Call me selfish, but I choose to forgive primarily as an act of caring for myself. Like most everyone else in the world, I have been hurt many times in my life and there have been times when it has taken me years to forgive someone.
But, I've learned that if I dwell on the past, I'm giving over my peace and serenity, which I deeply cherish.
Let’s back up so I can explain where all this is coming from.
I had an unstable early childhood to say the least. Divorced parents, unsupervised children, questionable situations.
There was a lot of moving around from town to town, from apartment to apartment. Different schools each year, and too many absences.
Come to find out, my mother was and still is bipolar/manic/depressive. Of course, we didn’t know it then and having four children by the young age of 26 did not help her situation. Add to that a self-centered father who was more interested in smoking pot than anything else and you’ve got a bad situation.
So, yes, my siblings and I grew up too fast with too little guidance. Things happened, children were neglected and people were hurt. The story is pretty common actually so don’t feel sorry for me.Really — there are children living in the same situation right this very minute and they need your help.
My siblings and I turned out OK — all functioning adults with jobs and families of our own — and my mother finally got the help she needed. I wish that were the end of the story though.
I guess I am one of the lucky ones who figured out how to forgive my mother’s poor parenting not only because she is mentally ill, but also because I don’t want to suffer in anger and bitterness.
One of my sisters followed suit. Sadly, my other two siblings have not been able to forgive my mother for things that happened more than 30 years ago.
After living in a stable environment with my father for a few years, at some point in my late teens I decided to let go of the resentment and move on with my life.
Maybe I realized my early childhood was not much different than anyone else’s. More likely I decided it didn’t matter anymore and that I could do whatever and be whoever I wanted now. I cut the ties to my past and set myself free.
I honestly do not understand why my siblings would not want to do the same for themselves. Don’t they want emotional closure and peace? Our mother has apologized many, many times. Can’t they find a lesson in what happened and use it to make themselves a better person?
Choosing to forgive doesn't mean I condone what my mother did or didn’t do. Rather, it means I’m giving myself permission to move on with my life. It may need to be a daily conscious effort but I know I can find closure in forgiveness. I choose not to relive the pain of the past. I choose not to cling to negative feelings. I choose not to give my power away.
Yes, pain is inevitable, but continuing to suffer is optional. After all, the only person I can control is myself. While the hurt may never completely disappear, forgiveness can help release the anger and bring us closer to the people we care about in our lives. I can't change the things that happened in my life, but I can decide how to interpret and respond to them. I can offer forgiveness.
So, the next time someone cuts you off in traffic, consider they might be rushing to the hospital to see their dying parent one last time.
Let your anger go and say a prayer for them. When someone is rude to you at the supermarket and you know you did nothing wrong, don’t judge them — maybe they just found out they have cancer and are angry at the world. Forgive them.
Too many of us hold on to things that are not ours. We take things personally, internalizing other people’s issues. We assume the world revolves around us, when most of the time it has little to do with us.
Stop and think before you become angry. And, if someone really has done you wrong, be angry and deal with the issue. Tell the person how you feel.
Work through the problem. Then, even if there is no solution, let go of your anger, forgive them and move on.
Life is too short to wallow in misery!
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