What happens when you forgive someone?
Sometimes you unlock old memories of their goodness. Goodness that’s been overshadowed by their transgressions, but still exists.
And sometimes, you unlock your own anger and resentment in the process.
Calvin Sandborn, a professor of environmental law and the legal director of the University of Victoria Environmental Law Clinic, sent me a story of his from Canada’s National Post. The Dark Side of Dad, printed just before Father’s Day, begins,
Tomorrow I’ll think fondly of Dad. Which is odd, because I hated him when he was alive.
Dad was an angry, hard-swearing, tattooed man’s man. He’d been an Alaska bush pilot, but by the time I came along, he was a California travelling salesman, drinking himself to death. When I was two he got drunk and threw my empty crib across the bedroom. When I was 12, he challenged my brother to a fist fight. He routinely shouted at us in front of our friends. By the time I was 13, I wished he would die.
And then he did. I thought that my wish had killed him, and for the longest time I couldn’t forgive myself. I was scared to death I would damage someone else.
But four decades on, I’ve forgiven myself for hating him. More difficult, I’ve somehow forgiven myself for the Dad-like fury I inflicted on my own family.
…a funny thing happened after I forgave him. A different Dad returned from the shadows, borne by a flood of memory.
While Calvin’s writing about the anger of men, and of fathers and sons, his story resonated powerfully for me because of my own dad’s story. While my dad showed no fury, he kept himself hidden from us.
What are you waiting for?
Calvin’s book, Becoming the Kind Father: A Son’s Journey sounds like a powerful, important read.