What forgiveness isn't

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mother’s out there. I hope your day will be filled with joy, love, and … forgiveness.

What better gift to give and receive on Mother’s Day — or any day — than the gift of forgiveness. Families are filled with joy and love, but often, as some commenters pointed out last week, with tension, friction, and anxiety as well. If your family is like everybody else’s, including my own, people often step on each others toes — or feet — and the disagreements can quickly turn into arguments and hurt feelings. Sometimes resentment can last a few minutes and other times a lifetime.

The expectations of mothers can be especially high and unreasonable. Mothers are supposed to be all things to all people, and when they fall short, or at times fall flat on their faces, some family members may take it personally and hold on to their anger.

What happens when family members don’t learn how to forgive? The joy may fizzle out, the love unravel, the support and encouragement fade away.

But forgiveness can feel impossible to many people, as the therapist Dr. Andrea Brandt points out in an excellent Psychology Today article “How Do You Forgive When It Feels Impossible.” Take a moment and read it.

What makes forgiveness seem so impossible is that most people don’t really understand what it is and what it isn’t. For instance:

  • Forgiveness isn’t accepting other people’s harmful actions.
  • Forgiveness isn’t having to ignore your own anger and pain.
  • Forgiveness isn’t forgetting what has been done to you or someone you love.
  • Forgiveness isn’t the expectation that everything will now be fine.
  • Forgiveness isn’t something you do for someone else.

What is forgiveness then?

  • Forgiveness is the opportunity to communicate our pain and anger to the person who hurt us but in a non-retaliatory way.
  • Forgiveness is challenging the harmful actions of another and asking for a change in their behavior.
  • Forgiveness is remembering what has been done to us, but making the decision to try to care about the one who has hurt us anyway, if at all possible.
  • Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, a way of healing our own pain.
  • Forgiveness is a lifelong process of letting go of anger, one resentment at a time.

Peter Ustinov said, “Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit.”

I hope, if we can and we need to, we will give the gift of forgiveness this Mother’s Day. And along the way? May those who need to forgive us, do so, too.

Happy Mother’s Day!

3 Comments

  1. Martha O'Quinn on May 8, 2016 at 7:42 am

    Emilie, this is perfect for Mother’s Day. Worded in simple but profound statements. I intend to share this with those I love and hopefully they will pay it forward. Thank you and Happy Mother’s Day to you.

  2. Rosemarie Andreano on May 8, 2016 at 10:28 am

    Thank you!

  3. Nancy Lepri on May 8, 2016 at 11:49 am

    This is a great posting. Happy Mother’s Day, Em!!!

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