Forgiveness: it’s all about you

Some of my fellow bloggers have written some poignant posts on a tough subject; forgiveness. It started with a gut wrenching post by Diana Murdock on her journey to forgiveness and then Angela Wallace followed up with a great post about the key ingredient to reconciliation. Then just recently, I read an amazing post by Louise Behiel on her path to forgiveness. All are must-reads.

On Angela’s suggestion, I decided to repost (with a few edits) a post I did on the subject quite some time ago.

It all started when I watched Oprah interview Tyler Perry (Oct 2010) about his life. The interview took my breath away when Mr. Perry spoke about how he had forgiven his father for the abuse he suffered at his hands and how that forgiveness freed him to live his life according to his own truth. He said he called his father, and let it all out and then…let it go! I could imagine some of Oprah’s viewers were puzzled. How would THAT enable someone to forgive another? But I wasn’t confused. For me, it made perfect sense.

Over the years, many people have asked me that same question; how was I able to forgive my mother for being abusive and more pointedly…why? For me, the quest to forgiveness was very similar to that of Mr. Perry’s.

It happened almost by accident. From around 13 to 18 years old, I was an incredibly angry person. I was violent, mouthy, and aggressive. I had no respect for anyone in my life. I treated people poorly, was a bully, and was absolute tyrant towards my mother.

I knew that my anger had to do with how my mother had treated me growing up. She had been physically and verbally abusive for most of my childhood but stopped when I was around 11 years old. I knew that violence was second nature to me; that it actually felt good and comfortable to me. I understood that I lashed out in large part to gain a sense of control because for so long, I felt like I had none. I knew I felt the need to get even. I felt like the world and everyone in it had betrayed me and therefore owed me. I felt entitled and I felt justified. And as I got older, it got worse. The anger took over. I got to a point where I didn’t know how to control it or stop. I raged. I no longer knew how to not be angry anymore, how to let go and be free. I was possessed!

On my 18th birthday, I was living in an apartment and a party got out of hand. The police were involved and my landlord called my mother and told her that I was evicted. At that time, she was living 2 hours away and had been covering the cost of rent so I could graduate from my high school with my childhood friends.

After dealing with the landlord, we sat down at my kitchen table. To this day, I don’t know what happened to me or what prompted me to open up but I did. For over 4 hours, I unleashed everything. I told her everything I felt, every single thing I had done, every single terrible thing that had happened to me that she had no idea about. I let everything out; how I felt about her, how I felt about how she had treated me, how I felt about my father because he hadn’t stopped her. There was no detail of my life, my thoughts, or my feelings left unturned or untold. I bore my soul to her.

I was raw and exposed but surprisingly, at the same time, I was empowered in a way I had never known. I was stunned that I felt such relief to have gotten it all off my chest; to finally have unburdened myself and to have been, for the first time in my life, 100% honest with not only her, but myself!

And, in that moment, I forgave her.

Most importantly, I forgave her not because she asked, not because she was sorry, not because she wanted or needed me to. I forgave her because it was in that moment that I realized that the only way to release myself from the past, from the anger and pain, was to forgive her. I had to forgive her for myself. It was the only way to let go and renew myself! Hanging on to that pain, hurt, and anger was exhausting and it was slowly killing me.

From that moment forward, my life changed; I changed. I still stumbled and had ups and downs over the years but that “blast/opening” was the defining moment that set me on a course for real change and growth.

Like Mr. Percy in his interview, forgiving my mother wasn’t about “letting her off the hook” and I was in no way saying “how you treated me was okay.” It was about saying “what happened, happened. I wish it hadn’t happened but I accept that I can’t change it and I am done letting it control me.”

I came to realize and understand that my mother had done the best she could with what she knew at the time. And when she knew better, she did better. How could a person ask any more of another?

At that point in my life, had I not forgiven her and let go of the past, the only person I would have injured would have been myself. I would have found myself living a life of anger and blame; holding my mother responsible for anything bad in my life, for my poor choices and bad decisions and for any and every thing wrong in my life.

And sure, you know what, at that age and to a certain degree, it was true. Had she not been abusive, maybe I would have grown up with a more solid sense of self and self-esteem that would have propelled me to make different, better choices but that wasn’t the case. But at some point in my life, I had to become the ultimate keeper of the choice. At some point, the responsibility and the fault for the wreckage I was making of my own life laid squarely on my own shoulders – no one else’s. At some point, it was all on me otherwise I would never own the ability to make my life grand.

A life of blame would have meant life as a victim; frozen in time forever. Because being a victim left me powerless to be a champion in my life. Too focused on the past to see the potential of the future.

People often ask me if I’d change anything that happened. And you know what, I wouldn’t. Yes it was hard, yes it had its challenges but it made me who I am today. And it made my mother who she is. And the culmination of those experiences has allowed us to create a most amazing mother/daughter best friendship that without our experiences, we wouldn’t have.

We both did the best we could with what we knew at the time. And when we knew better, we did better.

How has forgiveness changed your life?

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