When I was young, my parents taught me many things, as parents are supposed to. However, I listened mostly to my father, since he was not around as often, and this plays an important role in how I see myself and others. He taught me lessons on the values of honest, purity, unselfishness and love while sending me to school to further my formal education.
Yet, it was his behavior that stuck with me more than my lessons.
He taught us children how to love our partner and children by mistreating our family and by having an affair with another woman. With this my father became the enemy of my mother. My siblings and I were allied against him and stood up to him to protect our mother. That was when I was 15 and after many years of conflict in our family.
17 years ago, I attended a training in Asia Plateau, the IofC centre in Panchgani, India. I was confronted by a voice that came into my mind when I had my quiet time under the tree – ‘you don’t trust me, because you think you suffered because of my actions in your life’ – this statement led me to realize I had an unresolved issue with my father. I had been cold hearted towards my father and I did not have a good relationship with him.
I was then encouraged by my mentor to write three letters to my father. First, a letter of apology, where I expressed that I am sorry for calling him a bad father and for cursing him in my heart without his knowing. Second, a letter of appreciation, I expressed my thanks to him for partially covering my university fees when I studied abroad in Taiwan. I expressed how much I value him for giving me life. Third, a letter of saying goodbye to him on behalf of my childhood self, where I expressed my willingness to rebuild an adult relationship. I mailed the three letters to my father but he didn’t respond.
Even though he didn't respond to my letters, I committed myself to have breakfast with him every Wednesday, which last for a year. My father had difficulty understanding my involvement with IofC, where I had begun organizing conferences, but my mother came to witness my story sharing moment during one of these conferences and later on more in other conferences. She told me she wished my father could have come. I kept organizing conferences and I kept sending the invitation to my father but received no response from him.
In 2016, my father came to the conference and listened to my story about writing the three letters and wanting to rebuild a new relationship with him. There were more than two hundred people gathered for the conference and they waited to see what would happen next. He stood up and walked slowly towards the stage, speaking into the microphone: ‘I was wrong. I am the cause. I am sorry for what I have done, and I want to move on’ he said. After three letters, and 13 years, I received a singular ‘I am proud of you’.
I accepted that though he did not intend to hurt me, the hurt still happened. It is hard to forgive those who hurt us because we always remember. Forgiveness is the result of love, not lessons from my parents, but I love learned from other people. I might not completely forgive him all the time, but when I feel hurt, I remember this moment, and I say, ‘I forgive you’. It is not easy, but it is worth it.
‘When deep injuries had happened in our past until we forgive, we cannot recover. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future’.
Nandor Lim is an Action for Life graduate (2003-2004), a trainer, facilitator, writer and learning community consultant. He has led countless workshops and learning circles among the Chinese speaking community in Malaysia and polarized groups in Shanghai, Fuzhou, China as well as facilitating for English speaking community in other countries in South East Asia, especially Indonesia and the Philippines. From 2005 to 2010 he served as the general secretary of IofC Malaysia, and in 2011 he and his team founded AKASHA Learning Companionship Association, now based in Seri Kembangan, Selangor. Nandor has been instrumental in guiding the creation of Learning Companionship Program and has actively participated in supporting these teams with their projects.