“Pretend the bushes are clouds” my father said as I attempted to ride my bike sans training wheels. I was 7 years old and it was that day, I formed my first memorable disappointment in my dad. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Maya and I projected unfair ideals on my dad from a very early age. See, the bushes were what was keeping me to reaching my goal. I was on one side of the bushes and he was on the other. Every time I attempted to ride, I would look at the bushes, anticipate the pain of falling and crash right into them. Somehow, my own mental block of moving past these bushes by simply continuing to pedal towards my dad, turned into me no longer trusting his encouragement, me giving up and I continued to ride my bike with training wheels until I was 9 years old and had to lean myself to the right to get the training wheel to touch the ground.
Lets start with the backstory. My parents divorced when I was less than a year old so I have never lived with my father full time, but let me put out this disclaimer and things I know to be true.
- My dad was always just a phone call away. He made himself very accessible to me.
- He was “down the street” meaning that no matter where he lived, I always knew I could see him and was welcome in his home.
- My daddy loves his baby girl. Even in the difficult parts of our relationship, I have no doubts that he loves me.
- My mother has always respected and spoken highly of my father. She allowed me to form my own opinions and be open with my hurts but never talked negatively about him to me.
- I had frequent visits and time with my dad through the years.
- This is MY experience. I choose to only speak on me and what I am willing to share and although the subject is a parent I share with others, my journey and truth are unique to me.
- This is not a cure all. It is one small piece to a long process.
Having never seen my parents living together as husband and wife, although I wondered at times what it wold be like to live together and be a part of the family I saw in photos, I never had a big wish that my parents would be married. However I did desire a stronger relationship with my dad. You know, like the ones on TV with the cutest story lines where the daughter knows her daddy will pull through for her no matter what. My favorite father daughter dynamics came from TV families, mainly the Cosby’s, 7th heaven. Full house and The Fresh Prince.
I always felt like I was missing out because there were no late night kitchen ice cream heart to hearts, bed side talks about crushes or even being caught and knowing I was disappointing him and had a family standard to live up to. I didn’t get that. I got weekend walks, movies and trips to Gottschalks and a host of other memories that I am grateful for. With my head full of this idealistic father daughter relationship I grew to resent what I did have
As I grew older and more aware I was exposed to more of the different obstacles my dad faced in his personal journey. His choices led to some strain in our dynamic and I began to find it harder and harder to forgive him for him not choosing to be all that I wanted him to be in my life. I was hurt and angry and began to exhibit signs of what is called the “Father wound”
I can relate with the effects of a non approving, not affectionate, not predictable and not present father. I fight daily to overcome the effects his choices had on me. I struggled tremendously with Codependency especially with my mother and sought affection through the approval of others. In attempts to be the most dependable, consistent, and best at everything, my efforts were daily being put into to receive the most reaffirming, positive and uplifting feedback from anyone I came into contact with. I personified the person I wanted to be there for me. In some ways I became an ideal or ( satisfying one’s conception of what is perfect; most suitable) myself.
When I was in college, I tried my hardest to build a clean slate with my dad. It was also when I experienced the most rejection and hurt from him. His personal battles and struggles were seemingly at an all time high and I continued to reach out and try. I wanted his approval and to be accepted by him so bad but I also was learning to use my voice and those just didn’t mix. It got ugly and we ended up being estranged for quite some time. I refused to break the boundaries I had set and I also wasn’t willing to forgive him. It had moved far from the childhood disappointments. These issues were much deeper rooted and the impact it had on me left me feeling shattered and in a state of internal/mental crisis.
After years of these experiences and feeling and hurts, how did all of it affect me without forgiveness? I felt stuck, I could only get so far before I would self sabotage. I attempting filling the void and with being so busy and loving to others. I neglected healing and working on my personal growth. I was an emotional eater. I was extremely angry but since that didn’t go with my public persona I was extremely harsh and hateful towards myself and I internalized a lot of negativity. If I was left alone too long with my own life I would sink into depression and end up just like my worst fear, wasted potential.
Some of you may feel like your father or mother or whatever relative doesn’t deserve your forgiveness. They need to know that their actions were wrong and they don’t deserve to be let off the hook for all of the hurt they have caused you and those you love. I never forgave my father for him, I did it for me. I did it because holding on to the hurt was keeping me from progress. Keeping me from love, from happiness, from wholeness,peace, freedom… I needed to let it go.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
Change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Forgiving my father effectively came in the form of laying down the ideals and looking at what is true. My father is not Cliff Huxtable so I needed to stop expecting him to be. This highlights to me the importance of getting to know people for who they are and not who we want them to be. His truth is that he is a black man who grew up in adversity in the civil rights era in Texas. He is a product of his circumstance and generations. This is not an excuse but what is real. Things could have been very different but his choices are not my responsibility or anything that I could have changed so I needed to accept and forgive him for those things. It was difficult for me to be able to see him as who he was and not the character I had created in my mind. This man with the life he was given just happened to have a child who happened to be me.
I think this hit me hardest when I realized how much grace I gave to the men in my life I entertained who had children who they were not fully active in their lives. I would reassure them that the work they were doing to better themselves and find their stability and peace would pay off in the long run and was important for them to take this time to heal and grow and just as quick as I could believe my words I gave those men in hopes that they would love me, I could see that I didn’t afford that same grace to my own father.
Letting go freed me. It allowed me to have a greater love and appreciation for him as a man and my father. I am able to operate in my wholeness and it caused a chain reaction to show me who else I needed to forgive, including myself. The thing about forgiveness is, its not a one time thing. Matthew 18:22, Jesus says to forgive 7×70 times. I see this as not a math equation but an example of how it isn’t something that you can measure. Every time an offense occurs or you feel those effects of forgiveness rising up, its time to forgive some more.
Maybe its not your father, maybe its your friend, your spouse, your abuser, yourself… but I encourage you to examine yourself. Spend some time reflecting. Get in counseling, seek wise council, pray, do what you have to do. Even if you never get an apology you have to make up your mind that you are committed to doing everything in your power to grow and heal. Forgive and forgive some more because the things God has for you have no room if you are holding on to unforgiveness. Plus unforgiveness in one of those things that has babies. They are named, bitterness, hatred, stagnancy and there are plenty more. It will not be cute. It will not be easy or painless but it will be worth it.
You are worth your freedom.
Thank you for reading.