Over the last two weeks, I have been thinking a lot about the events in my life that have caused tremendous pain and the times when I have been called to forgive. The memories and conversations brought up a range of emotions along with the realization that I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to forgiveness and healing from painful events in my past.
I wasn’t sure where to begin to write about forgiveness. Then, I remembered that we are all working through different points on the path to authenticity and the work is what we are showing up here to do. So, today I am sharing a part of my forgiveness process as a way of continuing the work and in the hopes that my story may spark a thought or a conversation that is helpful for you. As always, I am grateful for this space to explore these topics with you.
What is forgiveness?
For me, forgiveness is a process, not a single action. It begins with a commitment to let go of painful thoughts and negative feelings associated with an event. Then, it is followed up with a commitment to be compassionate toward yourself and others.
As many of you know, I experienced some very traumatic events in my childhood. The two that stand out as the most painful are my dad’s abrupt departure from the family when I was nine years old and my mom’s suicide attempt when I was 12. Both events were sudden, painful and life-changing for me. To put my pain into words is not possible; however, I can describe the feeling of fear that swept over me both times. It felt like a wildfire burning inside of me, devastating sacred parts of my soul. The first one destroyed a part of me where I held love for my dad; the second one destroyed a part of me where I held love for my mom. The events changed me. They changed the way I perceived family and the way I believed in love. For years, those parts of my soul were clouded over by anger and resentment for my parents’ choices. But eventually, through forgiveness, I learned that the soul, like soil, replenishes over time and becomes a place for new love to grow.
When I became a mother at the age of 35, I was determined to love my children from a place of purity, not pain. This was the time when I was called to forgive my parents so that I could let go of the harsh bonds of betrayal and be free to foster love and compassion.
The role of compassion in forgiveness
The most difficult part of forgiveness for me is always the thought of forgiving someone for a horrible act that doesn’t deserve to be forgiven. In these instances, I find it incredibly helpful to frame the experience of forgiveness in such a way that you don’t forgive the act that caused the pain. Instead, you find it in your heart to forgive the human. You remember that actions are driven by circumstances and that humans often inflict pain on others when they are in pain themselves. This doesn’t make the act of betrayal ok but it makes forgiveness possible. Forgiving the human does not diminish the wrongdoing; it opens your heart to healing. This is the role of compassion.
The role of empowerment in forgiveness
I also find it helpful to think of forgiveness as a way to take your power back from the person who rendered you powerless. Soften your heart with compassion and empower yourself to say “I forgive you for the pain that you caused and, from now on, I will not let the pain hold me back from living my life with love”. From now on, let love shape your experiences rather than anger.
I asked one of my best friends, Deb, to recommend a book for us about forgiveness. Like so many of us, Deb has spent many years learning how to forgive. She recommends The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Mpho Tutu. In the book, they offer four helpful steps to healing through forgiveness. I look forward to reading this book and diving deeper into this area. I have a feeling that I will return to the topic of forgiveness many times! Perhaps it will become a series of newsletters!
Please let me know if there are topics that you would like to explore further so that we can support each other on the path to authenticity.
The beauty of forgiveness
When I think of the beauty of forgiveness, I think of Nelson Mandela, his grace, and his famous words after his release from 27 years of unjust imprisonment. He said, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
Let us remember his words as we walk this path together. They serve as a powerful reminder that pain from anger, hate and resentment holds you captive from the goodness in your life. When you choose to forgive, you choose to nurture love and compassion. This is the journey to deeper connection and well-being.
Thank you for being here with me. Next time, we’ll explore authenticity and what it means to live a truly authentic life.
Let’s journey together.