On Forgiveness, Failure, and Not Giving In

Forgiveness does not equal weakness.

I spent many years being angry at my parents for all the things that happened to me as a child. I was furious at them, even as I loved my mother endlessly. Even as I tried to make her proud -- an impossible task, not because she has high standards but because who I am, at my core, disgusts her. I could not let the anger and the fierce grip on my heart be released.

I could not forgive.

I was certain, in my heart, that forgiving them for all this bullshit, all the insanity and the fear and the terror of my childhood, somehow meant that they had won. That I was so beaten down that forgiveness meant giving in to them. And then I realized it:

By not forgiving them, by holding tightly to these stories, they HAD won. But if I could forgive them, then they would no longer have hold of my heart.

So one day, I made forgiveness. I lit a candle, burned some incense, and wrote them a letter. In it, I forgave them for all the craziness. I didn't forgive him for the abuse I experienced, but I did forgive my mother for not protecting me. I forgave her for not knowing anything else, not knowing how to move into something safer, something better, something stronger. I offered forgiveness in lines of black text, scrawled on page after page of spiral-bound notebook paper, the blue lines like veins cut open to bleed. To release. To set free.

And then I burned the letter. As the smoke rose, I could feel the grip loosening on my heart. By the time the last ash had blown away in the wind, I had taken my first real, strong, deep breath in years.

Forgiving my family didn't make me a failure. It didn't mean that I gave in to the stories and the lies they told me. It didn't make me weak, unable to face hard truths. Forgiveness did not take away my story, my strength, my light.

Forgiveness gave me freedom.

For the first time (possibly ever), I allowed myself the freedom to make my own choices without hesitation. No longer were the voices of my parents clanging through my head in every possible decision. I could say things like "I want to earn $75,000 next year" and not be laughed at in my head. I could say "I want to be in a healthy, loving partnership and I am willing to work to make it last," and not be afraid of someone whispering you don't deserve love ...

None of these voices are true.

The day I made forgiveness, something shifted in me. Not an earthquake, but a slow tremor. A building up of potential energy waiting for a spark, the impact that allows a transfer to kinetic force. Allowing forgiveness opened my heart to the potential of something greater. But no act happens in isolation. Once I offered forgiveness and created the space for taking on my own thoughts and actions -- once I gave myself the authentic responsibility of my own being -- I also had to acknowledge that every single day requires me to show up and make these choices again and again. Taking responsibility means acknowledging my power, and also the self-talk that for years has held me from it.

I still fight to take back my own authentic power.

Forgiveness isn't about giving in. It's about taking your story back into your own hands. Forgiveness is about releasing the anger, the fear, the expectation. It's about letting go of the voices in your head that are not supporting you, not keeping you safe, not letting you move forward. It's about taking all the good advice you have given everyone else, and asking your heart and mind to listen to your own wisdom for a change.

Forgiveness is about putting your own pen to the story of your life. It's about a new chapter. It is turning the page and seeing there something bigger than the tiny boxes of hurt and anger and sadness. Forgiveness is about expansion -- not about being bigger or better than another, but unfurling wings and stretching into your own truth.

It's about LIFE.

What stories are you holding onto that could use some forgiveness? How are you keeping yourself back, from responsibilities and from the fullness of life, because you are struggling to forgive? I would be honored to hear your stories in the comments. If you would like to share privately, please contact me. It is a gift to be a witness.