The column below by Diane Cameron, an upstate New York writer, will put a different spin on the usual Father's Day gift. Forget about the shirts and hammocks and grill tools. What she's suggesting is so much more difficult to come by, and it's often hard to find just the right size and color. She's talking about forgiveness. Real forgiveness. Forgiveness in the face of lingering hurt and resentment.
I'm fortunate not to have to worry about this kind of issue with my own dad. I'll be calling him tomorrow, but, then again, we talk every Sunday. At least. And my toughest parent-related issue seems to be how to find enough cards and gifts for the man whose birthday falls -- this year at least -- the day after Father's Day. But I understand the need for the kind of forgiveness Cameron is talking about. I offered this kind of forgiveness to someone once and had it thrown back in my face. So I have quietly forgiven, realizing that the other party may never come around, that the other party -- as Cameron suggests -- may have no more than 40 percent to give.
Here's the start of her column, which ran in the Albany Times Union today. It's worth reading in its entirety, so please be sure to make the jump to the full version:
In the book, "Alcoholics Anonymous," Bill Wilson wrote, "Resentment is the number one offender." You might expect the founder of AA to say that booze or too much drinking was the big problem. But no, Wilson, 20th-century self-made philosopher and self-made alcoholic, knew better.
He continued in the same paragraph, "From resentment flows all forms of spiritual disease."
Most of us know that, but it's hard to get unstuck when a good, juicy resentment takes hold of you, so I like this pithier saying: "Holding a resentment is like setting yourself on fire and hoping the other person dies of smoke inhalation."
Resentment as a topic as Father's Day approaches? But of course.
All of us had fathers. And with today's social changes -- divorce and remarriage -- some of us have two or more, so there's plenty of fuel for those fires. Our parents disappoint us and we, in our turn, disappoint our children. In some families the injuries are bad: Fathers may abuse, abandon, deprive or neglect. What do you do when you smell the smoke?
The antidote to resentment is, of course, forgiveness. Perhaps that will be the theme for some sermons tomorrow and surely a forgiveness story will show up on the Hallmark Channel as well. But life is not a made-for-TV movie, so how do you save yourself from the heat of resentment?
I had to extinguish a fiery resentment that I carried for years about my father. When I was young, my dad worked many hours, traveled a lot, left us with my mother, who was ill, and then died young.
I had a big box of matches and I struck them all over myself. I had this idea that I just didn't get what I needed from my father. More than one therapist agreed that my "issues" did indeed come from that deprivation. That intellectual understanding helped me to a certain degree but it also functioned as dry tinder for my favorite fire.
Then a few years ago on a retreat, I was telling my story and the retreat leader gave me a surprising bit of redirection...Continue reading HERE.