June 19, 2016
Making Peace With Your Dad
I’ve gone on record to say a lot of tough stuff about my dad. In both written and spoken word, I have given strangers a front row seat to my life, and in doing so, a peek behind the curtain of the lives who have shaped me. If you have read or listened to any bits of my story, you have been privy to a look into the life of my dad.
My dad is a significant piece of my story, (as dads everywhere will always be to all of us). He was by no means the cause of my teenage rebellion and toxic adult behaviors, but, he has taken a hit in my story as a role I wished had been played differently. There has been deep hurt and wounding between the two of us—for most of my life, our relationship has been a see-saw between estranged and explosive.
If you are my reader, you know about the “issues” between me and my dad from one perspective—mine. But what you may not know is that the only reason anyone has any peek behind this particular curtain in my life is due to the fact that my dad continues to give me permission to pull it back.
From the very beginning of my public storytelling, (circa 2010), Randy has read and listened to a lot of hard things. And do you know–he has never once pushed back. Not once. How many people do you know that would let their story be told publicly from another’s perspective without speaking up, pushing back, or getting defense? Um, no one.
In light of this, dad, you get the first words of this post. I want to say a few things to you that I have never said. And I want to do it publicly.
#1 Dad, thank you for being humble and honest in the hardest chapters of our life. Thank you for allowing me tell my side of the story—my truth of us, which is subjective at best. My truth is most assuredly skewed, limited, and tainted with my own selfishness, and yet, you give me permission to say it again and again. This is an unbelievable gift, and I am so sorry that it has taken me 6 years to realize just how beautiful and gracious it is.
#2 Dad, thank you for doing so many things right and well in 36 years. To be specific…
- Thank you for waking up every morning and working tirelessly in a thankless, hard job to pay the bills and put food on our table. If this is all you ever did for us, it is enough.
- Thank you for instilling a work ethic in me that is rare and wasted in this generation. I enjoy getting things done while the sun is up. I am motivated and driven to use my hands to create change, because you showed me the example of hard work.
- Thank you for teaching me how to establish order and cleanliness inside my home and business. Oh sure, it can go ‘crazy-pants’ and ‘boundary-like’ real quick, but at the end of it, most people prefer us this way. (They call us when they want something planned or organized anyways. I think we’ve both come to terms with being “that friend”—ha).
- Speaking of friends. Thank you for showing me what loyalty looks like in friendship. Honestly, I’m not a great friend to many. I’ve never done well holding more than 3 friends close at one time. But, I will bleed out for the 3 that I do. My loyalty and devotion to these is to the death, and I learned that from watching you love and serve your closest friends selflessly without walking. Now in your 50s, I am watching you fix stuff and have a drink with the same 3 friends from your 20s. That’s a big deal, dad. Maybe all any of us might hope for when it comes to friendship.
- Mostly dad, and #3, thank you for forgiving me. I have been/can be an arrogant, bossy, angry, and unstable ass of a human being. I have run you through the ringer of every form of teenage rebellion, and then went on to write it all down in a book for people to read. (This is brutal by anyone’s standard). Yet through it all, you have never voiced hurt or defense. You continue to call and show up. You love your grandkids lavishly and with no shame to who we once were (I love this. It is redemption in its purest form). You come to birthday parties, cook for holidays, and never left my side through the sickness and near death of cancer. You have fixed so many broken things in my house, on my car, and over the phone.
Randy, it may have taken us a few years to find our footing, but, I am really grateful that God chose you for me. It’s really important you know that. It’s important you know that I love you and no longer need anything from you. It’s important you read some words from this chapter of our story—words that publicly show others that God is real and at work to make all things new. I don’t want another Father’s Day to pass without you knowing that I choose you and love you. I’m so glad you are a part of my story, dad.
Your always first daughter,
A Word for Daughters who Desire PEACE with their Dad.
The wounds of a present father cut deep, but the wounds of an absent father cut deeper. Daughters, whether you find yourself presently in or out of relationship with your dad, may I hope for you the ointment of peace at the deepest place of your wounding.
Here are some truths that have soothed me as the balm of reconciliation for my father and I over 36 years of aching…
ONE. There is always another perspective. Daughters, remember this when it comes to your dad. Your dad also had a dad, and his dad had a dad. Your father comes from a long lineage of broken people loving in very broken ways. In his childhood, physical touch was given or withheld, feelings were allowed or shamed, sexuality was discussed or mocked. Whatever language of love was spoken in your father’s home, it is most likely the only love language he is fluent enough in to speak to you, daughter. The gate of reconciliation opens with the acknowledgement that your father’s perspective is important and necessary to yours.
TWO. Understanding may be enough. If it is possible to have a conversation with your dad about who he was and is, have it. Context opens our eyes to the fact that lines drawn in the sand are fuzzier than they appear. Perspective always cuts a path to forgiveness. Asking questions about why a person does what they do in no way dismisses or excuses our injury, but it does usher in greater understanding of the injury. This may be all that is available or needed, daughters. You may never receive a verbal “I’m sorry,” but after understanding more of why your father is who he is, you may no longer need it.
THREE. Reconciliation is choosing to make peace despite ourselves. Often times, reconciliation is choosing peace with a person who is actively engaging in poor, harmful, or sinful choices. (Ahem, just like God does with humans every, single day). If dad’s choices are causing harm to us (mentally, emotionally, or physically), daughters are given the right to walk away. Removing ourselves from a toxic situation can be a sign of peace-making. It can also cause more pain than good if we walk too soon. Each one of us must honestly gauge our strength, truth, and ability to endure. Daughters in their 20s may not yet have the fortitude to endure constant shaming from their father, while daughters in the 40s have mostly likely developed thicker skin and ‘shake it off’ reflexes. Because of Jesus, we each get to say what is good and bad for us, with the undercurrent of hope reminding us that there is more and we are probably wrong about something. The key to walking out in reconciliation is to be sure to remind the person who is hurting us that we are not gone forever. We do this, daughters, by first acknowledging the huge log in our own eye, clearly and humbly (Matthew 7). Second, we remind our father that the moment he is ready to acknowledge our truth, we will recommit to his. This reconnection conversation should then be filtered through the 3 H’s (thanks for teaching me this little brother): Honor, Help, and Honesty. Once we are both (daughters and dads) ready to only say what is true, most respectful, and most helpful to other person, we can return to one another for a working out of the relationship.
FOUR. Forgiveness is not contingent on reconciliation. Daughter, if you believe in Jesus Christ, He has given you access to his power and the authority to use it in your life. Through the Spirit, we can extend and receive forgiveness without a word spoken. Daughters, some of you may never get a chance to share a meal or conversation with you father, and yet, your heart can be full and free to the depths with peace. Forgiveness in no way means excusing or forgetting what is very real hurt to you. Forgiveness is not a feeling that you are suddenly okay or happy about the way things have gone down with you and your dad. Forgiveness is not excusing or justifying behavior, it’s not motivated by your feelings, and it is not something that comes with time. Forgiveness is a work between you and the Lord, daughter. It can be instantaneous and heal the most tender, throbbing places of your heart without one word of acknowledgement from the inflictor. Peace with your dad is made in the choice to love him without needing anything from him. That is forgiveness. Accepting your dad just the way he is does not condone his sin or downplay the pain you have felt. It does, however, mean that you are growing up and maturing in your personal faith and freedom (Philippians 4:4-9).
FIVE. Grieve your hurt, and risk being hurt again. Daughters, we are all in a series of moments in process. Each one of us have a different way of seeing truth based on what we have or have not seen in our past. None of us have landed or arrived on much absolute truth outside of Jesus being God and saving us from death to live with him forever. Everything else is just life. God is becoming real to us–it’s a process. He wants us to know him intimately. He wants us to know who we are because of who He is. Understanding God as a reality will always and only work itself out via human relationships. Basically, God is reminding us that no human is able to love us unconditionally. In every failed and broken relationship, God grieves, because we, his children, are in very real pain. But He knows the purpose of that pain. He knows the pain pushes us to the only love that heals and restores life to us. What an unloving Father He would be not to use everything at his disposal to remind us and press us into the most satisfying love available to us. God knows it may take time for our emotions to catch up with truth. He knows that trust requires a track record–that’s why the only consistent record we have is with Him. God wants to fill all the gaps, so, He sets us up to do just that. He gives us earthly fathers that fail us, so that he can be the only Father to satisfy us. In Him, daughter, grieve. Cry out, write it down, tell someone how much you hurt because you miss your dad, hate your dad, or don’t know how you feel about your dad. But then, risk it all to be hurt once again. Put your life and love out there over and over again throughout the rest of your life! Don’t hold back! Be awkward, weird, confused, scared, angry, awesome–be the most honest version of you as often as you can with the most people you can. Of course you will get hurt. Over and over you will be betrayed, talked about, assumed about, and boxed in because people see you from the tiny crack in the curtain of their perspective. In Christ, we are free to fail and others free to fail us. Peace is ours despite (Romans 5:1), and life a lot more fun with the curtain pulled all the way back.
Claim Peace today, daughter. Forgive in it. Live in it. Reconcile where you can. And if able, as far as it concerns you today, call your dad. Wish him a “Happy Father’s Day” and tell him why you mean it. You never know, maybe today is the day the story changes.
Love you, Daughter. – Kasey