Understanding & Forgiveness


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I've experienced some enlightenment these past few months that I'd like to share.

The reason you haven't heard much from me in the past several months is that I've been working about 60 to 80 hours per week.  Some weeks more than that.  It is this level of work that brought me to some enlightenment recently.

Many of you know that I've got daddy issues. But I'm finally coming to understand him.  And with that understanding comes some forgiveness. Much of what I'm about to say is basically what I'd kind of heard when I was younger.  But not being in the situation, I just blew it off as people trying to excuse bad behavior.  And maybe that was true to some extent.  But the fact is that it isn't about excusing bad behavior, but about finding forgiveness in my own heart.

My father had to be heavily focused on customer service.  The nature of his business always required that he interact with people almost constantly.  And even when he was not interacting with customers, he interacted with each of his employees.  He had to keep a smile on his face even when he was being treated horribly and even being taken advantage of.  He did this for 50 to 60 hrs/wk as the norm and had even busier weeks as the seasons changed.  My business is not nearly as people focused as his business was.  But I still have to do my share of people pleasing.  One thing I found was that not only did I not have much time for my family, but I also didn't have the energy to "keep up the front."  And that was when it hit me.  

On the one hand, he was constantly stuck in this "keep up appearances" mode because that is what customer service really is.  And when he was not quite so busy at work, he had enough energy where he would be able to keep it up at home as well.  On the other hand, when he did not have enough energy to keep it up, he was just brutally honest.  And it wasn't kindness we saw from him.

When I was younger and didn't understand the idea of deception, all I knew was that I "felt weird" around my dad.  The thing of it is, I felt it not in his actions, but in his words and gestures.  He was almost constantly in customer service mode.  And for him, that meant lying to people.  He always told people what they wanted to hear just so he would be considered a pleasant person to work with.  So, he was so practiced in it that he carried it over to his home life.  He could have found real traits to compliment people on.  But he decided to compliment us on things that he "thought" we wanted to hear.  All that did was make me feel weird whenever he tried to be nice to me.   This is just the tip of the iceberg when it came to my dad.

So, what was this great revelation I had?

All my life, I thought of my dad as a liar.  I always hated lies.  It hurt me emotionally (even when I didn't understand what I was feeling) when others lied to me.  And if I ever lied to others, I felt something that was almost a physical pain.  That's why I tend to stay away from lies as much as I can. Although, I'll admit that sometimes, I find subtle deception to be an art that I have fun with.  And it is usually in jest or for a topic of iinsignificance.

What I have learned is that his "lies" were his way of trying to be better.  It's "acting as if".  Yes, "acting as if" is a type of lie, even if it is in a pursuit to become that noble state you're pretending to be.  And it bugged me.  It hurt me (as I've explained).  But in understanding his motivation, I'm finding that it is becoming easier to find forgiveness in my heart when I think of him.  I now see that he really was simply "doing the best he could with what he had at the time."

The saying is that the purpose of the Church is to make bad men good; good men better, and better men best.  My dad was a bad man.  But he became better, as much as he could.  He really tried.  And I can see through this new lens and recognize that he did indeed become more than he was.  Maybe he became a good man.  I'm not in a place where I can judge that.  But I now have found some compassion to realize that he was simply doing the best he could with what he had to work with.  He tried.  And he kept trying as best as he knew how.

The other day I was talking to my son about how much I'd seen him grow.  He told me the same about me.  Then he described some traits that I shared with my father -- some traits which I would certainly do better without.  I was initially angry.  But when I gave it just a couple of moments' thought, I realized he was absolutely right.  My son has a "brutal honesty" about him, which I guess he got from me.  Sometimes it is annoying when your kids put a mirror up to your face.  But he was right.  I was like my dad in so many ways.

I finally said,"You know, you're right.  All I can say is that I'm doing better than my father did.  And I see that you're doing better than I have."

He said,"That's the way it's supposed to work, isn't it?

What I realized he meant was that as flawed as I am, he was grateful that I had improved myself from the condition my father was, so that he could then improve himself even further than I had.  I saw for the first time the "picture of hope" in my son.  He was going to be alright.  His children were going to be alright.

It is unfortunate that I came to this realization this late in life.  But I wasn't really ready for it earlier.  And it is even more unfortunate that my father has fallen victim to dementia to the point where he doesn't recognize members of his own family anymore.

It is unfortunate that he'll never know that I have finally found a way to invite forgiveness to take place in my heart for him. But I'm finally finding some peace inside myself.

Edited by Carborendum
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As I've mentioned before, in real life I have an MBA. 

I took classes (yes, plural) that heavily leaned into sales / customer service / formal communication. Every word and phrase had to be measured to ensure that they were as inoffensive as possible and always expressed as much optimism and cheer as appropriate. 

I mastered it, of course, for the sake of my grade, but pretty quickly caught on how much of it was acting. The original idea behind it all was that you have to check your emotions at the door so that you can focus on getting the job done, but at no point did they ever say "Yeah, once you're off the clock you're good".

I think that's part of what your dad fell into, as no one ever gave him permission to drop the mask once he was off the clock. 

The other part? In the US military, there's a culture that the way the family of each service member behaves is a reflection of that service member, with many civilian spouses presuming that they have the rank of their military spouse. I was raised in that way, and so know how it is that people sometimes hold up their own families as "see how model they are? It means I'm a model person as well!" without thinking through the implications. 

After a while, everything goes to maintaining that facade even if what's underneath it is falling apart, the whole bit about "whited sepulchers". 



Yes, this is the same overall program where I wound up being taught the "applied psychological warfare" side of marketing.

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