Family and Friends/Family Problems/My Relationships/Parents The 6 Lessons I Learned When I Took a Class on Forgiveness by AJ Santiago As the time of “foods that will make you break every fitness resolution you’ve ever made” rolls around (Christmas, New Years, etc.) there also comes a time of heightened reconnection and communication with family and friends. I don’t know if your Christmas will be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for me this year will be a time of further mending my relationship with my dad which had before been very, let’s say awkward. You see, as a kid, my dad was very firm and adamant in instilling in me the knowledge and mental tools necessary to be a man and make it in life. But along with that, he also was very harsh at times when I was a little too “flamboyant” in his eyes. Now, I know being flamboyant does not mean you are homosexual, but to my dad being flamboyant was really not good. When I was little I remember trying to speak and he would interrupt me to tell me that I needed to stop expressing myself a certain way, and stop using a tone of voice a certain way. I lost all self-confidence at that point as a child, and later on in life when I came to accept the fact I was experiencing same sex attractions, I remembered those situations and a huge anger boiled inside of me towards my dad. In some ways, I began to blame his lack of affection and increased firmness with me for causing me to experience homosexual attractions. Pulling the Weeds Out by the Root As my anger grew towards my dad, I would often lose my temper without any good reason. I allowed hurt from my past to spill over well into my current life, and it was not healthy. I knew I needed extra help controlling my emotions when I even let my anger affect my friendships as well, to point of almost losing some of those friendships. I realized that I needed to find some sort of way to forgive my dad because obviously this was affecting me in drastic ways and trying to deal with it on my own was not working out. I had gone to Holy Hours to pray for my heart and I had gone to Confession multiple times acknowledging the fact I was holding continuous anger. I even vented to some people about how I was feeling, but I was avoiding two things: 1) Avoiding my relationship with my dad and not trying to improve it whatsoever and… 2) I was not allowing myself the time I needed to sit down and deal with my emotional self. I knew I needed to get ahold of myself and God’s genius omnipotent providence made its way into my life by allowing me to discover (with the help of my mom and a nun… haha) a class called “ESPERE: School of Forgiveness and Reconciliation.” These classes were originally started by a Catholic priest named Father Leonel Narvaez from Colombia who wanted to help bring forgiveness and reconciliation between people. (Healthy Relationships = More peace) Was I embarrassed to admit that I needed ‘help’? Uh, yeah… but now am I afraid to admit that? Not at all! What I Learned in Forgiveness 101 One of the first things we had to do in that class was ask five people close to us what we do that gets them upset… and boy was that hard, and slightly awkward! Who wants hear about their own faults? Not me! But I learned sometimes hearing where we mess up from the mouths of other people reveals to ourselves where we need growth. Doing this also made me realize that sometimes at times can cause issues and potential situations that can cause people to develop a growing anger towards me… which means one thing: I am a human, I mess up. Which helped me realize — my dad is a human too! He has faults too! Because of these classes, I felt like I was cured from my blindness about how “horrible” my dad was. I realized that he is not a bad guy. A valuable lesson I’ve learned being a Catholic Christian is that our past sins do not label us as a whole person, they do not change the fact that we are a child of God. So, I should not allow myself to let my father’s actions that I received negatively to cause me to harbor intense anger towards him. He still is my dad. I need peace and he needs it too. I LOVE my dad, seriously though, and he is a good Catholic man. Have I told him everything I’ve felt I needed to say? Not yet, and I’m not sure if I will yet. But I do know forgiveness began when I changed the way I treated him, and sometimes actions speak louder than words. I am day by day growing closer and closer to him more than I ever have before, which sprouted from me pulling the cancerous anger from inside and forgiving him in my heart. My Advice for You and Your Family Relationships I don’t know where you all may stand with your family and or friends, but I do know this: finding peace with the Lord also involves making peace with those around us. I want to leave you with six things I learned throughout this process that may help you: 1. I needed to humanize people who have offended me. 2. In some cases, people are not intentionally trying to hurt me or make me feel pain. 3. There are different cultural backgrounds, different upbringings, and different situations that may cause a person to act certain ways (not trying to say this totally excuses something that is truly wrong). 4. Forgiving people really is a breath of fresh air and it brings new life. 5. Forgiveness takes time, and it is a continuous way of life. Be patient with yourself and others. 6. We mess up, we’re human. Let’s love others the way Christ loves us, through our messiness and deepest wrongdoings! Live Freely and Fully Alive “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” -Ephesians 4:31-32 I don’t know every situation that one of you has encountered where you have been hurt, but I pray you find peace and reconciliation, even if that reconciliation is only within yourself. Do not be afraid to forgive because my brothers and sisters it is so liberating. Have a fantastic, hot chocolate filled, cookie stuffed Christmas season. *If anyone wants to look for more information about “Espere: School of Forgiveness and Reconciliation,” here’s a link to their website.