You Have to Forgive Them
By Bernadette A. Moyer
You have to forgive them; you have to do it for yourself and for them. You have to take the high road. This week alone I have heard from a father who is coming to the end of his life and been estranged from his two daughters for decades. He is looking for help in mediation with his adult girls. He wants to talk to them before he dies.
Another mother wrote to me that this is the week her daughter is getting married and once again she feels the pain, the loss and is at risk of losing her peace over it … all over again. Every other day or week I get letters and messages from parents that are heartbroken over the loss through estrangement of their adult children.
These kids are our kids and its forever, whether they are in our lives or not and no matter what they have said and done to you, you have to forgive them. Pride is foolish. It is not a good enough reason. Even when they are not sorry or don’t show the remorse that you believe that they should, you must forgive them. And if and when they do say they are sorry, you have to accept it, let it go and work towards picking up the pieces and building a new and healthier relationship.
Remember when we thought we knew it all and that we could and would do it better than our parents did, in raising us? We were going to be better parents. We were going to be the best parents ever. Then life happens and you get thrown a curve. You do something, they did something, someone did something and the bond breaks down. Are they better off without you? Are you better off without them? They probably are not and you probably are not either. And what good comes of the anger, the hurt and the outrage? Justified or not, who does it serve?
All three of my now adult children have done things that I would never have done but they didn’t do it to me, they did it to themselves. Sometimes they are influenced by outside sources, people that enable them. You don’t know what they may have said to get support and what the motivation really is but you have to forgive them. Even the so called well intentioned “enablers” that help to break apart a family, you have to let it go, you have to forgive them. They hear one side. And there is always another side, always. Getting angry with the “enablers” is like being angry with the girl that your guy cheated on you with? She doesn’t owe you anything. The relationship you had was with the guy not her. Your relationship is with your child, they made the choice, others may have helped but this was their choice.
Adult children make their own decisions. Our kids do things that we don’t like or that we don’t agree with. They make decisions good ones and bad ones but at the end of it all, they have to live with their decisions as we must live with ours. Even if your estranged child doesn’t allow it or present themselves to you, forgive them. Again do it for you and do it for them. Take the high road.
No one was more shocked and stunned than I was when my first born child left home at age eighteen. But it was her decision to make. It is always their decision. Just like with any other adults we choose who we allow in our lives and we choose who we let go of.
I know the stories, I have heard them all and we lived through many ourselves. Yes the pain is real, the loss is real and the hurt and anger and disappointments are real. But we have to take the high road. We have to take care of ourselves first. We have to get through it. We have to accept that we only control our side of the relationship. They can and they will do what they do. Get on with your life, live. Do new things, make new friends and have new experiences. Allow yourself the process, the process of going through the loss, the voids, the hurts and all of it. Try not to be bitter.
You absolutely have the right to your hurt and anger. It’s real. But in the final analysis hanging on to it serves no one well, it just doesn’t. I am not suggesting that you continue to try, call, or send notes etc. if a wall has been put up accept it and respect it. But also be open. Be open if there is a chance to reconcile, be open to whatever comes next. And no matter what forgive them and forgive yourself too. You did the best you could with what you had and what you knew at that time. We are not perfect people. We are not perfect parents and our kids are not perfect kids.
If they are not in your life, pray for them. Pray for them again and again and pray for your own peace and wellness too. Jesus said, ”Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
One of my adult children recently came home. Life has a way of making more sense to us when we grow up from some life experience and gain some wisdom. I know now that she is sorry. I know now that it hasn’t been easy for her. It hasn’t been easy for any of us. But we all survived.
I had to learn to let go of how I thought it should be I had to learn that forgiveness truly is the gift that we give to ourselves. You can stay connected in your heart to people that may have gone away from you. You can wish them well even when you don’t see them.
One of the things that I have learned is that my children didn’t do it to me, they did it to themselves. Don’t take it personally, hard as that is to do, it wasn’t about you, it never is, nothing other people do is because of you. It is always because of themselves. Read more about this philosophy in the book The Four Agreements. It will help, it helped me immensely.
Peace and love and forgiveness …
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