We seem to think that if we give our Forgiveness, we are giving the offender in our eyes a pass. No. Nope. No way. Uh uh. Not at all. Forgiving doesn’t condone what the person did, it doesn’t green-light the behavior—remember, they have to live with themselves too, and no matter what stories they may tell in justification, no matter where they go, what they did is etched within them and You cannot escape Yourself. Wherever You go, there You are.
Forgiveness doesn’t say ‘oh it’s ok, it’s fine that you stomped all over me and treated me as if I were this expendable thing.’ Forgiveness doesn’t say that at all! She says, “release Yourself from the anger, hurt, pain, fear and guilt, unchain You from You, untangle Yourself from these feelings You harbor on a past occurrence that You cannot change. There is nothing in the recycling of those feelings that serve you any good. It is detrimental to Your Health, to Your WellBeing. There is nothing in the replaying of those events that serve You as long as You view them through the clenched jaws of a closed Heart. Being unforgiving is akin to sentencing Yourself and living in a Spiritual Jail with YOU as the bail bondsman, judge, jury, warden and parole officer—You are never Free from that bondage of pain, fear, guilt and anger. You are never Fully Free, to Be Freely You. You are you with conditions in the form of bulky baggage and it affects every single relationship You are in or will be in…”
Forgiveness urges us to put down them bags, they’re way over the limit to FLY and You cannot benefit from the Fruits of Life nursing a grudge about some *ish! that happened in past tense. You can’t. Mannnnnn if I didn’t learn to let go and Forgive, I would be an old wrinkled up prune continuously circling the wagons of anger and bitterness because I was still mad about things that occurred in my past—I had every RIGHT to be furious but the fury only kept me locked up and a victim…
I come from a family of Gold Medal winning Olympic grudge-holders, the best in the business. Nobody can keep a grudge better than those folks could. I remember feeling really bad to hear one of my uncles over the phone totally bereft after the sudden death of his brother, my uncle. But ya know what he was torn up about the most? It wasn’t the fact that his brother was gone suddenly, but that he had not spoken to him for two years over a stupid STUPID argument. It was over who was responsible for the sidewalk in front of the decedent’s house, the City, or him! Now of course that was not the sole reason for them not speaking, this was a lifestyle, this was a pattern, the way of being for those siblings—fight over stupid *ish! not speak for eons, make up, repeat.
And in this case, that pattern played out until it reached the grave. Damn.
Yup, that was my family when they got together. Hurl Verbal Vomit at your opponent and turn the family gathering that your elderly mother with the bad leg stood on all day to make all of your favorite foods FROM SCRATCH, fill ya belly with all the love that went into the meal and the arguing family dynamic took over. It seemed like they got along when I was younger but it all went to poop after my mother died at age 32. I was 9 years old.
There was a lot of blame going around, a lot of hurt feelings in that family-- a lot of ‘I’m right, you’re wrong!’ And little me was caught up in all of it. I still to this day do not know the cause of my mother’s death, there were varying opinions including an accusation that my dad did it. One night she was taken to the hospital while I was in bed but I saw the stretcher go by as I lay, with a rushed explanation offered the next morning. I never saw her again, two weeks later, she was no more. After she died, my dad either gave away or threw out all of her stuff. So all of the beautiful jewelry she had that I loved so much was gone, and he never spoke of her. Then 5 months later, after numerous baby sitters that all wanted a place next to my dad there’s a new woman in town who was his new wife. I don’t remember ever seeing her until the night before they got hitched and was unceremoniously informed the next morning of the new overseer in charge. I tried to like her but I had just lost my mommy and none of the adults in the equation seemed to think it necessary to see how I was doing in all that. So I went from a pretty charmed life to one of abuse, poverty damn near and sadness. POOF! Just like that.
The new wife was quite mean and said pretty awful things to me like my dad was first, my brother was next, followed by herself and I was last. She was also the source of one of the worst beatings I had received in my young life, because she announced that I was being rude so my dad beat me with numerous things like his belt till it broke then a switch from the backyard and once that broke he back-handed me to the ground not once, but twice because I got up. I was 10.
When I started menstruating, she made it sound like I had done something wrong. She yelled at me and made me feel like I was a bad person, like I had done something I wasn’t supposed to. My dad was a full-out alcoholic by this time, and my home life only got worse as the years went by as he became even more angry and abusive. But this time, the abuse was aimed at her and when I turned 16, he almost choked her to death. I screamed for him to stop.
And oh my gosh, the horror stories continued until I was twenty-four and thrown out of the house on a cold December at midnight with two bags, the rest of my belongings inside the locked door because dad got mad I told my brother of my moving plans before I told him. 4 days before I was slated to move on New Year’s Eve. There are way too many other horrors to speak of in this forum. But during that time period, I lived two lives, the one at home where something was always broken and there was little to no heat or hot water, to always being in fear of the coming storms of Dad, the drinking, daddy’s friends who would come over to socialize, drink and get high. One night, one of them mistook my door for the bathroom, entered and pissed on the floor, just missing my books. That recollection actually makes me laugh. Daddy also had a friend who came to the house who gave me the downright creeps. He would always undress me with his eyes as he witnessed my growing up self from a child into a young lady. And I was always in fear of the insane demands and proclamations issued by my father like deciding he wasn’t going to help me to go to college and wouldn’t sign any financial aid papers to even be able to qualify for a scholarship. Yeah. Life for me was a dance in survival. And then, there were the tumultuous family gathering fights ooh boy!
On the other hand, when I was out of the house, I was quite outgoing and an A-student in school. No one knew the hell that was my life. I am forever Grateful to the beautiful souls who affected me during those times, I had great friends and two cousins who weren’t really my cousins and this amazing teacher in High School--my first dance teacher who will always be Mrs. Meizner to me though she’s insisted I call her Jeannie (which still feels weird). In her class, I really could fly. In her class, I was free. In her class, my Imagination had full reign. I also had a kick-ass teacher for Writing, Mr. Levy, loved him too.
My adult life was riddled with my share of disastrous and sometimes dangerous relationships and during that period my dad didn’t talk to me for 20 years. Now you may go ‘why in the hooping Hades would I wanna talk to him?’
I wanted to talk to him because he was my dad and I loved him. Yup. Simple as that.
Through the years I wanted (and still do want) to Evolve, to be more as my Better, Wiser Self. And in that Journey, Forgiveness is key.
All of our stuff comes out of our relationship with ourselves. That can be a hard pill to swallow, we wanna blame people, we want to hold others responsible and accountable for our *ish! But everything ultimately boils down to Perspective. Are you going to allow past hurts to eat you up, turn you bitter and scared? Every time You choose to be unforgiving that’s what happens. Or are you going to look for the lessons contained within those situations? Will you see, though painful, they contribute to Your Life Journey, and they are only things that happened, those things that happened are not YOU. They’re part of Your Story. Like pages in a book.
Gotta turn the pages. Gotta change the writing on those pages.
When You can get to a place of Forgiveness it’s like unhitching a too-tight bra or pair of pants, like taking off a pair of shoes that make your feet howl! As I explored my own Personal Growth and began to let go of Baggage, I saw that people do the best they can with what they know, myself included and I ultimately Forgave my dad because as I was trying to make sense of my own Life, I began to see him as a Human trying to make sense of himself and the world in which we live. He had a lot of anger stored up in him long before I hit the scene—he and my stepmom were raised in a time and place that instilled them with soooooo many antiquated views on Life and Living. They were filled with so much ignorance and unyielding attitudes so how could they possibly recognize someone else’s pain? They were ill-equipped to deal with it. All of the adults the equation. Does it condone what was done, what was said? Nope. But when You Forgive, the past no longer has You in thrall.
My dad and I reconnected (with the help of my brother) and established a relationship 6 years before his death. Forgiving my step-mom took a bit longer, but in being in touch with my dad it was exhausting to keep up the hate-thing with her so I decided to drop hostilities. No matter how she came at me I decided to Forgive her, and to remain calm and cordial through her sniping. Over time, her attitude toward me shifted and we became friends. By the time Daddy transitioned, our bond was forged. If someone years ago told me she and I would be fast buddies, Ida thought they needed to check into the nearest insane asylum. There was NO way in this lifetime we would be friends. Not in the next one either. But that’s what Forgiveness makes room for—endless Possibilities.
Of all the great things I have Experienced and been a part of, I hold Forgiving my family to be one of my biggest accomplishments.
Now if the other person isn’t willing to change, don’t wait, YOU change. Whether they get on board or not, YOUR Healing is what’s important. I had one friend in particular that didn’t get it, she thought I was bonkers in Forgiving stepmom. ‘How could You?’
How could I not?
By the time my dad left this world I had long made peace about the past…or so I thought.
The thing with Forgiveness is that it can be like having to go down to renew your Driver’s license—as time goes on that Forgiveness may expire if You find there are deeper layers of that hurt and pain connected to the past. But it’s not failure, it’s not that You didn’t Forgive—You did. But now the deeper layers float to the surface out of the darkness for You to Shine The Light Upon. Though we were friends, my stepmom and I have had our battles over the years and one day on the phone a couple years back, I erupted into shrieking at her at the top of my lungs as our conversation on a then current event turned contentious and then traveled to the past where we had quite different views on the sequence of events and on some events in general. I became very agitated and before I knew it, I gave Voice to my 9 year old self letting her know that none of the adults in the equation advocated to my being alright in the sudden loss of my mother. That they were all calloused and forgot about the little girl in the room who was hurting. That every decision carried out didn’t take that little girl’s feelings into account and it was everyone for him or herself. I had never ever dealt with that level of pain, the pain of my 9 year old self who had no Voice, not even to myself! I had never released that depth of pain. I was ignorant to its existence. Wey-all, not no more.
I was in such a state that I scared the crap outta my partner. By the end of the phone call I was screaming and wailing like a banshee totally out of control. I had called him right after the fight and he came by so fast, poor baby was so scared.
But when the smoke cleared, or I should say when the waterworks slowed and I was thinking more clearly, I Forgave her again and MYSELF because no matter what she said in that phone call, ultimately, I was not proud of MY response no matter how justified it was. I knew better. The ONLY thing we Truly have governance over is OURSELVES. How to become Your own best friend is in relinquishing the hold on old slights, trespasses and Baggage, for while it doesn’t change what happened, it changes how much Power it has over You. Now when she and I approach an impasse on opinion I back off, it is not important for me whether or not we agree with each other, even down to past events. I SEE her and know that she is operating on what she knows and doing the best she can with what she knows. Just like me and everybody else that walks this Earth.
When You know better, You DO better.
We ALL want to be seen, but you must see YOURSELF. Forgiveness opens the way to Your Inner Compassion Center. It is not the same as agreeing with someone, it is an Agreement You make with Yourself to do no harm to YOU. Harboring anger, guilt, fear, bitterness is doing harm to Yourself. It robs You of a True Presence, of Being Present. Take that anger, don’t deny it but take it and channel it into things that are Progressive, are Positive, are USEFUL.
Lift the veil of anger like the fog lifts, acknowledge it’s there, seek The Lessons, Forgive, and let it go.
Quoting myself here, “Forgiveness—it ain’t for them, it’s for YOU. It sets You FREE.” If You’re stuck or know someone who is stuck and want tools to help release resistance to letting go and delve into the Practice of Mindfulness, consider looking into my 4-week eBook series 7 Daily Thoughts & Mantras 4 Mindfulness—Keys 4 Stress Relief & Personal Growth. They are colorful, beautiful and short guides for the busy person and make wonderful gifts at any time of year.