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Monday is Parent Affirmation Day at Help 4 Your Family! 6/25/2012- Forgiveness

Forgiveness: The Real F-Bomb

Forgiveness: The Real F-Bomb (Photo credit: bangart)

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Today I’m going to talk about forgiveness.  It took me a long time to become a convert to this way of thinking.  For quite a few years, especially as I was working with traumatized and abused children, I believed that people, especially abusers, did not deserve forgiveness.  I did not forgive people in my own life as well.  It turns out, I just didn’t understand what forgiving really means.

You know that old saying forgive and forget?  Yeah, that’s not what we are talking about.  Here’s the kind of forgiving I’m talking about.  I’m talking about the kind of forgiving where you decide for yourself that you are going to give over the resentment that you feel about this issue.  There are a few quotes that keep me going when I think about forgiveness that I will share with you now.  Maybe you have heard them.  The first is by Robert Holden.  He says “forgiveness is remembering who we were before this grievance.”  In other words, it is letting go of who you are while holding onto the anger and resentment and embracing that which you were before you felt that way.  The second quote is by Carrie Fisher, “resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”  That one really gets me thinking every time.

Sometimes we tell ourselves that by withholding forgiveness, we are making the other person “pay for what they did.”  In reality, if the stories you are telling yourself about that person are true, you are most likely not making them pay at all.  What satisfaction is to be gained by silently, or loudly stewing about someone who is not even in the room?  Who is paying for that but the person who is holding onto the anger?

Forgiveness is the process of letting go of the emotional energy you have decided to carry about a particular issue or incident.  It is the willingness to see that all things happen in context and that anything that happens comes from things that happened before that.  Forgiveness does not require reconciling with someone.  Forgiving people still set boundaries with others including the person they are forgiving.  Forgiveness can be completely internal and may not involve speaking to a person at all.

A useful exercise that I learned when seeking to forgive people came from Joan Borysenko and Robyn Casarjian in an on-line course they taught on Forgiveness that you can link to here (if you are struggling, this is well worth your few hours of time and your $20)*.  In this course, one suggestion that the facilitators give to help let go of anger against a person is to take a few moments to picture the person you are angry with up on a stage.  Imagine that the person has all the tools they need to give you what you needed from them that they did not provide.  For example, did someone say hurtful or judgmental words to you?  What did that person need in order to say kinder words to you?  Did they need a kind parent growing up?  Did they need people cheering them on as they accomplished new things?  Did they need someone telling them that just because you have something they want, that it does not prevent them from having something?  As we become more aware of the lack in the life of the person  that we need to forgive, it becomes easier to forgive them.

What does this have to do with parenting?

How often have you gotten off the phone with someone you are carrying resentment toward then snapped at your children?  When you see or think about a family member who has hurt you then your child does something that reminds you of that person, do you respond to your child in a helpful way, or do you try to get them to stop doing that thing even if it is not hurtful?  Can you see holding onto resentment does impact your parenting?  Can you see that if you have a child with trauma and/or attachment issues, that carrying resentment and anger toward your child, while incredibly tempting at times, is not helpful to you or your child?  They are doing what they are doing because they needed something more, most often times it is something more than you were able to give them.  This week’s affirmation is:

I am letting go of anger and resentment.  I allow myself the freedom of forgiveness.

See how it feels to really say this one over and over.  If you are having problems with this, let me know.  This is so important.  I want to start a dialogue about forgiveness here and I welcome your thoughts.

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June 25, 2012 - Posted by | affirmations, help for parents, parent support/ self improvement, Parenting


  1. Thank you for another thought-provoking post. I am currently in the process of forgiving my mom. It is an internal process as you describe in your post, because she believes that she was “Mother of the Year” and is not deserving of any of the resentment all four of her children feel for her (all 4 of us feel that way, you’d think she’d get the hint!) It really does affect the way you parent, I’ve found myself holding my tongue and counting to 10 on many occasions, very aware of the obligation to my child not to sound like my own mother. Ironically, my son adores is grandmother, and I’m also very careful not to poison this relationship with my baggage about it. It’s a fine line to tread.

    Comment by Mom Meets Blog | June 25, 2012 | Reply

    • Thank you Rebecca. I throughly enjoyed your post from this morning also :). Your comment reminds me that I had someone say to me once that if I lived my life in reaction to someone else (for example, working to be different than my mother) then I was not living my authentic life, only a life full of reactions. I’ve thought about this a lot over the years. Forgiveness has allowed me to step back from looking at people in my life as someone I do or do not want to be like and has allowed me to decide which aspects of people’s character I am and am not attracted to. It has also allowed me to see people in a very different way than I would have anticipated. Using the example of my mother (because who doesn’t have mommy issues?), I too wanted to do some things differently, however, forgiveness has allowed me to see that I don’t need to do everything different down the line. I still sing the same wake up song to my children that my mother sang to me, even though there are many other things I do very differently. Best of luck on your journey. Thank you for sharing my post 🙂

      Comment by help4yourfamily | June 25, 2012 | Reply

      • Wow. . .are you in my head? Thanks for this too! Seeing my mom and son interacting positively and my being in a different (better) circumstance than my mom was when I was a child has made be step back and look at the reasons (not excuses) for some of her behavior. I agree that trying to do everything differently from the way she did is limiting and robs my son of learning about the positive experiences I had as a child. Thanks again!

        Comment by Mom Meets Blog | June 25, 2012

  2. Whow! Amazing , how we are on the same page. I also wrote a blog last night about forgiveness and am publishing today. You are so very correct, blame game, process. God showed me the very same things!
    Will publish in just a few minutes.

    Comment by adifferenceforyourlovedones | June 25, 2012 | Reply

    • Thank you 🙂 I’m not sure if you posted it yet, but if you did, I looked and could not find it. Can you send me the direct link in a response? I would like to read it. Thank you for commenting. This is so important.

      Comment by help4yourfamily | June 25, 2012 | Reply

      • Here it is:

        I am writing on healing next. I am floored about the notes and insights God gave me. It is such a tricky subject, because of all the hurt. Same as with the suicide blog I wrote ” Are you desperate”. Please share with me what you think, since I am really not much of a writer. You can e-mail me: beate.oma I love the way you write an value your opinion.

        Comment by adifferenceforyourlovedones | June 26, 2012

  3. I’m late reading your affirmation post this week, but it is a terrific one as always. I find that for some people the inability to be able to forgive is the main road block in their lives that keeps them from happiness and it’s so sad. I’m pretty good at forgiving other people, not so good at forgiving myself unfortunately. Thanks again for such a well written and timely post.

    Comment by licensedmentalhealthcounselor | June 27, 2012 | Reply

    • Thank you for sharing my post. I agree that the hardest person for me to forgive is myself. What I have found though, is that when I can forgive myself, I actually can make things right quicker than if I stay stuck in telling myself how awful something was.

      Comment by help4yourfamily | June 27, 2012 | Reply

  4. Reblogged this on Licensed Mental Health Counselor.

    Comment by licensedmentalhealthcounselor | June 27, 2012 | Reply

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