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October 12, 2014

My father and I didn’t speak for six years. After yet another heated argument, I moved overseas and cut him out of my life.

I had a lot of resentment toward my father for how he raised me.

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Growing up in Australia, every kid played rugby. I remember on match days, the fathers would fill the stands, beer in hand. They’d cuss at the referee and cheer when their sons scored. I’d look over, and wish my father were there. The absence created a wall of bitterness that only grew over time — resentment and silence kept us apart for decades.

Last year, the miraculous happened. I returned from America and visited my parents, and my father and I had our first conversation.

Here are the 7 realizations that allowed me to forgive my father. I hope they can be a catalyst for any broken relationships in your life:

1. He was absent, but so was I.

I always wished we’d had conversations, that we could talk about football games. I wished and wished … and never did a thing about it. In all those years of silence, I was expecting him to bend over backward for me — while I did nothing.

Since reconnecting with my father, I’ve begun initiating conversations more than waiting for them to miraculously happen. I realized good things don’t always come to those who wait, sometimes you’ve gotta go out and get it. This awakening has helped me be proactive in other areas of my life, too.

2. Nobody is an expert in parenting.

I was expecting my dad to father me like he had a PhD in parenting. I realized he was learning every day, and that I was his classroom. This realization helped me see him with more compassion. When we did start speaking again, I lowered my expectations and tried to do my best to help him succeed in our interactions. I let him finish speaking without cutting him off, and respectfully expressed myself when we disagreed.

3. Forgiveness didn’t free him, it freed me.

Although my father hasn’t admitted to being emotionally absent, I realized I could still forgive him. Because forgiveness works both ways, it wasn’t just about freeing him, it was about freeing myself from anger. As the saying goes, “Whoever angers you controls you."

4. I was broken, but so was he.

I spent years pointing a finger at my father. The story I told myself was that I was broken because he was absent. It never occurred to me that he was also broken. Before moving to Australia, my father was a politician and spent four years in prison after the fall of Saigon. He carried deep scars beyond what I could imagine. As I got older, I had greater respect for how much he'd endured.

5. I could change history.

My father was raising me exactly the same way his father raised him. There was no such thing as friendship between father and son. I realized I could break the cycle and show my father something he’d never experienced.

6. There’s always a silver lining.

I chose to stop seeing the glass half-empty when it came to our relationship. Rather than dwell on all the times he was absent, I decided to journal before I met with my father and wrote down all the times I remembered him taking the family out and treating us to ice-cream. I realized the more I looked for positives in the past, the more I was motivated me to work on a positive future.

7. Time and distance heal.

It’s hard to clearly see the mess when you’re stuck in the middle of it. After a heated argument that almost became physical, I left Australia and moved to Texas for five years.

It was after all those years that we suddenly began to speak. I’m not sure what my father was thinking during those years, but the time and distance made me realize I really did love and respect my father, and I wanted to have to have a relationship with him.

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