Is He Wrong for Not Wanting to Talk to His Once Abusive Dad Even Though He Got Mental Help?
Every once in a blue moon, there’s a controversial dilemma someone has on Reddit that feels like it’s worth addressing because it illustrates a bigger point. This is one of those situations:
AITA for not wanting to talk to my dad even though he got mental help and then making him cry for telling the truth on his birthday?
My dad used to be abusive. It got so bad that my mom and he lost custody of us. After that, my grandparents adopted all 5 of us and my mom left my dad (after getting an ultimatum from my grandparents) and life kind of just went on.
Fast forward to today (13 years later), I am 25 and am disappointed to say that my grandparents died and my mom went back to my dad. All of my siblings also reconnected with him, and say he changed completely, although most are not close to him. From what I heard, after losing his family he finally got mental help and was diagnosed with severe PTSD (he is an army vet) and bipolar disorder. He spent the better part of a decade getting professional help and looks like it worked. Now, my brother and mom are guilt-tripping me into talking to him. They constantly tell me how he was mentally unwell and to give him a second chance since he misses me and wants to make things right, but I really don't want to. I am glad everyone's happy, but I just don't want to put myself through all that. I have lived 13 years without him and don't want to have any contact with him ever again. I live on my own so they can't do anything about it really. They are basically saying that he wants to be absolved of his past and by not wanting to talk to him and living in the past, I am making an old man's life miserable since his sins are following him. They keep saying he just wants to hear my voice. I still ain't budging cause I feel like he gave away that right a long time ago.
Recently, it was my dad's 70th birthday and they invited me. I said no, but apparently, they made up some convoluted story that I was on a vacation abroad and sent a photo of me and my boyfriend with a text saying "Happy 70th birthday dad! Love Acron 98“ to my dad. Apparently, he loved it and started brainstorming ideas where to meet with me to talk after I get back from my trip. My sister was present and texted me what had happened. I got so mad that I called my brother, told him to put me on speaker, and told everyone at the birthday that I didn't send that message and don't want to have anything to do with my father and then hung up. I got missed calls from my brother and later text calling me heartless and asking me if I am proud of myself for making a 70-year-old man cry on his birthday. He also called me vindictive and childish for living in the past. I said what my wishes were and that they didn't respect them. They made him cry, not me. Now all my extended relatives think I am a huge b*tch (even thou the rest of my siblings support me) so I don't know what to make out of all of this. I just want my wishes to be respected and I don't think him getting therapy really can wipe away abusing his family for over 2 decades.
The consensus on Reddit was overwhelmingly that he was absolutely right not to reconnect with his dad and certainly, that could be a good take in some situations. If his father was sexually abusive (it doesn’t sound like he was), was non-apologetic about what he did or hadn’t changed, it would probably be good advice. There’s no need to, “throw your pearls before swine.” Even beyond that, as I am fond of saying, “You don’t have to do anything other than die and pay taxes.” You certainly don’t have to maintain a relationship with anyone, particularly someone that was cruel to you again and again as a child.
All that being said, I think the guy that wrote the post is mentally framing this issue in the wrong way – and people do this all the time.
He’s trying to play it off like he’s neutral or beyond caring about any of this, but the subtle vibe I’m getting is more like this is a festering wound that eats at him. He’s furious with her father and probably resents his mother and siblings a bit for patching things up with his abusive dad. For his part, he’s understandably extremely angry because of the way his father treated him during his childhood and is refusing to reconnect with him, even after he got, “professional help and it looks like it worked.” His dad hurt him and now, he wants to hurt his dad back.
Here’s the thing so many people miss. You don’t forgive people for their sake; you look for opportunities to forgive people for YOUR SAKE.
Being treated poorly by someone you care about produces all kinds of emotions in people. Pain. Rage. Guilt. Shame.
When you forgive people, yes, it may help them, but more importantly, it allows YOU to let go of those negative emotions you’re holding on to in your heart, your body, and your soul. Forgiving people doesn’t change the past or mean that what happened was okay, it just means you get to emotionally let it go. In some cases, it even allows you to rise above it and be the bigger person like legendary UFC fighter, Georges St. Pierre, who ran into his childhood bully, who was out on the street. He could have ignored him. Mocked him. Beat him up. Instead, he gave him some money and told him he had potential and could better his life. That guy turned his life around because of it, but you know who else benefited from what he did? Georges St. Pierre. Not only did what he did make him look mature and like a really good guy, it allowed him to rise above what happened to him as a teenager.
The guy from the story above on Reddit? His dad is 70. There are no guarantees of how long he has to patch things up – and we’re not talking about being his dad’s best friend here. We’re talking about letting his dad say a few words, telling him that he forgives him and MAYBE, if he wants to, doing a little more from there. Would that make his dad feel better? Absolutely. Would it probably help his relationship with his mom, brother, and extended relatives? Yes, it would. But it’s really about him. He doesn’t need to carry all that pain from his childhood for the rest of his life. He can and should let it go. Life puts enough burdens on our shoulders without choosing to carry any emotional baggage we don’t need.