reminded me that peace comes from finding understanding and accepting it. It also reminded me that some stories will never be known unless we tell them or speak to the people who need to tell them.
So why am I writing about this? Two reasons in particular. One; there’s someone out there who’s holding on to anger, hurt, broken bridges and aren’t able to move forward in their lives because they’re waiting for an apology from someone. The second reason is that I’ve never really spoken on this topic openly and maybe a different part of this article will help someone.
Furthermore, over the years of writing I’ve learned that my words are often a breath of fresh air for many and so if parts of my story can generate strength in someone else to finally say the words they’ve been dying to say to someone then who am I to not write?
Look this is a human life fact; people are flawed and many people are severely flawed. So much so that they don’t know how to say I’m sorry, they don’t have the foresight to understand the hindsight of how they screwed up. They don’t know how to explain the reasoning behind their decisions. They don’t know how to fix the broken relationship because they’ve never been the one to do so. Does that make them a bad person? No; it just makes them a flawed individual.
To complete my point, flawless lives don’t exist but your centering in those flawed relationships can exist if you learn to accept them for who they are and where they are in their lives. It’s not up to you to change them or to try to change them. The only responsibility that you have in a broken relationship is to find peace with it. To become centered and to remain centered isn’t easily done and it absolutely requires COMPLETE forgiveness in order to be in that place of balance.
Your happiness and peace in these relationship can exist by accepting the fact that some people don’t know the hurt they caused you and will never apologize. In all honesty; forgiveness is always more for you than it is for them. So if you don’t want to feel angst when either speaking or seeing the person or people involved in the pain caused then you have to come to an understanding with yourself about the situation.
You owe it to yourself to be the best version of you in every situation that you find yourself in; but how can you be that if just the mere thought of potentially crossing paths with someone makes you uneasy or makes you not want to go to the planned event? We can pretend that broken relationships that were once loving relationships don’t bother us and continue to lie to ourselves or we can be truthful about them and find healing.
The beginning of my healing came the moment I sat down and wrote a letter to my dad. I don’t remember my exact age but I do know I wasn’t quite twenty-five yet. I had no intention of mailing the letter but I knew I needed to say everything that I never did. I grabbed two loose leafs sheet of paper and a pen and began writing. After I finished I put the letter in an envelope, found a stamp and stared at it. I remember asking myself, “is this really worth it”?
I got my dad’s address from my uncle,wrote it down on the envelope and two days later I stood in front of the post office box wondering if I would get a response from my dad. Somewhere between “I’m not going to mail this” and finishing the letter I convinced myself it was best to mail it. I stood there as a grown man, scared to let go of this tiny envelope that carried the weight of the world in it but I dropped it into the dark crevices of that mail box and walked away.
I never received a response from my father. I don’t know if he opened it and cried or if it got lost along the way of Route 360 but what I do know is that I felt 50% better after the writing of that letter and 75% better after mailing it. I’m not telling you that you have to mail a letter or email or to even direct message the person who caused the pain but I am telling you to write down or type everything you need to say as if you will and then decide what to do with that letter afterwards. Let that be the beginning of your healing regarding the broken relationship.
After you do that step, read the words you wrote at least five times over the course of a week. Let it sink in and after each read say out loud “I’m releasing this weight and I forgive you but more importantly I forgive myself for allowing you to hurt me.” Do this before you send the email or letter, do this even if you choose not to send. The next step is in speaking with the person or people who has caused the hurt and anger.
The goal however should not be you speaking to them to make them feel guilty or to get an apology. The goal is for you to clear your plate of the negative energy that exist in the relationship. The goal is for you to find the strength to ask them to just listen as you say the things you need to say in order for you to find peace.
Remember, you already forgave them after you finished writing your letter so you speaking to them is not about their apology, it’s about you taking back control over your emotions, feelings and energy regarding the relationship. That moment is not about them, it’s about you and they don’t need to know that. That moment is about you finding your strength again so that you can move forward with love.
Mahatma Gandhi said “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” and Martin Luther King Jr said “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” Keeping that in mind, constantly remind yourself that you’re strong enough to forgive just like I was strong enough to forgive my father. None of this of course guarantees that the relationship will get better but my relationship with my father did improve afterwards so maybe the broken relationship that you have will too.
In closing, my dad wasn’t a bad person or a bad friend to his friends. He just wasn’t a good father and that’s okay because I understand that’s how it had to be. The person who has hurt you likely isn’t a bad person, they just weren’t good to you for whatever self reason. I want you to know that you can completely heal without speaking to the person who has caused the pain,it will just take longer to do so without speaking the words that need to be said to them. Look, I don’t know about you but if I had a choice of the short road or the long road to my happiness I’d choose the shorter path every time. Good Luck!
“We are all mistaken sometimes; sometimes we do wrong things, things that have bad consequences. But it does not mean we are evil, or that we cannot be trusted ever afterward.”
― Alison Croggon