An open letter to the father who has failed

Kate Mardis

On Father’s Day, dads receive well-deserved thank yous and sentimental cards from grateful children. Yet it’s not such an easygoing holiday for some — whether fathers or children — because of wounded relationships and painful memories. Here’s what one daughter wrote to her dad for this Father’s Day.

Dear Dad,

You probably were not expecting a letter from me. For the longest time, I didn’t expect to write a letter to you, either. You’ve messed up a lot. You then messed up the mess-ups.

That isn’t new information and I’m sure it’s hard to read, but just hear me out. Some of those mistakes hurt me directly, and some of the hurt was more like a hurt by association. And I think some of those mistakes were because of choices you’ve made, and others were caused by situations you found yourself in that you felt you didn’t have any control over.

What I Want You To Know

I won’t lie, all of those added up to a lot of hurt and confusion for me. But as much as I’ve spent the last few years thinking that if I did have a chance like this to tell you something, it would be to list out the ways your actions affected me. Now that I have the chance, it turns out that isn’t what I want to say.

I could use a lot of different words, but what it really comes down to is this: It is not too late.

It isn’t too late to own your actions and say, “I’m sorry.” It isn’t too late for forgiveness. It isn’t too late for you, for me, or for us. As long as we are both still living, there is still hope.

You may be curious why I believe that, and it’s because of grace. I recognize in my own life where I have made mistakes on top of mistakes and I’ve hurt my heavenly Father. Yet, He continuously extends forgiveness, love, and kindness to me. He loves me so that I can turn around and show that love to the people around me (John 15:9-12). 

Why I Choose To Forgive

You may remember the story of the prodigal son in the Bible. The son throws away his inheritance from his father by running away and making foolish decisions. He later returns, expecting a father who is angry and resentful, but finding one who is welcoming and forgiving (Luke 15:11-32).

Today, I am opening the door to the possibility of a prodigal dad returning to a daughter and finding nothing but grace and forgiveness, because she has found the love of her heavenly Father.

Dad, I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I am confident that the God I serve, “who began a good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished…” (Philippians 1:6).

I love you.

- Kate

Read more on parenting, working through conflict with family, and dealing with pain.

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