MAKE ROOM FOR FORGIVENESS AND IT WILL HEAL YOUR HEART

Don't allow unresolved bitterness & hurt from the past to affect your life - choose to forgive, let go, and move on to create a new and better legacy

UNRESOLVED HURT

I was talking to a 90 year old woman recently, she was sharing some incidents from her late teens where her father's attitude had caused her pain. She felt that her needs and choices had been minimalized and overlooked (and from what she said, they had been). The saddest part of the conversation was that she still carried the same degree of anger and upset that she felt from when she was 20. 

She couldn't see that he was a product of his generation and, even though he'd passed away many years ago, she still carries so much bitterness and lack of forgiveness in her heart - 70 years of wasted anger and hurt. Those unresolved feelings and lack of being able to move on from earlier issues have left an ongoing legacy of pain in her life and have carried over into her relationships with others.

LIFE-LONG FLOW ON

It saddened me to see this woman who had the potential to be such a wonderful role model and example to others, be reduced to someone who can't see the all the goodness in her life and how far in the past those hurts were. The resentment and the old memories are as much a part of her life today as they were seven decades ago. It seems such a waste to have allowed one person's lack of empathy and love leave such a lasting legacy.

I think her story impacted on me because I had a less than happy relationship with my own father - he and I butted heads many times throughout my teenage and adult years. There were so many times where I felt held back by his inability to recognize my potential. It meant that I never progressed as far as I wanted to with my education and it impacted my understanding of what a "father figure" should represent. I continued to hope that he'd change.... right up until he was diagnosed with dementia, forgot who I was, and eventually passed away. 

WHAT LEGACY ARE WE LEAVING?

There was a very good chance that I could have allowed my father to have the same ongoing impact on my life as the woman I mentioned's father had on hers. There was a lot of hurt and resentment in my life and a need for acknowledgement and validation, but I made different choices. Those choices were to move on and create a new life story - and included marrying a man who recognized what I brought to the table and who encouraged me to be my best self. He reminds me that I can be better than my history, and that I can write my own new chapters.

I know the 90 year old woman's adult children well, and I can see the damage and baggage they carry from living with a mother who was unhappy, depressed, and carrying a lot of unresolved anger inside her. They are all wonderful people who have moved on and created full and happy lives for themselves - but none of them have a strong relationship with their mother, or happy memories of their childhood. I know what that's like and it's such a shame to have missed that adult to adult parental relationship that I see others having with their parent as they grew older.

CREATING A NEW LEGACY

My greatest hope going forward is that I've broken the cycle within my family. I feel like I can look back and see my Dad's attitudes and failings as part of his own upbringing and personality. He never saw the need to nurture others or to create a family unit where his children were allowed to have a voice or opinions. That was then, that was him - this is now, and this is me.....and I can make my own choices and create a new family dynamic. The first step is forgiveness - we may never hear an apology or get the resolution we are looking for, but we can accept that person's human failings and let it go.

be that one - sheri eckert quote

Seeing someone miss out on true joy for their entire adult life - right into old age - because they couldn't forgive and move on is such a reminder that ultimately the ball is in our court. We can choose to be the bigger person, we can choose to work through those hurts, we can choose who we marry, we can choose how we parent, we can choose to create a new legacy, we can choose joy.

A FINAL THOUGHT

The woman I mentioned has not had a bad life, she created a wonderful family, had a long and loving marriage, and has lived to a ripe old age.....but she's missed out on true contentment, deep inner peace, a sense of her own worth, and ongoing happiness. I don't want that to be the story of my life. I want to be an example of how to move on, how to let go of hurt, how to make better choices, to invest in others, to recognize my own worth, and to be someone who encourages others to do the same.

What is inside you will overflow when difficulties in life arise. Make sure your overflow is full of gratitude and forgiveness.

For me it will be a life-long journey of making conscious choices that override unforgiveness, bitterness, hurt, regret for a childhood that wasn't what I'd hoped for, and many other small resentments from that time of my life. Often the person who caused us pain had no understanding of the impact they had, and lacked the ability to really care - so it's up to us acknowledge the hurt that caused, forgive the person, and get on with creating the life we deserve. I'm giving it my best shot and loving where I am and what my life has become. I'm so glad I won't end up at 90 still carrying the unresolved hurts from seventy years of refusing to move on and get over it.

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34 comments

  1. Very wise words, Leanne.
    Forgiveness is so healing.

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    1. It really is Donna - because it makes such a difference to your own heart - and to your relationships.

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  2. Hi Leanne, I'm so sad for that 90 year old woman. I'm glad she's had a good life but to have that lingering anger and resentment still at age 90 is very sad. I'm sorry to hear you didn't have the best of relationships with your Dad too but you should be very proud that you made choices to live your best life and not let the past hold you back. I've been very blessed to have had a pretty good relationship with both parents, though we've had our moments I have to say! Hope you have a great week Leanne!

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    1. Hi Min - I felt so sorry for her too. It's such a shame to have carried that load for so long and for it to have coloured so much of her outlook on life. I'm sure our parents do their best, but they can only do what their personality/nature allows and if they aren't a great example, then it's up to us to change that legacy and leave it behind, rather than carrying the damage with us into how we view the world.

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  3. Hi Leanne. Like you, I was able to move past the hurt that my mother caused, and truly forgive her. I feel like we are the lucky ones. We went through something big, but we truly came out whole, and are thriving. I didn't intentionally forgive my mom. I'd like to say it was easy, but it took time and tremendous support from my husband, before I was able to heal, and eventually forgive. I am so grateful that I didn't end up being bitter, and instead, I'm leading a life filled with joy! I'm sharing this very powerful post to FB. xxx Christina Daggett

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    1. Hi Christina - you're a perfect example of this at work and how it doesn't have to be a weight you carry around your neck for life. I didn't forgive my dad overnight either, and I still carry the dregs of disappointment in what could have been.....but I haven't used his lack of parenting as an excuse to do the same - that would be a very sad way to live wouldn't it?

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  4. I recall when I was working that I often had to look at the positives a boss was bringing and "forgive" the negatives (like the misogynistic manager who was a brilliant project manager - I learned great project management skills). I think for me, that helps with forgiving in my personal life. Look for the positives in the situation. It was interesting you wrote on forgiveness and boosted this way I think about forgiveness as I'm struggling with forgiving someone who recently hurt me deeply. I think I need to look at her positives, and also realize that there's a new boundary in the relationship. The boundary came from me telling her she hurt me deeply and her response of "I'd do it again". Yes, sometimes forgiveness takes work!

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    1. Boundaries are something I didn't learn until I was at the end of my toxic job Pat. And I also learnt that people who continue to deliberately step over your boundaries do not deserve to be in a close relationship with us. I don't think they are even "friends" in the true sense of the word - because they just don't care enough to be empathetic and respectful. It's also hard when there are very few positives to outweigh the negatives, but being generous in letting things go has such a huge payoff for our own hearts and souls.

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  5. I feel so sorry for that 90-year-old woman! Sad that she is carrying all that angst along with her.

    I am glad, Leanne, that you chose a different track. I liked that phrase in your post: That was then, that was him - this is now, and this is me....

    It requires deep understanding with oneself and great amount of courage and conviction to forgive, and to peacefully break with past.

    This is one quality that I have over the years worked on, and I am happy that I have been able to develop it. There have been numerous occasions when I have just chosen to forgive and let go. It makes me so relaxed, and calm.

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    1. Hi Pradeep, you're so right about the sense of calmness that comes from letting things go. When we churn things over and replay past hurts it really stresses us and the only person who is damaged is ourselves. I'm grateful that I was able to create some distance and some perspective and not rehash past "injustices" over for decades - because, really...what's the point in the end? We're only letting it continue to hurt us.

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  6. I feel so bad for that 90 year old woman to hold onto such hurts! I too try to forgive and move on; even when the hurts are big enough to warrant keeping someone out of my life going forwards I do my best to put it behind me, forgive, and take any pertinent lessons with me into the future. Life is much too short to hold onto anger and pain.

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    1. Hi Joanne - I've chosen to distance myself from hurtful people too at times - it's easier than continually confronting a problem that may never have a resolution. I've also had to learn to get it out of my head and stop replaying the things that I felt were upsetting our unjust - it's a pointless exercise and my brain has much healthier things to focus on these days :)

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  7. Acceptance and forgiveness really is difficult Leanne but I hope your 90 year old friend can get some peace or at least accept what happened. I’ve worked hard over the years not to hold on to resentment and anger. It’s an ongoing process

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    1. It's definitely an ongoing process Jennifer - holding grudges and replaying grievances turn us into really bitter people - and I don't want to be a bitter old woman who people don't want to be around. Give me joy and sunshine any day!

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  8. Hi Leanne, I agree that we need to let go of what is holding us back and that sometimes means forgiving and moving on. I'm sure we have all had circumstances in our life where we've been hurt or aggrieved, but life is too short. For me, I have either removed the person from my life and moved on, or we have come to terms with each other.

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    1. Hi Sue - yes, people will always disappoint us at times because that's part of life isn't it? Sometimes the hurt is huge or unresolved and that's when we have to make a conscious decision about what we're going to do (move on or resolve it within ourselves) because it's up to us to stop any ongoing damage to our heart before it ruins us.

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  9. Hi Leanne, I think you and Pat at retirementtransition.blog are on the same thread these days. That 90 year old woman likely had some unresolved abandonment isues that she had never learned to deal with. It seems that generation chose to bury disappointment and suffer in silence until 'triggered.'

    What I take away from each of you is to take responsibility for myself, forgive freely and be the best person I can be, regardless of what might have happend in the past, even when much of it is entirely from my own point of view. I say that because if we were able to have an honest conversation with the person(s) who wronged us, they would likely have a very different side of the story, or they would offer excuses for their behavior as 'being who they are'. I think part of our misunderstandings with our parents comes from us wanting them to be who they were not or could not be based on their own baggage, personality, etc.

    I think the most important thing a parent can do is to allow their children to have a voice, initiate conversation and negotiate,(through love, support and trust) rather than demand behaviors. Security is more than just food on the table and a roof over head. Thanks for another thought provoking post.

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    1. Hi Suzanne - yes, Pat's abandonment posts certainly resonated with me too because there were a lot of issues from my childhood that have shaped how I respond to situations too. I'm very susceptible to second guessing myself, feeling left out, perfectionism etc etc. Knowing this comes from my childhood really helps me realize that I'm a big girl now and can slowly put all that behind me.

      I also work on the theory that family legacies can be changed and we can do better than our parents - they were a product of a different generation, and previous to that I'm sure parents were even more disconnected from their children. Allowing that to sit in our hearts as resentment and bitterness is such a waste. We can't change the past, but we can learn from it and choose to do better.

      I really hope my kids carry less baggage than I do (they seem to be pretty awesome adults, so that's a big relief!) and I try to also leave space to talk about stuff that they saw differently to how I saw it (kids interpret things differently to adults don't they?)

      It was a good post for me to write as a reminder of where I could be if I don't proactively choose to forgive and move forward with an open mind and an understanding heart. x

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  10. That's quit a sad post. Worthwhile tho. A lot to think about. #LifeStories

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    1. Listening to her made me sad too Lydia - and trying to reason with her isn't an option because the beliefs are so ingrained. I'm so grateful that I have the opportunity to let stuff go before it's a part of who I am.

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  11. What an interesting post Leanne, written by you in such a thoughtful manner that many here chose to share more with you as you have with us.
    My father and I have a SOFTENED and MUTUALLY respectful relationship now...and it took him getting (MUCH) older, and me getting cancer and (MUCH) bolder to have difficult conversations.
    I was on my way to see him (now 98 and very much isolated from the life he loved because of ill health and covid) on Monday and I decided to tell Dad about what his legacies are for me. He stopped talking (ha!) and listened and it was a close moment or two. I might write more another time. The thing I am grateful for is that I get to have the conversations (as appopriate) that I can before he dies. Thank you so much for linking your blog post up for Life’s Stories my fortnightly blogging link up at Denyse Whelan Blogs.

    I appreciate your support and continuing blogging connections and friendships.

    I will be back with the next #LifesStories link up on Monday 25 April 2022.

    Denyse.

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    1. Hi Denyse - I think it's such a gift to have those moments where you get to share your heart with a parent who has been distant all your life. It takes a lot of maturity and forgiveness to offer such wise words to your dad and to have mended fences along the way to get to that point. It's a big regret I have with my dad that he never opened up or understood the need for relationship - and then it was too late because he lost the ability to be present.

      I hope we all say what needs to be said, create legacies that are lasting, and move on from past hurts before we lose the time to do so. x

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  12. This was a lovely post Leanne, personal, vulnerable and insightful. Thanks for sharing your story alongside the 90 year old woman and showing how things can improve for future generations. All the comments make for great reading too which is always a sign of a good post!

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    1. Hi Deb - I'm so grateful that each generation has the opportunity to build on what has come before - and to improve on it in the process. I love seeing that my children are so much more confident and more "balanced" than I ever will be - it means that the work I've put in has been worth it (not just for me, but for them too).

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  13. Wise words, Leanne. I think forgiveness is a form of self-compassion and compassion for others. Thank you for linking up with #weekendcoffeeshare.

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    1. I completely agree about forgiveness being tied to compassion Natalie - when we can let go of hurt and grudges we have room to allow better things into our lives.

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  14. Leanne, this is such a poignant post. I see my life reflected in yours. It's been a long journey to overcome the damage my father caused. One thing I remember and share with people is that He was 25 when I was born. What 25-year-old knows anything? LOL. I am grateful that he did not every hurt me physically but just had no idea how to nurture kids or support a wife, for that matter. I was lucky to have a mother who dedicated her life to raising her children - even through difficult circumstances. Thanks for sharing a bit of your story. I'm glad your husband has been so supportive. I, too, am a better, more confident person because of the men I married. :)

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    1. Hi Marsha - I think our parents are products of their generations. I know that we understood the importance of valuing our children more than my parents did. Our adult children are even more aware of the affect their parenting has on their children - it's good to see such positive progression in this area.
      I'd like to think though, that we can move on from damage done to us as children - to carry that baggage with us for our entire life seems such an absolute waste and so self-destructive. I'm grateful for my husband's input (and hopefully I've helped him deal with some of the baggage he carried from his own childhood too!)

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  15. Wise words indeed, Leanne. The thing about carrying around resentment is that it only hurts the one carrying it around. We don't forgive so much for the other person, but for ourselves. Like you pointed out, you do not need an apology to offer forgiveness. You don't even need to continue the relationship, though you may. None of us are perfect, and I believe most people are doing the best they can with the skills they have at any given time.

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    1. I completely agree about people doing the best with what they knew at the time Christie. What we see as selfish parenting was quite normal back in the 'good old days' and an involved parent was the exception to the rule. Prior to that, boys were always favoured over girls and that was another can of worms.
      Holding onto hurt and anger for so long just builds a world of bitterness that carries over into so many different areas of our life - and I don't want to be the miserable, bitter old woman who nobody wants to spend time with!

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  16. I had a rough relationship with my father too. Not long after he died (I was 19), I realized I could choose how I moved forward. I could stay bitter and angry, or I could do my best to have the life I wanted. I don't remember any moment of forgiveness, and I don't think forgiveness is even necessary. What is necessary is to let go, to let the past be in the past and to take responsibility for your own future. I'm glad I could do that, and it sounds like you did too.

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    1. Hi Janet - I don't remember any specific incident where I chose to let bygones be bygones either. It was a gradual process of realizing that I didn't want his lack of love/care/affirmation define how I saw myself, or how I approached my own family life. I look at old, bitter women and feel such sadness for them - there is so much to life if we choose to be the bigger person and leave the hurt behind. I'm glad you chose to do the same - it's such a release and joy isn't it?

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  17. Leanne, I absolutely love this. I have been reading and listening to a few things along the same lines this week (I love when that happens...it's a nudge to me to pay attention). This is so good and something I have experienced in my own life, the differences in the way people handle past hurts, etc...and the way the outcomes were for myself and the other person who chose to hold on to it all. I saved this and shared it.

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing my post Kirstin - and yes, I've seen the bitterness and lack of growth that comes when people hold onto past hurts and grudges. It's not a happy way to live and seems like such a wasted life - you're so busy looking back at things that can't be changed, and in the process you miss so many opportunities to experience the little joys of living in the present. It's a valuable reminder for me to let go of any old memories that aren't enriching my life now. x

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