Forgiveness is Easier Than I Thought

Forgiveness“Finally my mind caught up with my mouth…My apoplexy ceased. My fury lost its redness. And, for the first time that trip, I really took [my parents] in: Dad’s once-chiseled face, collapsing with age. Mom’s hair, pinned up in a bun, one step closer to hoary and desolate white. How old they’d become. How many more visits would I even be blessed with? How many more chances to make things right?…These were not the same people who had raised me. Those people existed only in my head, caged and rotting behind my tight, unhappy grin for decades while my actual parents got older, gentler, wiser; while their bodies fell apart and their souls grew deep.”
-Shozan Jack Haubner, A Zen Zealot Comes Home, The Sun

That quote arrived in an advertisement for The Sun magazine today. It was so perfect in it’s timing and reflection of my feelings as I was pondering how to write this blog post, how to explain how I’d forgiven my father and eventually even my mother for how they raised me. The people who raised me aren’t here anymore. They haven’t existed for a long time.

It took me many years to realize that my parents are no longer the people who spanked, forced and yelled at me, but at last I’ve forgiven them. I’ve been angry since puberty. I didn’t even think to try to forgive them until this last decade. I didn’t actually attempt the feat until 8 months ago. That’s when my current and best therapist brought the idea up.

It’s just been floating around in the back of my mind since then as a soft wish, a dream, less than a hope. From time to time, I’ve imagined a benefit from forgiveness: I could have a close relationship with my mother, something I’ve only seen other women have with their female relatives.
I’m writing this to tell you that’s enough.

You don’t have to meditate on forgiveness. You don’t have to do exercises from a book to forgive. All you have to do is to genuinely want to forgive. You just have to want it.
It sounds so easy when I put it like that but I know it’s not.
There are so many reasons to hold on to your anger, even hatred. You’re right. You’re justified. You were wronged. You can hold your rage for the rest of your life and no one can tell you that you were unfair.

You will miss opportunities though. The opportunity to enjoy the company of the people who were delighted when you came into the world. The opportunity to hear tales of your childhood from the people who were there. The opportunity to lift 1,000 pounds off of your shoulders because that’s what it feels like when you let go of your justifiable anger.