Before my father took his last breath, I had already forgiven him for the few things I harbored anger and hurt over for much of my adult life. I am so thankful I was able to come to terms and let go.
But it was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done and it took years of hashing and rehashing the events that caused the hurt and anger I white-knuckled like a million-dollar winning lottery ticket. It took a billion acts of pseudo-forgiveness. It took painful realization that I would never get the apology I so desperately wanted. It took a lot, but all of it prepared me for the simple act of letting go, which took only seconds, once I was actually ready.
True forgiveness is one of the most liberating acts there is. Not only does it free the perpetrator (for lack of a better name), but it heals the one who is granting forgiveness on a level that is otherwise unreachable. It’s the best “band aid, peroxide, Neosporin” concoction that ever existed.
Most of us think we forgive people often, every day even. Someone apologizes to us for something they did or said or didn’t do or say. We say, “that’s ok” or “no worries” or “thank you, I accept your apology”. That may be as far as we go. Or, we may regurgitate the entire story to friends or family and get angry or hurt all over again, and at an even deeper level. Sound familiar? Happens to me all the time. Accepting an apology is one thing (and that’s even harder than you might think), but forgiveness is deep and sometimes we might even have to remind ourselves that we’ve chosen to forgive and let go, which is ok too.
My dad was a good man. He did the best he could with the hand he was dealt. He loved me as much as he could, and then more. He accepted me for who I was at every point in my life. He stood by me through every bit of trouble I managed to get myself into and stood up for me when others chose to believe I was a lost cause. He believed in me.
He wasn’t perfect, but he believed in me.
None of us will ever know every single person we’ve hurt or angered. We’ll never understand the millions of ways our words and acts (or lack thereof) touch the lives of others, my father included. Sometimes, it’s just better to let go of the expectations we put on other people and those we put on ourselves.
There are so many other people I need to forgive; and I’m working on it. I wish it were easier, but it’s just not. It takes work to discover why you’re hurt or angry and to realize that you can’t make someone else take responsibility for causing pain. That’s on them. It takes even more work yet to just be done and to let go, which then frees the other person.
The need to forgive gets easier to identify, but it’s always a process. It always takes introspection. And it’s always worth it. So do it.