Recently I received a frantic phone call from my mother, and I found out my dad was going away. Although my parents divorced more than 10 years ago, my mom still keeps in touch with my dad and provides me with updates. I wish I was surprised by the news, but I was not.
My dad has been in and out of the prison system for much of my life, for both nonviolent and violent crimes.
I’ve dealt with the shame, anger and hate. Yes, I said hate. Hate is such a natural emotion to feel when you’ve been disappointed and disregarded by someone you love. I dealt with these feelings years ago after reading Peace from Broken Places by Iyanla Vanzant. This book gave me the tools I needed to release all of the negative feelings that I’ve felt relating to my dad and childhood. You might be wondering, what about forgiveness? I’ll get to that…
I recently finished the fourth season of the Netflix original series Orange is The New Black. It’s my favorite television series, and I held off binge-watching it this year so I could carefully pay attention to the facets of each character. After finishing the series, I was left with feelings of sympathy, sadness and empathy. The multi-dimensional characters of Orange is The New Black have such weighty back stories, which makes it nearly impossible for me to judge them.
In thinking of my dad and feelings regarding the characters of the show, I was left in a state of conflict.
Why did I have feelings of shame, anger and hate toward my dad and sympathy, sadness and empathy toward the inmates on Orange is The New Black? This question echoed loudly in my mind days after finishing up season four. I still couldn’t find the answer to this question, and that’s when it hit me: There is no difference between my reality and the fictitious one I enjoyed so much. The inmates on Orange is The New Black committed both nonviolent and violent crimes and were sent to prison, much like my dad, to pay their debt to society. Although I don’t support the actions that led to their incarcerations, I now understand that forgiveness is an ongoing process. Forgiveness is something that takes time and effort. Sometimes shame, anger and hate are a part of that process. And it is ok.
The beauty of Orange is The New Black is that it has forced me to confront feelings that I have toward my dad and others in the prison system.
Everybody has a backstory, and sometimes the stories are uncomfortable and unpleasant, but that doesn’t mean we need to add an extra layer of judgment. People in prison are not always treated with the respect they deserve, so choosing not to forgive someone imprisons you. I challenge anyone who might be dealing with a similar situation to release whatever feelings you might have toward your loved one and embark on the journey of forgiveness.