It took me a long time to recognize what forgiving someone can do for your soul. I’ve spent most of my life holding onto things I didn’t know I was holding onto for fear I would look weak if I forgave and moved on. After all, how are you supposed to keep someone from hurting you if you aren’t fueled with anger and you don’t remember every last detail of what happened between the two of you? Without your anger how do you put up a wall between you and that person to ensure you never get hurt again?
The problem is, when you start building walls to protect yourself from one person, your entire head, heart and way of thinking is surrounded by roadblocks. You are angry at one person, and you are holding onto a grudge so tight, it spills into all your other relationships.
And before you know it, you’ve forgotten why you are mad, or it’s twenty years later and everything they’ve ever done to wrong you is burned into your brain.
I’ve learned in my 43 years of life how hard it is to forgive and to move on from the anger and despair when someone wrongs you. But I’ve also learned (the hard way) it’s harder to hang on; to not forgive; to not grow; to not move forward.
I want to teach my kids a different way of thinking. It dawned on me when they were very young, watching me have conflict with a family member, that I wanted them to feel more peaceful about forgiving someone than I did at that moment.
There was a long time when forgiving someone made me feel like I was giving the person who hurt me a free pass to stomp all over my insides. But that’s not what it means at all, and I sure don’t want my kids growing up thinking that’s what forgiveness is.
I also knew that if I didn’t start teaching them by example when they were young, it was going to be hard for them to go through life strong enough to forgive while still showing compassion for others. I wanted them to realize that when you have issues with someone, it’s often not entirely about you. Many times, the other person is fighting something you know nothing about.
There are going to be a lot of people who are going to hurt them, by accident and on purpose—that’s the way life works. And there’s not much we can do about it besides teach them to go with their intuition when it comes to choosing people to be in their life, and to forgive.
We are all aware you don’t wake up one day and realize you are really good at forgiveness. Just like so many other things, forgiving someone else takes practice. In most cases, a lot of practice.
And I know with my entire being that if I’d been taught this from the time I could talk, it would be a lot easier for me to do it today.
I want my kids to know forgiveness is more about setting yourself free than it is about the person you are forgiving. I want them to understand that everyone is going through something hard, and it’s okay to feel emotions like anger, hurt, and sadness, but when you refuse to forgive, you are wasting valuable energy that could go towards something much more productive and fulfilling.
Do my teenagers always see me forgive gracefully?
No, but they do see me do it and talk about it and try really hard not to let others’ actions control me enough that it constantly ruins my day.
I talk to them about forgiving their peers who have wronged them. I try and play devil’s advocate and get them to see the situation in a different light. That doesn’t mean I don’t support them or have their back.
It means I want them to experience the freeing feeling of letting go of someone, or something, that is bringing them nothing but bad feelings.
This forgiving stuff takes a lot of work, and the only thing I can do for my kids is sit and do the work with them and hope that one day they become much better at it than I am.