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Forgive? Even my dad?

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

October 16, 2006



My sister remarked that about the only thing she remembered from her early childhood were the several suppertimes when my dad would hit me so hard that I sailed off the chair and hit the wall. This was not a one-time occurrence.

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Since my sister and I never knew what it was that I said or did that would provoke this sudden anger, it made for uneasy mealtimes for us all. It also destroyed my childlike trust in him.

Even though my mother, after the storm of abuse had quieted, often came to my room and tried to tell me how badly my dad felt about these outbursts, I never believed her. For the rest of his life, well after I had become an adult, it made for a stilted relationship between us.

I yearned for a steady father's love, and looked forward to my Sunday School classes, where teachers showed me biblical promises. They also helped me understand "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," the major work by Mary Baker Eddy, who also founded this newspaper.

Both books told me of God's uncompromising and unconditional love for me as His dearly beloved child. I learned to trust God as my real Parent, my Father-Mother, who would never let me down.

Early on I learned that this trust could result in healings of various sicknesses like colds and mumps and of the effects of accidents, as when I was burned with a lantern at Boy Scout camp and the healing was nearly immediate.

But while I certainly learned to love God, I held a stone of resentment against my dad in my heart.

This bothered me, because I was fully aware of the Fifth Commandment as given to Moses, "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."

Forgiveness seemed too much for me for many years. In Mrs. Eddy's commentary on the Lord's Prayer, she followed "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" with "And Love is reflected in love" ("Science and Health," p. 17). I thought that if I was genuinely loving to a lot of people and didn't think about my dad specifically, that was OK.

Several years after Dad's passing, I had a rough night. I had a terrible headache and couldn't sleep, so I got up and went into another room where I could turn on a light and read. In the Bible, the Fifth Commandment leapt out at me, and I realized that I couldn't avoid the issue any longer.

To honor my dad meant to see him as God's image and likeness. I had to see that the anger had never really been part of his identity, and that I needed to forgive him.

At first I balked, because, after all, he wasn't here anymore, so how could I forgive him?

Then I realized that I was the one in need of healing. I needed to sincerely forgive him and dissolve this resentment.

"Dear God," I prayed, "show me how to do this." I knew that God, infinite, divine Love who includes all identities, had no room for resentment. Just as light by definition destroys darkness, so infinite Love obliterates resentment, anger, and hate. I could not entertain a thought of Love and a thought of resentment at the same time.

At that moment, this understanding passed from something intellectual and abstract to something I could feel with all my heart. I felt that all-presence of Love, and I also found that my heart was full of forgiveness for Dad.

I found that reflecting divine Love in a universal love that included Dad wasn't hard at all. I had no more resentment toward him. And the next thing I knew, that headache was gone.

For those who feel they have suffered abuse or any other form of hate from others, learning divine Love's lessons is liberating. It taught me that my divine Parent's love can lead me to a state of loving forgiveness toward all, and that I can never fall out of God's love.

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