April 23, 2008

I Hate You Because You Influenced Me

I will warn you...this is a rather personal post on my behalf. I am not sure I want this out in cyberspace, but I am posting it because I know I am not the only one dealing with these issues. I know it often helps to know others feel the same way. So here it is...

A few days ago, I learned that my absentee, biological father is dying. By absentee I mean I have only seen him about 6-8 times my entire life for brief moments; the last time, aside from this past Monday, was over 12 years ago for about an hour. Not what would be called a budding father-son relationship.

This lack of relationship and desertion has caused many feelings of hurt and anger through the years. In fact, I have worked through the anger and hurt repeatedly over the past 34 years. I work through issues of forgiveness, and then something triggers the anger and hurt all over again. I never imagined the hurt and anger that would be my personal wrestling match this past weekend. Something about knowing he is dying (2-4 weeks) brought out something different. I had to wrestle with whether or not I would even visit; whether or not I even wanted to visit.

Sometimes you just have to talk to someone...sometimes its not even on purpose. You are just processing stuff and it seems to come out to everyone around you. I talked with a friend who had found himself in a similar situation. I told him about my father. He said, "I tried that forgiveness thing with my father before he died. If I were you I would say 'F@#$ him' and just move on! It will always be disappointing." Another friend told me I sounded selfish because I didn't know if I wanted to see him.

I wrestled all weekend with what I was going to do. I even drove the 30 miles to his apartment, didn't stop, turned around and came back home. It wasn't until Monday morning that I finally decided to visit, and so I returned.

As I sat in his living room, I could hardly speak to him...or look at him.

What do you say to someone who is your father, and yet you don't have a clue what he is like?

So I watched. I watched how he interacted. I listened to what he said. And I got mad. I got mad because I saw mannerisms and facial expressions that were my own. It made me angry that someone who was never a part of my life should still have an influence in who I am. Even the anger and pain at his absence have shaped me. I hated him for that influence.

But I also pitied him. He knows his mistakes. He feels the guilt. He hasn't said so, but I can see it in his eyes; I can hear it in his voice.

After a half hour watching, talking with he and the other guests, he got up to go outside and motioned for me to come along. In those few private moments he explained the cancer and treatment process. I sat fighting the urge to just let him have it, and knowing, deep down, that I had to forgive.

Ever since my daughter was young we have prayed with her before putting her to bed. The standard, and only, prayer we have prayed is the Lord's Prayer; kids like consistency. On Sunday night, as we prayed, I heard the words a little differently... "Forgives us our trespasses as we also for those who trespass against us." I didn't like them in this instance, but there they were, and I knew that I would have to reach that point. I had to forgive him not because it would let him off the hook for what he had done or because he would start weeping and ask for the forgiveness. I had to forgive because I had never verbalized it to him, and because a lack of forgiveness only hurts me and my relationships with everyone else and the God I claim to serve.

So as we sat on the back porch of his apartment, I forced the words out..."I forgive you whether or not you want it or accept it." There it was. I said it, and he took it. Nothing really happened. He was quiet. I was quiet. It was an anti-climactic ending to a fews days of intense inner turmoil.

I still don't know if I actually mean it or understand the extent of what I said...sometimes the words have to come before the actuality. I still don't know what will come the visit, but at least there is an opening. We'll see...

I have written briefly on this before:
Reflections of a Fatherless Father


  1. Hi Eric - I appreciate your sharing. Believe me, you are not alone - many go through similar situations as yours and it's good to get it out. I have a stepmother I abhor who is dying of colon cancer - I also struggle with issues of forgiveness and I may or may not see her before she dies. Forgiveness is hard but I learned that I can forgive someone while I still don't like them or agree with what they do. I wish you peace with this.

  2. Eric,

    I can only think of the man who said to Jesus, "I believe. Help my unbelief." God knows us in ways we can't fathom. I have to believe that a good, loving, and just God has grace for you and your situation with your father--however it plays out. Peace be with you brother. --Andy Lauer