I have been told that the only path to true forgiveness is by letting go of the past. Many people say the words, including me, but they aren’t really ready for surrendering to letting go. It is a very painful process. When I talk about forgiveness, most people assume it is about transgressions that others have bestowed upon themselves. That is only half of it. Most of the time we forget to forgive ourselves as well for our own transgression against others. We can’t move forward in life without letting go of what we cannot change.
I was in a group counseling session last year learning how to transition the best life for my two girls. The main purpose was learning how to transition from one unhappy home to two happier, well-adjusted homes after divorce. The two child psychologists spent four hours explaining the process of not only raising the children the right way without anger, but also how to give the children room and an environment to flourish and love both parents without barriers.
One man stood up during the session about two hours in and really said that he was having a hard time forgiving his wife for what she did. He felt that he was wronged in the end and was having to pay not only emotionally and spiritually but financially being punished as well. I expected a short snippet of contacting a mediator or lawyer by the psychologists. Instead one of the child psychologists said, “You have to just let it go for the sake of your children. Whatever has happened has happened. And it happened for a reason. You may not understand that reason right now but eventually you will.” The man asked the psychologist, “then how do I get to that point and find forgiveness for my wife?” The psychologist without pause said, “Tell her thank you for the things that she did for you and the things that she does right for the children. Hate and thankfulness cannot live in the same environment. Don’t allow hate to consume you. Your children will pick up on that and that will stick with them their whole life.”
I was really taken back by the profound statement. I wished that I had heard this as a child. It would have made the greatest difference in my life in helping move past so many past transgressions of others against me and my transgressions towards others. By thanking a person for what they have done right in your life, you cannot express hate and regret in the same space. It feels as if your heart, at least for that one moment, isn’t so empty anymore and you feel something besides that emptiness, that pain.
I think forgiving my failures may be the hardest part of this transition in life for me. The previous chapter of my story has been a painful one that I would like to close and turn the page. Like any good book, in life there are moments of joy, pain, celebration, suffering and hopefully redemption with all things coming together in the end. As we travel through a good book and life, it feels good to finish a chapter, good or bad, and turn the page to see what is next. We can reread the parts we have finished or the past but we can’t change how it was written. We can skip ahead forward, but we will miss the part about how we arrived there. In the book of life, we can only live in the moment, the chapter we are writing right now. After writing the last chapter of our book, the book will be closed and that will be the legacy we leave behind for others to follow and hopefully find inspiration and hope.
Fear of the past and fear of the future is a choice. It is the only thing that you can control. The past has happened and you should not fear it anymore. It doesn’t define you. Yes you have gone through it and it has molded your character, but it doesn’t define who you are fully. Fear of the future is always uncertain so why fear it. We cannot control our future fully. Whether we think we know it or not, the only certainty in life is that everything can change. In fact, sometimes everything must change to get where we need to be. Sometimes this is a painful reality, sometimes it is a wonderful discovery.
I have been through so many things to get to this chapter of my life. My turning page is here. This new chapter is one that I wish to write in the moment, without fear of the past or fear of the future. I still struggle with my fears, forgiveness and so many other things, but at least I am aware of my “demons” and what only I can work on myself to build a better person. I am working on becoming a better person for myself, for my children and then to help others. Anything beyond that would be an unexpected welcome in this lifetime. But I still have hope for the future and not so much fear anymore.
I do have bad days that consume me. Each day I work on having less of those that I can control. I live in the moment, the hour, the minute that I am in and I am turning the page to move forward.