Forgiving is more than a word

There was a time when this word was abstract to me. I knew what it meant and what it was supposed to do for me, but I had no idea how to actually do it. I read numerous quotes that told me that key to moving forward was to forgive. It made sense, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I could forgive small, simple things. I could forgive a friend for not calling. I could forgive the waiter for white toast instead of the wheat toast that I ordered. I could easily forgive all of the infractions that I wasn’t strongly or emotionally tied to.

I had trouble forgiving the action or inactions that changed who I am as a person. For a long time, I held a grudge against the people in my life who I believed were supposed to… love me, be there, be honest, choose me. I couldn’t forgive the people that were supposed to mirror love back to me so that I would know what it looked like within myself.

It’s easy to be mad at those people. In being pissed of at them, I wasn’t responsible for my actions and I didn’t have to see how I was hurting others and myself. Not forgiving blinded me to the fact that I am still responsible to mirror love to others. By not forgiving, I was exactly like the people I was mad at. And the truth is that they didn’t steal anything from me. Even with all that was withheld, I am still a loving, caring person. When I look at my life, I’ve been blessed to be loved by some pretty incredible people. I realized that preserving the anger in my heart for a few people locked out all the others too. Loving is harder when you are holding onto anger and hurt. It distorts your view of everyone else.

So, I realized that if I wanted to really feel love that I would have to let go. I still struggled. I felt like if I let go of it and forgave, that I was somehow saying that it was okay. I wasn’t able to fully make peace. Real forgiving was masked with dismissal. I dismissed it and pretended like it no longer affected me. I put it in a box with cinderblocks, chained it up and threw in into the ocean of my thoughts. I thought it was gone but it was just beneath the surface of my conciousness.

Eventually, I was forced to deal with it. Personally, one of my struggles was with my father. I couldn’t forgive him for not being the father I felt like I deserved. It poisoned all of my relationships with men and prevented me from really opening my heart to others. I expected everyone to disappoint me and not to live up to my expectations. Because that is what I expected it, I received it. I proved myself right. When I was wrong and someone didn’t disappoint me, I treated them like there was something wrong with them. The truth is that as long as I was punishing my father, by not loving anyone else, I was only hurting myself. I wasn’t proving anything to anyone. I was drowning with that box. Forgiving him was unchaining myself from that box, swimming to the surface and breathing.

‎”It’s simple. When you haven’t forgiven those who’ve hurt you, you turn your back against your future. When you do forgive, you start walking forward.”–Tyler Perry

But, how did I actually, really do it? In a prior post, I talked about the story we tell ourselves is what shapes our world. I developed a new story for him in my life. He was no longer some villan that stole my chance at happiness and deprived me of love. That story doesn’t serve me and it’s not accurate. I had to be honest and see him as someone that made mistakes. He was just a man. He did the best he could. He couldn’t heal his wounds enough to give me what I needed. I stopped hoping that the past would be different and understood that it’s already happened. It’s now my choice if it continues to affect me. I let it go. When I really thought about it and thought about how much richer his life would’ve been to experience the love of a daughter, I felt sad for him. I felt love for him. He couldn’t accept my love. Maybe, he didn’t believe he deserved it. That made me sad. I feel sad for any parent that is so hurt that they can’t receive the love from their children.

Whenever I think of someone that I feel has deprived me or treated me wrong, I imagine the pain they must be going through to be mean to me. I tell myself that, “Hurt people hurt people.” When i remember that and envision their suffering, I am able to forgive. And I know that whenever I forgive, I am releasing myself from the imprisonment of waiting for an apology that may never come. I’m not condoning their actions. I am loving myself to not allowing their actions to stop me from moving forward.