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Forgiving: A Journey

I’ve never really known how to forgive. Not properly. I didn’t learn it from my mom’s silent treatment or my father’s quiet built-up anger. And there are a lot of things I learned from my family. My mom was always true to herself, so I learned to be unafraid of being silly and weird around any setting. My father, who is the strong/silent type, taught me that love comes in different forms, but it doesn’t mean that love is any less. My brother taught me to enjoy the little moments. But forgiveness was something I had to learn on my own.

When I was younger, forgiveness was more so for the sake of relationships. When people upset me, I was quick to forgive to get away from the arguing. But I soon realized that forgiving that way didn’t mean I was over the argument or the hurt. My anger towards these little things would build back up and grow resentment towards those who hurt me. This is when I learned that forgiveness had a lot more steps to it.

"Without forgiveness, life is governed by an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation." - Roberto Assagioli

When I got a bit older, I avoided those who hurt me and cut them out completely rather than talking it out and forgiving them. I had difficulty getting over these feelings and felt that the best solution was to just cut and run. This can work for some people, but honestly, even without those people around, those feelings remained in me.

Lately, I’ve been recognizing what I need from others better, and what I need from myself. I recognize that holding onto that grief and resentment is my choice. I’ve found that I can forgive others. It’s just a matter of what I want.

Sometimes we get put in situations where it feels impossible to forgive. Or sometimes we’ve forgiven, but that person keeps putting us in the same situations and our forgiveness feels in vain. Forgiveness doesn’t have to be breaking your boundaries, and it doesn’t have to be impossible.

My father and I never really got along much. We argued over every little thing as I grew up. Whether we misunderstood each other or we were just too stubborn to lose the argument, we would blow up at each other, too angry to hear any side but our own. My father would shut down the argument, telling me to go to my room even when I was old enough to make these decisions on my own. He would argue that it was his house and I couldn’t argue with him. When we argued, our authoritative household suddenly became authoritarian. I learned to be resentful of him. I learned to feel frustrated the second we started speaking to each other, even if it was a positive conversation.

I didn’t want that for us, not for a second. When I was younger, he would play princess monopoly with me when no one else would. I have memories of him showing up for my recitals and making mac n cheese for me every time I asked. And memories of us having movie nights and long drives to girl scouts.

I remembered one time when I was too sick to go to school. My father stayed home and excitedly showed me all his favorite movies. I asked questions, too many for when you’re watching a movie. But he never got annoyed with it. He would answer each question diligently, making sure I understood every aspect of this film that he treasured. Then we would continue watching and laughing through the movie.

But we had gotten so far from those times. And I wanted to heal us, but that resentment had always held me back. And I recognize that sometimes forgiveness takes time and sometimes forgiveness isn’t what you really need. But I also recognized that I don’t have to live with that pent-up resentment and anger. I wanted to forgive.

“Take forgiveness slowly. Don't blame yourself for being slow. Peace will come." -Yoko Ono

Defining Forgiveness

Forgiveness looks different to everyone.

For a long while, I knew I was seeking something to make my relationship with my father better. What I really wanted was to fix it, bring it all back to before I got hurt so I can feel at peace with it again. So I could have no anxieties about being hurt again and I could trust the way I did before. Eventually, I realized what I was seeking had to come from inside. I had held a grudge against others, including my father, for so long, feeling the resentment and betrayal I had felt when they hurt me that I failed to recognize their efforts to fix it. I was failing to recognize I didn’t need to be hurt anymore and that I had the choice to let that go.