Today’s post was written by guest blogger, Sue Ludwig. Sue is a neonatal occupational therapist and a published poet. She is a consultant to neonatal intensive care units around the country and a national speaker. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children.
I once had a neighbor who was also my friend.
She took care of our children while we worked. Our kids loved her.
We shared things. Ladders, snow shoveling, stories about our lives. Her bout with cancer and her recovery.
Six years ago we also shared an experience all too common, yet all too quiet.
Unbeknownst to her, a member of her family was molesting some of the children in her care. One of those children was mine. My child told me or I may have never known.
Our world crashed at that time. It was a gut-wrenching several months of police reports, court dates and sorrow.
It was also the end of a friendship I previously cherished. And eventually a change of address for our family.
I’ve learned endless lessons from this experience. One of them is about the power of forgiveness.
We tend to hold onto anger because we believe it is somehow hurting the other person. We want them to feel part of our pain. Like the least they can do is absorb some of our resentment and live in the shadow of shame for awhile. Yeah, that will make us feel better.
We wear this anger and resentment like armor, protecting us from any further hurt, from any further relationships that may end in similar despair. No way are we making that mistake again. No way are we trusting anyone with our children or our friendship. Not worth the pain.
Soon we become a prisoner of our own armor. The energy of that armor seeps into us. Being bitter and angry is how we begin to engage the world. But there is another way.
We can choose forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not happen overnight. It is the slow decision to shed the armor. To know that the world becomes what we put into it. And so do we.
Last summer while taking Christine’s Uplevel Your Life program, I got really clear about the kind of energy I wanted to put into the world and therefore into myself and my family.
While in the midst of that program I ran into my old neighbor. We were at a park and she was walking a dog I didn’t recognize. Without hesitation I walked right up to her. I asked her how she was doing and if this was a new dog. We had a brief, civil conversation about nothing, and yet somehow everything was said.
I felt like I had taken my first full breath in 5 years. I had not realized the weight I was carrying and was relieved by how free I felt in letting it go. Letting her go.
I didn’t need to write her a long letter or declare that I was forgiving her. We both knew in that moment of humble human conversation that the armor was gone. I swear I almost heard it hit the ground.
This doesn’t mean I’m a ‘good person’ and I was not motivated from that standpoint. Forgiveness is not about being ‘a good person’. It’s about being free.
When in a true place of forgiveness we find we don’t want anyone to hurt anymore. (Least of all, us!)
Here are 3 thoughts that continue to help me with forgiveness:
1. Forgiving doesn’t mean we no longer care about what happened.
It means we want to heal from what happened.
2. Forgiveness lets us live in the present.
Each time we connect with resentment we rob ourselves of being present. We give more energy away to the person or situation we resent than to those standing right in front of us. Forgiveness opens us up and helps us live in real time, not the past.
3. Forgiveness is a choice.
My husband and I could’ve chosen to live in that place of resentment. We could’ve felt very justified in being angry at the world and that family. Instead we chose to see them as just that: a family who was now going through their own horrible realizations.
We had to make a decision: keep our children tethered to that one moment in their childhood and teach them how to cling to victimization and resentment, OR show them by our actions that healing and letting go was a choice they could make over and over in their lives.
Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. It opens a space inside of us for other things, other wonderful things. Like knowing you have so much space inside you to love your kids because along the way you consciously let go of each hurt that binds you.