I don’t watch much television, but there are a few shows I like to catch when I can. One of those is The Dr. Phil Show. I like Dr. Phil’s straight forward, pull-no-punches approach and I like that he offers help to his guests (expenses paid). Usually I’m drawn to a particular show from a human interest perspective, to listen to someone’s struggles (and often empathize) and to hear what Dr. Phil suggests they need to do next. But sometimes what I hear is very thought-provoking and teaches me something. The end of yesterday’s show offered just such a moment.
The show focused on the nationally covered (but unheard of to me until yesterday) story of a 9-year-old little girl who lost her battle with Huntington’s Disease this month, and who was taunted during the last two years of her life by adult neighbors. The neighbors admittedly created a Facebook page on which they posted pictures of the little girl, along with a skull and crossbones. They also allegedly screamed toward the little girl’s house that she should die already.
The stated point of yesterday’s show was so that they could apologize to the family of the little girl, just days after her death. And while the husband of the couple did offer a sincere sounding, tearful apology, the wife (who allegedly did most of the offending behavior) insisted that she did not do anything she is being accused of except for the Facebook page. She kept saying, “If I’ve done anything to hurt you, I am sorry,” or words to that effect. Most of the family members of the little girl who were present did not feel she was sincere and when asked by Dr. Phil if they could forgive her, said they could not.
The little girl’s dad was quiet throughout the show except when asked a direct question. He appeared to be crying throughout most of the show and looked incredulous at some of the neighbor’s denials. At one point, in answer to a question by Dr. Phil, he talked about his last half hour with his daughter and how he would have spent it differently if he’d known it were the last 30 minutes he’d ever have with her. When he was asked about his reaction to the neighbor now, he talked about how much time he spent focused on this drama and how much he regretted taking any time away from his beloved daughter. [Apparently, some of their disputes resulted in court action. I don’t know the details.]
When it was his turn at the end of the show to answer about forgiveness, he described his daughter, how loving she was, how she always had a smile on her face. He addressed the female neighbor to say that his daughter would have forgiven, so he does forgive her. He explained that he’s not saying the he likes her or wants to be her friend, but he wishes her well and hopes everyone will leave her alone. [Because of the media coverage, apparently she is a much hated woman — no wonder.] He expressed that he doesn’t want to spend any more time or any more energy on all of this. He is done and just wants to grieve for his daughter.
His response brought tears to my eyes, in part because he was crying, but mostly because he is a better person than I. I really don’t think I could forgive someone who acted that way toward my dying child (even just the Facebook page because that’s all we know for sure she did, since she admitted that). Hatefulness makes me angry, but in my view, hatefulness by an adult toward a child is unforgivable. That said, I love his attitude. I love that he can put what his daughter would have done first, and do it for her. He is a definite example and I will strive to remember his response the next time I am faced with the decision of whether or not to forgive. This was an extreme example and he took the high road.
Do you think you would be able to forgive an adult who taunted your child?