The “Boston Parking” theory of forgiveness
In Boston where I grew up it seems ALL parking is hard. The spaces are small and invariably require you to parallel park. Most people are uncomfortable with parallel parking. It’s a heck of a skill to learn, but it’s critical in Boston. It’s like learning the skill of forgiveness.
I look at it this way: If you’re going to become a great driver, you need to work on your skill of parking. It’s a key component of driving. You can be an amazing driver, but if you haven’t developed the skill to park effectively you’ll end up driving around all day looking for a perfect space that you can’t find or leaving your car epically jammed into a space like a drunk who abandoned a bashed stolen car after a high speed chase with police.
I think there are two forgiveness “parking” skills: Forgiving others and Forgiving yourself. And my skills are better in one area than another. Let’s take a look.
Forgiving others is like the parallel parking skill. I’m pretty good at that. It’s been a long time since I was nose-to-nose with someone having an epic “will this go nuclear?!?” argument. I’ve learned through hard experience when I get really angry, it has more to do with me and some soft underbelly that got poked than it does with any action or words from someone else. When it feels that way, it’s like a warning siren that I should check in and see what’s going inside of me for me before I say or do something I can’t take back.
See? I’m a great driver! I have worked hard on this skill.
But I don’t forgive myself nearly as quickly.
My “parking skill” for forgiving others is well developed, not as much the skill of forgiving myself.
I can’t gird myself up for a toe-to-toe force of wills against myself. No matter how it goes, I lose. Every time I tell myself “it’s going to be OK”, my little voice reminds me how it’s not, how screwed up I am and how this failure is YET AGAIN another example of my “you-will-never-measure-up”. It’s the same old diatribe that plays like a county fair circus calliope run by toothless carnies.
Ahhh, I can hear the music now.
And of course I can’t ask for help with it. Because I’m a Man, a Dad, a Coach…. so says the voice (craftily using logic to undermine the idea of “not doing it all alone – again”). So I double down on trying to “figure it out on my own” or “work on it” or “get better”. But it’s the opposite that’s needed.
Forgiveness is about letting go, releasing the chokehold on “getting it right.” There’s some illusion that many Dads have there’s a “right” way to do this parenting/Dad/Man/Spouse thing. We set the bar high. The bar is high for us. And if you asked 50 dads about what the “right” way to do it was, you’d get 50 answers, none of which is right, and every one is right.
We’re in the trenches now. Kids are growing, needs are changing, so are expectations. We often don’t have the hindsight because we’re waist-deep in the “doing” part of parenting. It’ll be years before we’re able to look back on this time with any kind of global perspective.
Here’s a practice, try it out: The next time you find yourself beating yourself up for some action you did or didn’t take or some thing you did or didn’t say, ask yourself the following:
“Did I do the best I knew how to in the moment with the information I had the time?”
Almost invariably the answer is yes. Let’s take on a practice of cutting ourselves some slack this week, shall we?