Forgiveness has always baffled me. What is it, and how do you do it? Why is it so hard?
My journey with my father, who is diagnosed schizophrenic, is where I have learned the most about forgiveness. The schizophrenia manifested in terrifying ways, like violence and stalking me once I severed ties with him. I spent much of my life in anger, wondering why he would treat me the way he did.
After 25 years of separation, I finally reconnected with him to fill a hole in my heart. The reunion was tender, and our relationship blossomed with the help of medication and healthy boundaries.
Upon our reunion, one thing I really wanted was an apology. I wanted an apology to acknowledge everything that happened and how damaging it was. I never got one. This confused me. I knew he was elated 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 realized that I could not make him apologize. Even if I could, it would be empty since it would not come from him.
I was still carrying the weight of the anger, though. This did not make any sense at all. Why would I take the burden for something he did?
I wanted, actually needed, to let go of the pain since it was affecting my health, relationships, and entire life. This was 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.
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 did not think he did anything wrong. He did not need to apologize, nor did he need my forgiveness. He was doing what any protective father would do.
This changed everything for me. All those days, I so desperately prayed that my father loved me. He did. In no way am I condoning his behavior. And I have so much compassion and empathy for him. What is happening for him with the illness that made him think I was not alive? Instantly the weight of what I was carrying was lifted. I felt lighter and more joyful than ever before.
The illness is not my father. My father is a brilliant and charismatic man with a huge heart who is experiencing schizophrenia. I do not need to forgive him. I need to accept him and love him with healthy boundaries. In doing so, I found my freedom.
Please let me know if I can ever help you find your freedom too. I am here for you.
Jessica Zemple helps people shuck open their shells of fear with love to let their pearls shine, leading to a more fulfilling life!
She is the founder of Life Shucker and helps individuals and organizations find their deeper purpose and translate that into authentic success through transformative coaching, workshops, and retreats. Jessica is also a keynote speaker and has written for Huffington Post, Inc., and Thrive Global. Jessica’s life coaching philosophies and techniques have been featured in Entrepreneur, Forbes, Huffington Post, and Inc.
This Minnesotan born yippie, yuppie hippie, now finds herself in San Diego traveling off the beaten path, hiking around the world, cycling the California coast, and spending time with the ones she loves when not shucking. Her favorite letter is “S,” she has seen four sunrises in one day and feels like she won the lottery with Bob Marley as her spirit guide.
For more pearls of wisdom and a FREE copy of her new book “Shuck This Way,” please e-mail Jessica Zemple at email@example.com.
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