Forgiveness is a concept I have come more deeply in tune with.
Having suffered severe childhood trauma resulting in my abandonment at age 10, I subconsciously held on to a lot of anger and hurt for many years. This manifested in so many self-destructive coping mechanisms until I finally did the work and healed. Spoiler alert, I could not have healed and become the happy, whole, stable person I am now without forgiveness.
Why Not HATE Our Offenders?
“Dehumanizing often starts with creating an enemy image. As we take sides, lose trust, and get angrier and angrier, we not only solidify an idea of our enemy, but also start to lose our ability to listen, communicate, and practice even a modicum of empathy.” Brene Brown in Braving the Wilderness
Embrace Your Worth
I love reading about personal development, philosophy, spirituality, history and anything that leads to enlightenment and higher awareness. Not everyone feels this drive to improve themselves and know more, and that is OK! In fact, I hope to raise kids so worthy and confidant they grow up saying, “Brene who?” “Oprah what?” I pray they will grow to be so well-rounded at the hands of my love that they don’t need to ever try to unpack healing and forgiveness in adulthood. It will be a deep part of their minds and makeup. They will be WHOLE.
Because the Brene’s, the Oprah’s, the Liz Gilbert’s, the Rachel Hollis’s of the world, they aren’t here to help the worthy, confidant, and stable peeps. Yip. My entire life I have lacked real self-confidence, worthiness and stability.
ALL the bad coping mechanisms were there, and it reeked of shame and pain.
Ending the Pain Cycle
Fast forward to becoming a Mom in 2015, I realised I had LOTS of work to do on myself internally. I got through, with lots of writing, raging and tears. The most important lesson for me in healing though?
FORGIVENESS AND EMPATHY.
I had to go all the way back to the trauma, sit on the other side of the pain, and re-look at my abusers up close. I had to lean right in, look them in their eyes, and see their humanity. I sat in my adult chair and saw the child in them. In doing this, I realised they hurt me because they were hurting. It is not OK, but it cannot be changed.
If I could not find the strength to forgive them and let it go? I risked repeating the same destructive cycle, traumatising my own kids with my actions, words, and coping mechanisms.
Forgiveness is KEY to Growing
Nothing breaks this down more deeply, in my opinion, than an excerpt from the memoir I wrote last year. So, I share it with you here:
“In a book I’m presently reading by honourable Archbishop Desmond Tutu he ponders, “if I had to trade lives with my father, if I had experienced the stresses and pressures my father faced, if I had to bear the burdens he bore, would I have behaved as he did?”
In reading the archbishops pondering of his late abusive fathers actions and the impact it had on him growing up, I found myself acting like a bit of a curious onlooker, peeking out from under the protective covers that I hide, desperate to know what his answer was. Does Tutu hold his father, his mother’s abuser, accountable by saying he would never have behaved the way his father behaved? Can someone be inherently wrong, so badly so that their actions are inevitably inconceivable? And in our inability to conceive such evil, is that person therefore unforgiveable? I am on the edge of the bed now as I seek the wisdom of this Nobel peace prize winner in his answer to his own question.
As I read on, I see he says, “I do not know. I hope I would have been different, but I do not know.”
I pause after I read this, allowing the tears to build in my eyes, even though I am in a public place. In the archbishop’s admittance of doubt lies wholeheartedly his extension of grace. And upon grace we find its even more loving and peace-baring counterpart, forgiveness. The one that will release us from the chains of our past.
I wonder to myself then, in my own personal journey of reconciliation with the past that no doubt still haunts me, would I have behaved like all the adults in my childhood behaved if I were them?”
Without forgiving others, we cannot heal and move on from the pain. Give yourself permission today to let it go (hyperlink “let it go”, and to live in love.