One Angry Dad
He was an older dad, a 70-year-old gentleman, who served as the head of his department at the state university. He drove a Beemer and dressed business casual every time he brought his pre-teen son to train with me.
“I really want him to be good at pushups,” he said. “I want him to feel strong because I think he’s being bullied.”
I empathized, telling him a few things about my story. He reddened. I had never seen fire in someone’s face so quickly. Perhaps there was more to his son's story than he wished to share. I backed off, trying to transition to training, but I couldn’t grab my stopwatch before this father unleashed like a machine gun into his own story.
Spit flew through his clenched teeth and hit my cheek. I stepped backward, but he moved forward, blasting me with his hot, after-dinner breath. I didn't look away but sensed people watching.
What is happening? I thought. Why is he so angry? How do I get out of this?
Forty, 50, maybe 60 years later, he returned to where it all began. Was this the first time he had ever talked to anyone about it? Or was this how he always talked to everyone about it? Through all that red, I was unsure whether he needed someone to unload on or if he was confusing me as one of his perpetrators.
“I’m so sorry you went through that,” I said, unable to defuse him.
“Those people in their small towns with their small minds,” he said, proceeding to rattle off his prestigious degrees and accomplishments, assuring me that people like us were so much better than them.
In all my years speaking about my story, I had never witnessed this kind of reaction. What could I say to differentiate my experience from his, and in what way could I say it so he wouldn’t totally lose it?
“I’ve worked hard to forgive,” I said. “It’s freeing.”
He pfff-ed at me, batting away my comment with his hand, leaving me wondering if he would help his son deal with bullies like he had dealt with his own.
One of the most common responses I receive when people find out about my book is, "You're gonna help a lot of kids.” I appreciate this confidence, but it always takes me back to this father, and I wonder, what about adults?
I’ve lost count of how often parents start talking to me about their kids, only to end up back in their own painful memories.
We spend a short time in school, but what happens there can impact us forever. When we grow up, we take things with us, maybe not outwardly but inwardly. And maybe not memories of being bullied but of another kind of abuse.
Or memories of a parent leaving.
The death of a loved one.
Packing up and moving.
A broken friendship.
Getting cut from a team.
A pet given away.
The things that scar our hearts during our most vulnerable, impressionable moments. We carry them with us because they are the most vividly retained memories of our lives.
It’s the same reason so many of us love listening to the music we listened to when we were 17. It sends us back to when we cruised Main Street as the warm summer air blew through the windows, when we laughed with our friends and danced like nobody and everybody was watching.
It doesn't matter how old you are or how long ago it happened. Memories pop up at one time or another whether we want them to or not. And if we never fully address the painful ones, there’s a good chance we’ll unload on others somehow.
I know because, although I was fifty years younger than this dad, I did my share of going off. And I’m thankful that I quickly learned that it takes less effort to release pain than it does to hold on to it.
When I realized that my pain had already been dealt with, I chose to stop burying what wouldn't die by my efforts alone. I chose to release it so I could grow closer to God and live a fuller life. Why keep holding on to anger when peace is only one thought and a few words away?
So many people are walking around angry. You don’t have to be one of them. You don’t have to live like a ticking bomb at the mention of a certain subject or person.
Whatever it was that hurt you is no longer yours to carry.
Jesus absorbed all your pain when He died for you on the Cross.
Your burdens have already been dealt with.
You have already been healed.
You are free.
Tami McCandlish is the author of Let the Bees Buzz: Finding Redemption in the Aftermath of School Bullying. As a writer, speaker, and businesswoman for the past 20 years, she has shared her story with thousands. She is also a fitness coach who has inspired thousands to healthier lifestyles. She and her husband, Charlie, live in Ohio with their kitties.
Download Tami’s free guide, Seven Steps to Healing After You’re Bullied, and follow her stories about faith, fitness, friendship, and felines at tamimccandlish.com.