If your Father’s Day isn’t quite so happy

People always say that life is short. And in most ways it certainly is. But in one key way it’s long. And that way is relative to how, over the course of one’s life, one’s feeling about one’s parents inevitably change.

The way you feel about your father today is just a little bit different from the way you felt about your father yesterday. That is true because every day you are influenced slightly more by who you are, and slightly less by who your father was. However strong a grip your father has on your consciousness today, tomorrow he will have less. That’s one of the mightiest laws of life.

My own father died this past January. I’m now fifty-five years old. Over the course of my life I can’t imagine what feelings I haven’t had for my father. I began my life believing that he was virtually unknowable. As a young boy I desperately yearned for his love and attention. Then (and with no small amount of encouragement from his ex-wife, my mother), I thought of him as profoundly and irreparably psychologically damaged. And then I went through a very long time of being entirely separate from him: of knowing that I would always yearn for his love, but never have it.

So I went some twenty-five years rarely seeing or speaking with the man. He didn’t come to my wedding; I didn’t ever visit him, for at least a decade I had no idea where he was living or what he was doing. Well into my adulthood, I continued doing what I had been consciously and purposefully doing since I was twelve or so, which was structuring my psychology—my life, my entire sense of who I was—around the hole that was my father’s absence from my life.

You can’t make somebody love you. And in a core, primal kind of way, you can also not help but love (though in this context love is an awfully tricky word to use) your father.

And that’s the sort of thing that makes life so gosh-darned … interesting, isn’t it?

At thirty-eight years old, I suddenly and out of nowhere became a Christian. Quite soon thereafter I found myself with a sense of forgiveness toward my father. So I learned where he was living, and wrote him a letter saying that I loved him, and why. My letter went unanswered. Over the course of the next four months I wrote him four more such letters. After the fifth one he wrote me back, and invited me and my wife Catherine to come spend a week with him and his wife, my step-mother since I was ten.

So off Cat and I went to Wilmington, NC! This is a picture of the four of us from that visit:

visitdadpost

In the course of the next dozen or so years we visited my father a few more times. After my step-mother died a few years back, he even came out to California to visit us.

It turns out that my father, pretty much the ultimate man’s man, liked having a man for a son. He wasn’t so good with me as a boy and teenager—but, as it happened, I grew into his son after all. Since I was sixteen I have loved a good cigar; I’m not averse to Jack Daniels on the rocks; I know how to put on cufflinks and tie a bow-tie (because nothing says Major Stud like a bow-tie). All that manly kind of stuff can, I know, seem so corny; so much of its expression in my own life seems rooted in that whole Frank Sinatra, James Bond, Rat Pack cool thing that so informed my father’s era. But I love all that kind of stuff. I can’t remember the last time I left the house wearing anything but silk slacks, a Tommy Bahama shirt, a Panama hat, and … actual shoes.

Shoes like my dad used to wear!

For decades I bought all that sort of clothing at thrift stores.

The point is, just being alive caused my attitudes toward my father to change.

Your feelings toward your father will change, too. They must. It’s an inviolate part of being human. The only way that your psychological relationship with your parent and siblings won’t evolve is if, through the use of drugs or alcohol, you arrest your own psychology in place.

That happens, of course. It’s tragic. (If that’s happening with you, stop it. What you’re afraid of is much less frightening than what you’re making yourself live through.)

If your relationship with you father is … something less than you wish it was, hang in there. Where your dad didn’t love you, love yourself. Where he did, try your best to give him credit for that. Where he simply couldn’t, give him your sympathy.

Your father will be gone soon enough. And the chances are that when he is, you’ll still be here. And it’s almost fully guaranteed that, come what may, you’ll end up being a better person than he ever was. It’s extremely unlikely that right now you’re not a better person than he was.

You win, friend. You were always going to win that particularly painful and drawn-out war. It’s just a matter of how much of your life you spend not knowing that.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://fordswords.net David S

    This is beautiful. Thank you for this gift. Really. It’s very generous of you and it is appreciated.

  • DR

    Love this so much. Amazing.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

    Thank you, John. As you know, in many ways your life is like the west-coast mirror image of mine.

  • Donna Runion

    I am grateful that some are posting for those of us who had less than stellar fathers. My father was mentally ill and violently so. I pretty much got that I “won” pretty early on. What took work was really grokking that it wasn’t his fault, and more importantly it wasn’t mine and there was absolutely nothing I could have done, been, not done, not been that would have changed things.

  • David Kirkpatrick

    A mature and profound peace. Appreciate this writing very much.

  • Lorena J Burkett

    Wonderful John Shore. You rock. BTW … my 13 year old already appreciates the coolness of a bowtie … and has mastered the tying.

  • Merry Williams Ressler

    Boy, did I need this! My father has been dead 13 years and I have just begun to forgive him. Don’t get me wrong–I loved him; he was entirely too charming not to. And, in his own way, I knew he loved me. Responsibility was not in his bag of tricks, however, and I suffered years of debilitating insecurity because of it (think I still do). So–thanks.

  • Gina Cirelli

    My father drank himself to death in 1990, and I’m still working on forgiving him. Thank you, John.

  • Matt

    Thank you for this, John. It’s so comforting to know that I’ve already won, in every way that matters.

    And wow, is your dad holding Cat’s hand? And so tenderly, too. You seem to be pointing this out for posterity. Funny, sweet, and poignant–this is my favorite photo of yours that you’ve shared.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Actually, it’s because I had earlier been bugging my dad about his obviously having a glove fetish. But … let’s go with what you said.

      • Matt

        I wouldn’t blame him if he did. Cat’s gloves are gorgeous.

      • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

        HAR!

  • ~Sil in Corea

    It’s quite possible that I was a ”Daddy’s girl.” My brothers didn’t have the same relationship to Dad that I did. It’s easy for me to idealize him, but it’s also very clear that there were secrets and resentments in the family. I guess that no one is perfect. Letting it go is a task for all of us.

  • http://www.theworthingtonpost.net Aliza Worthington

    I once read the following (I wish I could remember where…) – that you become an adult the moment you forgive your parents their flaws. What a beautiful piece, and I’m so glad you kept trying.

  • http://www.lesliefmiller.blogspot.com Leslie F. Miller

    I am fifty, and the anniversary of my father’s death will arrive in less than a month. I don’t have but one brief moment of a bad memory of The Fixer, as I call him—the man who did everything in his power to fix anything that was wrong in his children’s lives, even if it just meant throwing us some money.

    I am glad you finally got to have the father you wanted and needed. Thanks for sharing your story. Here’s mine, if you have the inclination: http://lesliefmiller.blogspot.com/2012/07/eulogy-for-my-father.html

    (friend of Aliza)

    • http://www.theworthingtonpost.net Aliza Worthington

      Xoxo, Leslie.

  • Virginia Galloway

    I grew up flinching from the terror and abuse meted out by people who still smugly believe that they were teaching their children “the fear of God”; they were actually teaching us the fear of parents. These once-yearly celebrations with the accompanying gooey sentiments sicken me.

    I found my way back to God after years of struggle, but the best I can do in terms of forgiving them (after many years of prayer and therapy) is to think “I do not” rather than “I will not.”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Nothing wrong with that.

  • John Rutledge

    What do you have for fathers who love their children more than anything, desperately want to talk with them and know them, but are alienated after divorce?

    • DR

      That’s so awful. I’m sorry, John. As someone who experienced some of that, know that deep in your kids’ hearts, they know the truth.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Why can’t you talk to your kids?

  • Wanda Worthington VanderVeen

    Thank you, John. My father passed away 46 years ago when I was 15 and, for some reason, I’m finding this year to be the hardest Father’s Day ever. He was always a caring and kind man who stood the ground between my mother and I and, with his passing, her abuse increased. I think it may have just hit me that I have been upset with him for leaving me without any defense against her.

    • Matt

      It’s so hard when people who should have protected us didn’t, for whatever reason. I’ll keep you in my prayers if that’s alright with you, Wanda.

      • harrisco

        Beautifully said, Matt. What a gesture of grace. Wanda, would you mind one more prayer? I join Matt, praying for you on this difficult day in your life, when the feelings of years seem brand new.

  • Peggy Ann Mills Insightful.

    Thank you. I never felt loved by either parent, thus never loved them in return. Just a blankness that occasionally gave way to pure hate. Nevertheless, decades later I understand and forgive.

    One key to that, for me, was realizing, as you said: “Hurt people hurt people.” They knew no better way. How can you fault someone for something they don’t know how to change?

    The greatest key to forgiveness was coming to the place in my spiritual learning where I understand that certain people play certain roles in our lives for a purpose. I believe that everything that happens is for a purpose; a lesson in our lives for our ultimate highest good and to move us closer to God/Source/Love.

    If you are holding onto anger, unforgiveness and bitterness, that is only hurting yourself! The focus is on you! Ego. What happened to me! What I didn’t have. If you can shift your focus away from self, you will find the means to reach out and forgive others.

    I hope this helps someone else find the peace I found!

  • Gina Paterson-Bryant

    Well said Brother John. We can chose what to take with us from every experience, carry the baggage that weighs us down or pick the moments that prove its worth and sustain our hearts. Peace to you and yours

  • Rick Smith

    Excellent, excellent piece! It mirrors in many way my father/son relationship as well. Thank you.

  • Kathy Fleischmann Stemmer

    Very powerful I choose now to remember the memories that bring a smile to my face and forgivness is powerful beyond words

  • Prefer to be Anonymous

    Thank you for this. Just thank you.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Your welcome, of course. Thank you.

  • Grant

    Thank you for this John. My father was not perfect (we think that as children). But as we age we come to recognize that one’s Dad is human, frail and broken at times like the rest of us. Strong and whole at times like the rest of us. And I came to know that and love that about him (and me) only with the passing of the years.

    What I wouldn’t give to turn back the clock, as he was dying 3-1/2 years ago when he asked me if things were alright between us and I only said yes.

    If only I had said yes and thanked him for his love, his care, his tears and his compassion.

    In one of the darkest moments of my life he walked with me and I so wish I had thanked him for being there to walk with me.

    I miss him terribly.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I’m sure your dad is today looking down on you from heaven, Grant, and knows these kind ways you feel towards him. He knows all the things you want to say to him; he knows you feel as you do. And he knows–he especially knows, now–how quickly will pass the time until you and he are together again.

  • Susan in NY

    Thanks John, for sharing your life with all of us.

    My dad lived his life thinking he was going to die an early death from the combination of smoking, drinking, stress, depression and anxiety. As a child, I knew he worried about dropping dead from a heart attack. It was not a good thing to know.

    Then he got divorced and met his second wife. He stopped smoking, he was happy, he quit his high stress job, he kept drinking, and he dropped the anxiety.

    He has had a couple of heart attacks, but they keep putting in stents and he keeps chugging along. He is happy and he finally does not want to die. Considering all the drugs he takes to keep himself alive, plus the stents and of course the alcohol, it is a wonder his body has not given up.

    But he is happy. He loves his wife and she adores him. He is not going to let himself die and I am so very happy for him.

    He is still sort of a jerk to me, but hey, that is why they have therapy. I am just so happy that he wants to live a long time.

    Susan in NY

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      My dad was like that, too! He had about a million heart attacks. I basically waited for him to die for forty years. But he was such a HORSE. Toward the end, it was so weird, to see him so … broken, basically: sitting in his big ol’ chair, watching endless hours of TV, taking more drugs than anyone in the WORLD could keep track of. Weird. Sad. Except he WASN’T sad, so … cool.

  • Jason Kamrath

    John,

    Your story is eerily similar to my own! My father and I have not spoken in 17 years…he did not attend my wedding and has not even met my husband who I have been with for almost 8 years. I imagine a death-bed reconciliation because of my father’s inability to say “I’m sorry.” I reached out to him with wedding photos, and did not receive a response. In God’s time…

    Blessings,

    Jason

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Yeah, I mean, all you can do is whatever it takes to make sure that if he died tomorrow, you can live the rest of your life knowing that you’re okay with the way you personally left things. If you’ve done that, you’re good. If not, do what you need to, and … have that peace. Thanks for sharing, JK.

  • micki

    I consider myself very lucky. I have had a Father who has loved, cared, sacrificed so much for his kids! He has always been there for us. I feel fortunate that he’s still alive at 85, still willing to do most anything for his family. A truly RARE man, wonderful human being, and someone who has always loved God and proved it by his albeit human imperfect actions. My wish is that all those who have not had this, would find the love they need here from their “adopted” families, their friends, the ones who stepped in when their fathers wouldn’t or couldn’t. Sadly we live in a world where too many men have abdicated their role as fathers, who are either absent, or worse, horribly abusive. I can only pray that things get better with future generations.

    • Elizabeth

      My parents were good, but I’m who I am today due to families I “adopted”. Thank you for remembering them.

    • DR

      This is such a thoughtful and loving comment.

  • theresa

    If I may, I would like to ask for a prayer for the father of my children, who walked away from them cheerfully, never looked back, and made that choice freely. He was damaged by an alcoholic mother, though he refused to admit it. My four children have grown up to be wonderful, bright, witty, kind people, and he missed out on that completely.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Prayer said. Thanks, t.

  • http://www.ViviannNapp.com Viviann Napp

    My relationship with my father has been rocky ever since I can remember. I am now 61 and he is 89. My mother died in 2011 and he did not invite me to her funeral nor even let me know she had died. It has taken me this last two years to get over that. The bottom line is that I respect him for his accomplishments and choose to not dwell on the bad stuff.

  • Janée Blue

    Your article brought tears and a realization that this is exactly what my daughter, who is estranged from her father, needs to see! I sent this to her today because I know how she feels about Father’s Day without a father she feels she can honor. Thank you, thank you. thank you, for your words are a soothing balm for me and hopefully for her.

  • Patsy-Anne

    I always joked that all would have been perfect if my mother could have given birth to university graduates. My father was physically and verbally abusive. I started suffering from panic attacks when I was 8. As an adult they became overwhelming and they, along with self esteem in the crapper, put the brakes on my life until I was in my late 40s. I carried so much anger, it was debilitating. Then I met my anamchara and she put me back together enough that I was able to seek counselling.

    People wonder how I can be in close relationship with my dad, but I am not the child I was, and he has completely turned around his life. The man he is now bears to relation to the monster he was then.

  • Michael Woerner

    Dear John,

    Your article made me cry, but it was very true. My parents divorced when I was six. He barely sent child support antil I was 15, and I’ve only been invited to visit a few times in the late 70′s. My mother died when I was 21, and I started sending cards and letters to him, never hearing from him. In the early 90s, I took my mother’s maiden name as my last name, purging my father’s. I forgave him a long time ago for his absence, his cruelty, and lack of being a father to me, but having other children afterwards whom he claimed as his only family. I have held out an olive branch to him many times, but I never hear from him. A few months ago, my grandmother called him to get him to contact me. I finally talked to him after 30 years. But again he didn’t keep his promise and contact me in the next few weeks. For his b-day I sent a card. I received a not-so-nice email saying that God doesn’t approve (nor does he) of my marriage to my husband. I just replied–many weeks later after thinking of a response–that I’m sure that there are things that neither of us likes about the other. I forgive him, but I’m still very hurt. I’m almost 50, and I still cry over this man. If you have any words of wisdom, I’d appreciate it.

    • Matt

      I just want you to know that you’ve been heard, Michael, and you are definitely a better man than he could ever hope to be. I can’t make it hurt any less, but just know that no amount of his silence and rejection can take away from what an amazing person you are. It shines through even in your brief comment; in fact it’s almost blinding.

      Don’t let him take away any more of that light than he has a right to, okay?

      • Michael Woerner

        Matt,

        Thank you so much for your kind words. They really mean a lot to me, and you made my day better!

        Thanks :-)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Hi, Michael. You might find this of some value:

      Unhappy? Reject your loser parents.

    • DR

      As I read this comment – words from what is a clearly soulful, grace-filled, lovely person – I’m struck with how those like you who are loving, kind and decent enough – strong enough – to offer an olive branch to someone like your father who is incapable of receiving it get so hurt by the constant of a heart that was never open to begin with. I think it’s so hard for those of us who are kind at our core to believe that a heart is so tightly closed. It’s too difficult to understand, to accept and it’s easier to find something in ourselves to blame.

  • Mindy

    I couldn’t read this yesterday. I didn’t want to have to acknowledge to myself that my dad was not perfect. I mean, I have acknowledged that – I love Aliza’s quote about becoming an adult when you forgive your parents their flaws. I think the first part of that, though, is acknowledging that the flaws are theirs, and not a reflection of yourself. That’s what I saw for a long time. A failure, because I hadn’t measured up to his expectations.

    Now, though, I feel closer to him than ever. He’s mellowed in later years, and I feel very lucky to have him around still. He’s not yet 80, and I hope we have several more years. He’s my liberal co-hort when politics get discussed, and that, probably more than anything else, makes me proud. I do love him, I do forgive him, I believe he’s forgiven me, and now, we move forward.

    Your piece is so perfect, John. Thank you.

  • MaryKaye

    John, each time you write about your relationship with your father you say things like “And in a core, primal kind of way, you can also not help but love (though in this context love is an awfully tricky word to use) your father.”

    I appreciate that this is true for you, and for a lot of people, and that a big part of your personal journey has been coming to terms with it. But people are very diverse, families are very diverse, and this thing you’re putting forward as a universal truth really is not universal. And it hurts to have someone confidently saying “You feel this, you feel that” when they are wrong. It erases the other person’s experience.

    My parents separated when I was two. When I see pictures of my biological father I do not recognize him, beyond “oh, that’s where the big ears come from.” I’ve certainly experimented with a lot of feelings toward him over the years. When I learned, a decade or so ago, that he was dead I felt a mild regret that we had never met as adults. But love? I love the people who actually raised me, not this man who I never knew. (He was not an engaged parent even before the separation, as far as my relatives can tell me.)

    No matter how I search my heart I can’t find any significant feelings toward a stranger who had been dead several years before I ever heard. The person he was in the late 60′s did me and my mother harm, but that was an awfully long time ago; and if I had significant feelings about that they would be dislike or anger, not love. In any case it’s more like my lingering dislike of my kindergarten teacher than anything really meaningful in my life. At least I can *remember* my kindergarten teacher.

    So, I’d appreciate it if you’d dial back the universals a bit. I know they feel heart-deep universal to you, but really they are not. People are all different and one person’s lifelong struggle is another person’s “I just don’t care.”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      It’s my fault for assuming that everyone understands that by their “parents” I’m referring to the person(s) who actually raised them.

  • Soulmentor

    I think that’s the first pic of your wife I have seen. She’s lovely, John.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thank you, Soul. I’ll let her know you said so.

      • Grant McNeil

        Soulmentor, I thought the same. John is one fortunate man to have such a wonderful person with him, side-by-side, journeying in life. But I am sure John knows that.

    • Christy

      I agree. She is beautiful.

  • n.

    “And it’s almost fully guaranteed that, come what may, you’ll end up being a better person than he ever was. It’s extremely unlikely that right now you’re not a better person than he was.

    You win, friend. You were always going to win that particularly painful and drawn-out war. It’s just a matter of how much of your life you spend not knowing that.”

    how is it possible that this is generally true? i want it to be, but i can’t figure out how to believe it.

  • patty Smith

    Hi John,’

    First, I am not sure how I got here, reading you is like following the paths of your mind, I get lost in the links, and then they link to the next and so on. It is actually quite interesting, really rather like jumping all over your mind, like I am having a conversation with your writings. hummmm

    Second, I am 55 as well, my father has been deceased for 23 years, 23 very difficult years.

    And last, I was in therapy with a female Methodist minister (the Lutherans sent me to her) and one of the most joyful things she told me, that has taken some time to fill my heart and soul and realize how true it is? That all any of us need is a teaspoon full of love to make it. To this day, realizing I got that teaspoon from my father, well, it completes me. My mother I haven’t been able to tackle yet- lovely woman, good mom, still alive, truly there for me. But the teaspoon I got, really got, felt to the tip of my toes, that came from my father. Who couldn’t give me anything else but a teaspoon, but it was enough.

    Thanks John.

  • Sheila

    John, I appreciate your thoughtful blogs and the compassion you bring to people within them. But I find myself echoing MaryKaye.

    My father (and my mother) “raised” my brothers and me; we lived in the same hosue throughout my childhood. In that way, I am different from MaryKaye: my father was never a stranger. What he was was a severely emotionally damaged, chaotic, manipulative and highly abusive person. He didn’t use his fists, he used mind-games. I put “raised” in speech marks because in actuality there was very little raising and nurturing; he undermined us, he character-assassinated us, he was verbally abusive, we couldn’t go to him with any problem because he was singlarly incapable of offering a helpful response. He didn’t seek professional help about any of this; in fact, on several occasions, he turned down help that was actually offered. And he never, ever apologised.

    No, I didn’t feel love for him when he was alive and I do not feel love for him now. He was frightening, demoralising and very destructive. Outside the home, he was charming to strangers, supportive of colleagues, kind to neighbours. So, yes, he could control his aggressions but, at home, he chose not to do so. Please do not tell me I love such a person; that itself is a form of abuse. And do not suggest that I forgive such a person. Forgiveness is something that only the hurt are in a position to offer (if they feel they wish to). . or to not offer (if they feel they cannot.)

    MaryKaye is completely right when she says families are diverse. You say you went through a phase of thinking your father to be badly damaged psychologically, with the strong implication that you came to revise that view. Great; that was your experience. I saw/heard nothing that led me to revising my own view of my father. He WAS damaged, he could have sought help and did not, he has left a very painful legacy behind. This “You must love your father on some level” is a denial of my experiences over many years. Please don’t do that. That you presumably talk from a Christian perspective does not make what you say more helpful to me.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Sheila: I hear what you’re saying. But you’re responding to something you think I’ve said, rather than to what I actually did say. I was very careful not to say that you’d eventually love your father, or even feel more kindly toward him. What I said was that your feelings for your father (or sibling, or whatever) will necessarily evolve. Not the same thing at all.

      • Sheila

        No, John. What you wrote is “And in a core, primal kind of way, you can also not help but love (though in this context love is an awfully tricky word to use) your father.”

        You write that our relationships with our fathers will change and evolve, that they are bound to do so. You then say the only circumstances in which this will not happen is when the person has been an abuser of drugs or alcohol. That is too narrow a view; I have never abused either. My perception of my father changed when I no longer had to live with him: I knew I was better off elsewhere. I went from being a child/teenager who had nowhere else to go to being an adult no longer obliged to live under his roof. But that is not the same as loving someone, it isn’t even the same as beginning to love someone. I was still on the rceiving end of abuse when he got the chance, so were my siblings, so was my mum (who defended him staunchly then and who still defends him staunchly now.)

        You are generalising too much from your own experience. Do you think my dad would have responded as yours did if I had written him a letter forgiving him? He wouldn’t have even begun to understand such a thing. The way he consistently behaved demonstrated that he didn’t know what love was: to him, relationships were all about manipulation, putting on a facade, pretending, getting one over on someone. This very-entrenched pattern of behaviour is well-known to psychologists: it is known as Narcissism. And narcissists are, by definition, appalling partners and appalling parents. They do immense harm.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Well, sincerely sorry that what I meant to communicate wasn’t communicated to you. That happens, of course. Words are tricky things.

          • Sheila

            I’m not quite sure what you are trying to communicate, I’m afraid. That all father-child relationships are, eventually, salvageable? If so, I have to disagree.

            I also find the Christian angle (or rather, your Christian angle) on this difficult. Forgiveness is not always the right move, it really isn’t. In the case of abuse, and where there has been no apology, I would argue it very much is the wrong move. For two reasons. One, an abuser who has felt no remorse is going to see anything which smells like forgiveness as a carte blanche to continue. Two, that abuser might be abusing other people eevn if s/he has stopped abusing the “forgiver.”

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            I’ve never said anything like “forgiveness is always the right move.” I would never say that, and never have. I have said things like this:

            Unhappy? Reject Your Loser Parents

            As a Christian, must she forgive the brother who raped her?

            Six Things to Know About Sexual Abuse and Forgiveness

          • Sheila

            Thanks, John, for linking me to these. I’m sorry if I misread you. There is so much misguided stuff out there about forgiveness which is, as you acknowledge, a very complicated business, not a straightforward one.

            I would simply add to your article about sexual abuse that there is a lot of pressure on victims of ALL kinds of abuse to “let it go”. This is sometimes couched in terms that sound sympathetic to the victims when, in fact, it is more about the people giving that advice not wanting to face up to the issue.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            No, no worries on the misunderstanding; that’s bound to happen.

            Yeah, the kind of pressure to forgive to which you refer is exactly why i wrote that particular piece, which grew out of an online thing I got in with some fundamentalists who were arguing that the girl who wrote the below needs to forgive those who wronged her. Fuck that.

            A Christianity to Make Satan Proud.

          • Sheila

            You were right to call them out on that. Denying abuse (which is what, in effect, they were doing) is in itself abuse. Their complete failure of compassion towards the victim is appalling.

          • harrisco

            Sheila:

            After reading your posts, I just want to commend you for the work you have obviously done to extend to yourself that compassion you write about. Your father did not teach you how to do that. You had to learn it on your own. You grew up in a slow-motion train-wreck emotionally, yet you climbed out of it. You found a way to live apart from the smoking ruins. To come to the point that you can call for compassion for yourself and for others who have been abused and manipulated, as you do in this post, is a remarkable victory. What you did took major guts. You pulled your bruised and broken self out of that wreckage. You decided not to live in shattered glass. And (just guessing) you spat out the vile lies you were fed that said that you caused the wreck in the first place. You got out alive. I do not know you at all apart from what you wrote here, but I know this much: You are unbelievably tough and gobsmackingly courageous. Wow – you are something! Carry on, Sheila. You are an inspiration.

          • Sheila

            Harrisco, Thank you very very much. I am going to print out your words and keep them. This is an ongoing thing for me: my mum, still alive, has not acknowledged the harm that she and my father did, maybe she never will. She is still seeking, would you believe it, emotional support from me. (I’ve made it clear that if she wants to really work on this and to untangle a lot of the stuff in her own mind, she will need to get in touch with a therapist who is skilled at family dysfunction.) In the wider sense, I speak out (as do so many) about child abuse and cover-up, esp in the Catholic Church of which my mother is a member. I have had good responses to this and also some very angry ones telling me to shut up! Shutting up is not an option. The only people who benefit from silence are the abusers. Thank you again for your generous response.

          • harrisco

            You are welcome, Sheila.