I haven’t talked to my dad in months. We had an argument. He said things. I said things. We both went over the line and we haven’t talked since. Literally seconds after our altercation, I knew what I said hurt him and I was wrong for saying what I did, so I wrote him an e-mail apologizing for just that. But I also wrote more than just that.
In college, I was that guy who struggled with the notion that being right, or at least what I thought was right, was the most important thing. I was that obnoxious guy who wanted everyone to think I was the smartest person in the class. I was the guy who would make faces like, “yeah, I thought like that … when I was in high school”—because being a first semester college freshman is all that different from being a second semester high school senior. I was that guy and I had no problem pushing people away with my ego and my arrogance because I didn’t want them to see me for who I really was—broken, insecure and deeply wounded. In reality, I was a person who wanted to believe St. Paul when he said, “If you don’t have love, you don’t have anything,” but I hadn’t gotten to the point where I actually believed I was worth loving.
And in the middle of that argument with my dad, that guy reemerged and lashed out.
The thing is that even when I’ve tried to apologize, I’ve wanted to feel vindicated. I couldn’t just ask for forgiveness. I couldn’t just confess my sin. I had to announce that I was hurt too, that I was also wounded by same kinds of words that cut him. What can I say? I don’t like being vulnerable. I don’t like being exposed. I don’t like feeling like I need to be forgiven for something.
The only problem with this line of thinking is that I need to be forgiven. I need to be forgiven for a lot of things.
I need to forgive myself for things that were outside my control, even though on my worst days I still blame myself for them. I need to forgive others for the way they have treated me. I need to receive forgiveness from those I have hurt. And I need to ask forgiveness from Triune God for the way I have hurt the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit because part of the Christian life is lived in confession. It’s part of the path Jesus lays for us to follow.
Forgiveness might be the most difficult part of that path because after being betrayed, beaten, and tortured to death, Jesus said, “Forgive them for they do not know what they do.” And that couldn’t be more true.
We don’t know what we do. We don’t realize how our actions affect those around us. We commit sins by doing things outside of what God in calls us to do and we commit sin by not doing what God is calling us to do. And we don’t know what circumstances are surrounding us as we move from one interaction to the next. We just don’t know. But instead of acting with patience, instead of acting out of compassion or selflessness, instead of taking a breath and considering what is going on with the person sitting across from us, we just react.
We don’t listen.
We don’t think.
And days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months. And we don’t get to experience the grace that follows being forgiven. We don’t get to feel loved. We don’t get to understand the gratitude that comes after suffering. Instead, we find ourselves more alone, farther away from our friends and our family, and our guilt drives us away from the great communion of the Church. Thank God there is nothing we can do to be driven away from God.
To be uncomfortably and utterly honest, I still haven’t talked to my dad, I mean really talked. I wish I was at the happy ending. I wish this could be a story of reconciliation and peace. But it’s not. At least, not yet. And sure, we sent Christmas presents to each other this year. And sure, we still e-mail, sort of. But I miss actually talking to him. And I pray that forgiveness will find us soon.