Forgive and Move On. Not Necessarily Forgive and "Forget"

They say holding hate in your heart towards someone else is like holding a hot stone in your hand to through at them – you hurt yourself more in the process.  Like anyone else, I’ve endured my share of painful relationships, whether it was with a significant other, family member or friend.  I’ve even had to forgive myself in certain situations.  

I don’t believe in Forgiving and Forgetting; I don’t believe anyone can and if they say they can, they’re not being truthful. After all, if you forget certain pain or transgressions committed by others, have you really learned from them? I believe you can heal from the pain, but healing doesn’t come from forgetting; it comes from remembering, re-assessing the situation and working through it.

The very first person I ever had to forgive was my mother.  It’s absurd to think that I was actually upset with her for dying!  But I was.  I was upset that she died and left me alone.  It was always embarrassing when there were family functions at school and everyone else had their mother there and instead my grandmother or uncle accompanied me – if they accompanied me at all.  I missed my mother terribly and when I think more about it, I believe my feelings were more hurt than anything else.  I knew it wasn’t my mother’s fault that she wasn’t able to physically be there with me throughout my milestones – but I just missed her so much that any explanation given was not good enough.  I had to forgive my mother; I had to come to terms with the fact that she will never return and that I will always miss her.

I had to learn to forgive my father for not being involved in my life.  I went through feelings of rejection and inadequacy.  I took it very personal that he did not want to be in my life.  When I became a teenager, I decided that I would do my best to find him because maybe he had a change of heart and just couldn’t find me.  At the age of 19, my search led me to the news that he had drunk himself to death when I was 16.  I was crushed because at that moment, I knew I would never have a chance to hear why he had been absent from my life and I would never have the chance to tell him how this made me feel. All illusions of a happy reunion were shattered (even had he lived a “happy reunion” may not have happened, but you know what I mean).  As I became older and spoke to different people what became clear was that I was better off without him in my life. He had a severe drinking problem that I imagine could have had more of a negative effect on me than positive.  Understanding this now does not take away the pain the occasionally comes and goes from being disconnected from his family and never knowing what it is like to have a father, but I forgave him.  What he has done (or failed to do) cannot be undone. I must move forward and in my process of picking a partner (my husband), I made sure that he had the qualities of a good father so that when we decided to start a family, my child would not experience the same pain of abandonment as I did.  I decided to break the cycle. As I watch my son and his father play and bond and love on each other, I am healed.  But I do not forget where my pain came from. If I had “forgotten” I would possibly be doomed to make the same poor choice in a partner as my mother.

What I have had to learn is that there is no one coming to rescue me from any pain or memories I have of the past. They are there, they will always be there. Forgiving a person or a situation does not mean you suddenly condone or agree with what they’ve done to you or to someone you love; it means you care enough about your future and your healing to relinquish their control over you- so you’re free to live, love and learn.

I also think it is important that we not hold others accountable for pain they did not cause.  This is something that takes time to learn but it only comes when we are in our “forgiving process”. And yes, forgiving IS a PROCESS.  You don’t just wake up one day and say “All is forgiven”.  When you get to a point where you’re able to say “All is Forgiven”, it is only after processing what has caused the pain/resentment.

I learned (and continue to learn) from the Process of Forgiving when I had to forgive my sister, for the death of my mother.  To this day, she claims her innocence, but I believe she murdered my mother.  Everyone who is close to me knows I believe this, even my sister.  After I found this out, it took some time before I could look at her – before I could stand her presence. Although we were never close as I wanted, I loved my sister but, I hated what I learned she had done.  I was angry because she was the reason I would never know the love of my mother for myself.  I wanted to forgive her though because being angry and resentful toward her would not bring my mother back and it would further damage a relationship that I feel my mother would want us to have.  As I began to explore my feelings, I stepped outside of my own position and into that of my sister’s.  I will not tell her story here because it is her story to tell, just as THIS STORY is MINE to tell but, there is a lot more to what happened and why it happened that I have come to understand today.  Does the pain of the absence of my mother still bother me today? Yes.  Do I condone my sister for what I believe she has done? No.  Have I forgotten the pain I believe my sister has caused me over the years? Absolutely not, but I understand it has no place in my future and the only one holding onto it (the pain) was me.  So it is gone; I chose to forgive let go of the resentment I was harboring and forgive her.

There comes a time when we can no longer blame others for our pain, especially when we are conscious of why we’re feeling the pain.  You have to do the work and it is a process. But it is a process that we all must go through if we want to take charge of our feelings and live our lives on our terms.  

I wish you well during your Process of Forgiving. Just now that you are not alone, ALL of us are walking through our own, with you.