DEAR WHY TEAM MEMBER,
I hope this week’s message finds you well and honoring your parents. Whether you grew up with them or not, we each have a mother and a father and it is important to honor them - no matter what you may think of them.
Why Honor Both Your Parents?
For them, yourself and those you love.
In 1974, at age eleven, my mom, my dad and only sibling, my sister and I went on a family trip to Disney World. When we left, I did not know that I would not be returning. You don’t leave forwarding addresses to your friends at age 11, you just disappear. It took 28 years before my best friend found me and I remember crying on the phone with him asking him who I was before my life came apart.
One night, while still on our trip in Florida, my father came to me and woke me from my sleep, I was disoriented, he got close to my face and said the words I will never forget: “Son, I’m sorry, but daddy has to leave”.
I didn’t realize in that moment how significant a shift in the course of my life. Thinking of that moment now it’s especially impactful as I have three children of my own. I know how it felt to hear those words and now I can better imagine how it must have felt for my father to say them.
Earlier that evening, on that vacation, my mother found out that my father was having an affair and asked him to leave. I was estranged from my father for the next 33 years of my life. It is said that most overachievers aren’t running to something but are rather running from something. I had gotten it into my head very early on that my father was a loser and I was determined not to be one.
Only recently have I come to realize that my father really only abandoned me for about five years - lost in his grief and despair - and it was me who abandoned him the additional 28 years.
He tried to reconnect, and I would have nothing to do with him. It wasn’t until I had my own children and struggled with my own marriage that I came to develop a heart that could open enough to reconcile.
We reconciled 13 years ago.
While not always smooth, I have learned so much about myself through the journey – insights, I hope, that have broken some family cycles.
A couple of years after reconciling with my dad, I remember my mom saying to me, “Honey, I never said anything bad about your father”.
I responded, “I know Mom, but you cut his head out of every family photo” :-)
What is the highway to hell paved with? Good Intentions.
My mother was my greatest human gift on earth. I am largely who I am because of her, but she wasn’t perfect, none of us are - and if we become intolerant with one or both of our parents, you can bet we are intolerant with a part of ourselves.
When I was 11 years old, I was not yet an independent autonomous adult;
I was my father, I was my mother and when they split, who I was split as well. It is not uncommon for a child to choose one parent over the other - it is particularly tragic when divorcing parents use their kids to hurt their ex; this calls for even more forgiveness.
If you have gone through anything like this in your life, consider admiring the qualities your parent had that they were unable to manifest in their lives. Consider seeing yourself as being the best of your parents rather than fearing you will become the worse of them. I know, without a doubt, that facing my deepest fear of being my father, opened me up to the importance of seeing my father differently; which positively impacted my view of life, marriage and fatherhood.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves”.
Viktor E. Frankl
Until we can find a way to honor our parents, not the worst of their behavior, but the best - we won’t come to love and honor ourselves, flaws and all. And if you have no good memories - connect with the possibilities that no doubt were dormant within them - and be the child that brings those positive possibilities to light.
What we don’t face stays in our face and obscures our own possibilities. Open those hands, let go of the painful past and with those open hands, you are now more open to receive all the good that life has planned for you.
From JW.Org Ephesians 6:2-3:
2 “Honor your father and your mother” is the first command, with a promise: 3 “That it may go well with you and you may remain a long time on the earth.”
Forgiving my father was one of the most difficult and most beneficial decisions of my life; and I know, without a doubt, because of the forgiveness, my life, and my family’s life, has gone much better as a result. I will be forever grateful for the dropping of bitterness and the receiving of gifts that come from forgiveness, the lightness of soul that has allowed me to really live and love my life. And may I remain a long time on the earth as well ;-)
Most of us are just trying to do the best we can - let’s forgive, let’s give and live lives that lift up and make the world a better place.
Make it a great week!