Back in my Christian days, forgiveness was a major player in my faith. I had a hard time with it because I had some pretty big atrocities that needed to be forgiven. Anytime I opened up to Christian leaders, I was always told the same thing, “forgive just as Jesus forgave you.” I made sense back then because I was naive and gullible. I was also hoping for that magic formula that got the heavens to move and God to work in my favor. Well, it didn’t work. I can’t even really say that it gave me peace. Whatever peace that I did have was superficial. What it did do was get my parents off the hook. When I was 18, my step-dad asked for my forgiveness … in front of about 5 other people. This was when I went to my church pastors about the abuse. I felt like I didn’t have a choice but to say yes. Truthfully, at that time in my life I wanted to do the right, Christian thing and this was supposedly it. I was so conflicted and confused. At 18, the statute of limitations would have been in effect and he could have been thrown in jail. I did not know this at that time. Forgiveness was no skin off his back but years of emotional suffering for me. It wasn’t fair. What did I get out of letting him off the hook? Nothing? Should I have gotten something? I don’t know. It would have been nice for my mother to divorce and start a better life with her but that’s not what she wanted.
They say that forgiveness isn’t for the “sinner” but for the person “sinned” against. I can see that. I don’t think that it should be the way it’s portrayed though. In my case, forgiveness is just recognizing that I can’t change what happened to me. I can’t change my mother or her choices. I have to move on. I have to forgive myself for the guilt. I have done that. None of this was my fault. It wasn’t my job to insure my mother’s happiness. It wasn’t my responsibility to keep my family together. My responsibility lies in myself. It might seem selfish but where would we be if we weren’t selfish to some extent? I have a responsibility to take care of my own health and raise my children to do the same. It’s my job to make sure that I’m happy and fulfilled.
Forgiving others isn’t necessary. Some people don’t deserve forgiveness. When I mess up and do something that hurts someone else, I understand that they are mad at me and have every right to that emotion and feeling. Sometimes I don’t deserve forgiveness. It’s not something that we should expect out of other people. It’s not something that should be expected to be given out freely. As civilized humans we all have to take responsibility for our actions and accept the consequences of those actions. For my parents, they never wanted to take that responsibility and they expected my forgiveness of them to be abundant and free without any price. That wasn’t fair to me. I don’t forgive them. I’m ok with that.
It’s ok to harbor bitterness for a while. It’s all part of healthy healing. We just can’t let that bitterness eat at us. Admitting that I don’t forgive them has actually made me feel better. It has lifted the load and allowed me to begin the healing process. Living a life of forgiveness toward them would mean that they must have an active part of my life which I can’t allow. Some might say that I’m wrong, but I say, “you don’t know my mother.”