Freedom through Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a funny thing. At times forgiveness is given without hesitation and yet other times the very idea seems like a betrayal of self. Forgiveness, like gratitude, is something that is a continual exercise. It takes time, effort and continued application to truly understand.
To begin we need to understand just what Forgiveness is and is not. Merriam-Webster defines Forgiveness very simply as "the act of giving up resentment." However, Forgiveness is much more. Forgiving a person, or ourselves, is never that simple. There is an entire confluence of emotions that we need to consider and reconcile before forgiveness can actually happen. For me forgiveness is not about forgiving someone to give them peace. Forgiveness is an act done for the sole purpose of giving myself peace. I learned a long time ago the more I held onto the anger, hurt, frustration, pain, etc., the harder it was for me to move forward. I was shackled to those moments in the past, self-inflicting the re-enactment over and over again.
"Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it." ~ Mark Twain
I spent many years resenting my parents for forcing me to grow up in the household I did. Like many I did not have an idyllic childhood. I was raised by two human beings with human failings. Out of respect for my parents I will not get into particulars. I will say this. I grew up in a household filled with rage, surrounded by people who were overwhelmed with their responsibilities to themselves and the house full of children they had. I spent many, many years resenting my parents for not having been better people then; for failing to be the Ward and June Cleavers the television espoused parents should be.
As the years went on and I grew into adulthood I was able to gain perspective and better understanding. I saw that my parents were wholely overwhelmed with their responsibilities and neither of them, at the time, had the personal and emotional tools to handle things better than they did. They honestly did do the best with what they had at the time. Did it make some of what happened acceptable, certainly not. When wrong is done it is still wrong. Forgiveness does not make what has happened become acceptable. The individuals who did the wrongs are still accountable for them. That is solely on them. What forgiveness does is frees us from carrying the burden. When I forgave my parents for their failings and failures it did not suddenly make the actions, attitudes and failures disappear. However, it gave me freedom from having to carry so much anger and resentment. I was the one who deserved to forgive whether they deserved the forgiveness or not. Forgiveness is one of the few positive selfish acts we have at our disposal.
"Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself." ~ Suzanne Summers
I do want to take a few moments to specifically address a topic that is confusing and emotionally conflicting: forgiveness for a person who is an abuser be it physically, mentally, emotionally or sexually. Forgiveness NEVER makes their actions acceptable. Forgiveness NEVER means we have to allow these people in our lives again. Forgiveness NEVER means they are freed from accountability. Those individuals will have to carry this burden themselves for the remainder of their lives. We do not ever forgive and forget these things. We can however forgive, move forward and away from these people and experiences.
Forgiveness is an act of personal transformation both mentally and emotionally. We forgive to give our self peace and freedom. We forgive because we deserve to no longer carry an emotional burden that was never ours to carry in the first place.
Writer's Note: I can gladly say the parents I have today decades later are different people than those who raised me. I can also say with immense gratitude that they recognize their failings and willing take ownership of them. They are an important part of my life due to forgiveness and their own willingness to grow. I am truly blessed.