Forgiveness is complicated because the act of forgiving is always attached to an emotional situation in which a perceived wrong has be perpetrated. And, it is even more difficult when a person feels wronged by someone s/he, by all normal means, is supposed to love and trust. When a child, either young or adult, feels wronged by a parent, it is especially egregious because the parent-child relationship is supposed to be our social foundation, our heart foundation. Unfortunately, for many it is not.
How does one reconcile this? How can one forgive the hurt that plagues the heart?
Here are a few thoughts to consider.
Forgiveness is, as are many issues in life, a process of creating greater awareness and then generating change. Because, for the most part, the act of forgiving is about You as much as it is about your parent.
It is important to acknowledge and feel the hurt, the sadness, the outrage that comes from being wronged. These feelings are natural to us, part of being human. Holding them in or trying to ignore them can be detrimental to your body, mind and/or spirit. You may want to seek professional help to access and process these feelings.
Honoring your feelings does not mean you stay in them. Once you are aware of the negative feelings you hold and you have acknowledged them, find proactive, positive ways to release them when they revisit you. Here are some suggestions:
- Journaling ~ releasing your thoughts onto the page ~ is scientifically proven to help relieve the stress and tension brought on by difficult situations.
- An upbeat friend or a funny television show that brings laughter can counteract sadness.
- Walking in nature, going for a bike ride or run helps the feel-good juices of endorphins move through your body and bring about a sense of calm and centeredness.
You must be an active participant in shifting your mindset about a negative occurrence.
About Your Parent:
Once you become clearer about your own emotions, it may be possible for you to see your parent from a different perspective. Consider that your parent is also a human being, with all the warts and wrinkles this species carries. Lack of education, social upbringing, trauma, substance abuse or a host of other factors could be part of his/her life that ultimately failed you. This is not about making excuses for your parent but rather acknowledging that the poor behavior has a source, and that is about him/her, not about You.
Journaling can be very helpful to gain perspective. The following techniques have been very helpful to me in my personal life, as well as many of my clients and workshop participants:
- Write your parent the unsendable letter and say everything you need to say.
- Take on your parent’s perspective and write yourself a letter of explanation and apology.
- Write a dialogue between your parent and you about the wrong that occurred.
When one takes on the voice of another, often much can be discovered about him/her. With greater perspective and well-processed emotions, it is possible “to cease feeling resentment” (as the dictionary puts it) and forgive your parent. Consulting a health professional also may be important to this process.
Remember that forgiving a wrong does not mean that you forget it. What happens to us, and in us, is part of who we are. What we do with the “remembering” is what is important to our ongoing health and forward movement in life.
We can choose to be victimized by the wrong, or we can survive the wrong. Survival means that we nurture the wounds into scars. Those scars remain but also symbolize courage and, with forgiveness, compassion … for Self and the other.
With blessings and compassion,