The man who taught me it was okay to run away is the same man who taught me the importance of staying.

I was thirteen when I secretly hid in my parents' closet and listened to my dad tell someone on the phone that his days at home were numbered. I had no idea what he meant. Within a handful of months, my dad drove out of the driveway and away from his family for the first time.

That day was hell. My whole body ached. I grudgingly stomped to my room, slammed the door and threw myself on my unmade bed and sobbed for hours. Years later, I learned my mom did the exact same thing. I was a daddy's girl to a dad who didn't know if he even wanted to be a dad anymore.

Over time, my dad came back. He'd stay awhile and he and my mom would try and make a go at things until they both realized things just weren't working out. He'd leave. He'd cry. She'd cry. My siblings and I cried. It happened a couple of times. I stopped crying after the second time.

The last time he came home to stay was one I will never forget. It was late in the evening and my sister, brother and I were gathered together on our old blue sectional listening to him ramble on about all that he felt and knew he had done wrong. Without any hesitancy, he asked us to forgive him. My siblings offered a small nod, but all I could do was stare blankly into the too-white stucco wall. I had given him chances. He'd blown every single one. I was tired of watching my family fall apart. I could not forgive so easily.

We walked the same small hallway for months without talking. I refused to look at him. He didn't know how to change things so he kept quiet. I don't remember what changed. I have no recollection of a big event or an "aaaahhh haaaa" moment, but one day I just talked to him as if nothing had happened at all. We took it step by step until laughing and hugging became normal too.

At thirteen, fourteen, fifteen and even sixteen...I couldn't understand why my dad would do what he did. I didn't have enough perspective. I saw him as a really lame guy who found the easiest way out.

At almost thirty and with fifteen more years of experience behind me, I understand things so much differently. Here was a man not much older than I am now who was thrown into a life he was not prepared for. He and my mom married so young. They were practically babies. Not long after they tied the knot, those babies began raising their own babies. My mom had three babies and four other miscarriages in such a short amount of time that these two very innocent and wild barely twenty-year olds were forced to grow up. And really fast.

Not raised with any particular religion, my dad also struggled to find solid ground in a religion he was trying to conform to but one for which he lacked true conviction. All these things coupled with a job with never-ending hours, my dad burned out. He was a young man in an aging body who couldn't really see another way out.

Do I excuse his behavior? Not a chance. But I understand it. And more than that, I forgive it. This experience was a crash course in forgiveness. Forgiveness did not come easily. In reality, it took several years and lots of tears. There were days I really loved him and could squash the past without a blink but then there were other days when I wouldn't know how to talk to him and wished he'd leave again.

Webster's Dictionary defines the act of forgiving as "allowing room for error or weakness." I believe it's difficult to forgive people because we tend to hold others at the same, if not higher, standard as we hold ourselves. We think that we would never commit such an offense and struggle to find answers when others do. The experience with my dad taught me to see the very basic and raw natures within each of us. No matter how our outward physical appearance may define us, we are still children in a very eternal sense.

Whenever I am in a situation where forgiveness is needed, I try and remember that no one is perfect. I usually take a step back to absorb the whole picture because from my experience it is all too easy to react instead of act when a sticky situation arises. Once I've had a chance to take it all in, I sit on my feelings for awhile. I let them simmer and then boil and then simmer and then boil until I've thought things through. I usually end up deciding the only way to get past something is to agree to disagree. And then I approach the person. Days, weeks and perhaps months might have gone by, but I try not to leave loose ends loose for too long. Those ends can fray and get out of control until all you have is one really big, ugly mess to deal with.

I usually apologize first. Everyone wants to hear "I'm sorry." No one necessarily wants to bet the first one to say it, but everyone wants to hear it. Once the first apology is out, it is easy for me to talk things through. I believe this is how I eventually overcame everything with my dad. My dad and I have a great relationship now. I have such a profound respect for him. He is no longer the man he once was. Still, he is not the man he could be. He knows that as well as I do, but I know it is a daily struggle.

What are your thoughts on forgiveness? Do you react instead of acting? Am I missing a crucial step you have found helpful? Do tell. I bet I have a few readers who could benefit from your comments. ;)


  1. I am one that forgives a little too easily. I like everything to be happy and normal, so often I forgive just to have things "settled," then later on the ugly head of unresolved feelings returns with a vengeance. I guess I am more in need of working on talking everything out instead of sweeping it under the rug and hoping it will just go away peacefully.

    Your post today is beautifully written from the heart. Thank You!

  2. Truly forgiveness takes a lot of faith as well. It sounds like you learned a great deal in the whole process.

    We should always forgive (easier said than done for most). Life is too short to have such a heavy burden. :)

  3. Brady and I were just talking about forgiveness the other day. I love that you shared this. It is beautiful.

    I have found that forgiveness (for me) is an ongoing thing. I have to remind myself (over and over) to just let go. Like you said, it helps to try and understand where that person is coming from and why they made the choices they did. I always try to think of mistakes I've made and realize that some may not find it easy to forgive me for those, yet I know what led me to those decisions. Not an excuse, just and understanding that everyone reacts to "life" differently.


"Be kind and considerate with your criticism... It's just as hard to write a bad book as it is to write a good book." Malcolm Cowley