8. Another Point of View

8. Another Point of View

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

Another Point of View

Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.

~Author Unknown

Forgiving someone can seem like the toughest thing in the world to do. But it became easy once I realized it wasn’t the other person keeping me from forgiving; it was myself.

My mother and father divorced when I was five years old. Even though I knew they had problems, and that my father had moved on to be with someone else, I was still a child who wanted his family together. So when my father finally said goodbye to my brother, sister and me, it felt like we were being abandoned. I couldn’t forgive him for walking away from our family.

My father was not totally absent as we grew up. For the first year he came to see us once a month and take us out for our birthdays to celebrate. But the more time passed, the less we saw of him. By the time our family moved to California when I was nine, he wasn’t coming around much at all. Once we were 1,500 miles away, he wrote once in a great while, then not at all.

Our stay in California came to a close two years later. My mom’s company had closed, and jobs were hard to come by. So we moved back to Texas to be closer to family and return to the place that had always felt like home. I have to admit that I hoped our father would come back into our lives. For a short time, he did.

Shortly after he learned we were back in Texas, he contacted us. He said he had missed us and wanted us to be part of his family. At first we didn’t understand, but my mom explained our father had a different family now, a new wife and children, and he wanted us to live with them. Because she loved us so much, our mom left the decision up to the three of us. My brother, sister and I went to my father’s house and met his new family. We got along well enough with the other kids and his wife. But we had been a family with our mom for so long, that was where we wanted to be. We told our father, and I knew he was disappointed. Soon after that we didn’t see him anymore.

I felt abandoned for a second time, and swore I would never forgive him again. I knew that he had been asking for another chance and we had given it. Although we hadn’t chosen to live with him, we still loved him. But when he didn’t visit, call or write, I couldn’t forgive him for forgetting about us a second time.

Years went by, and we all grew up and started families of our own. Any anger I felt turned into a kind of numbness, and I tried not to think of my father at all. Then one day we were notified that he had passed away from a long illness. Any chance of forgiveness was gone—or so I thought.

One day, while visiting my mom, I mentioned how I felt about things. She smiled and said, “That was so long ago, and maybe it was too hard to try to keep hold of both families at once. You made the decision to be a family with me. Maybe he needed to try to be a family for them.”

I thought long and hard about that, about all the anger and resentment I had felt over the years, at my unwillingness to forgive my father for leaving us. Then I thought about what my mom had said, and about all the challenges I had faced with my own family. I realized I really didn’t know what had been happening in his life, and what he might have felt he was giving up in letting go of us to hang on to a new family. Maybe it was the hardest thing he’d ever had to do. Maybe he had never forgotten about us after all.

At that moment I let go of my anger and felt a sense of forgiveness in my heart. I knew that I could never walk in his shoes or understand everything about what he might have been going through. I forgave at that moment, knowing my life with my mom and brothers and sister had been a good one, and that being unwilling to forgive my father was only hurting me. The weight that lifted at that moment was tremendous. Since then I have lived with the understanding that the best we can do is the best we can do. That we should give others the benefit of the doubt that they are doing their best too, and forgive them when they seem to fall short. Hopefully, sometime in his life, my father did the same for himself.

~John P. Buentello

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