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Forgiveness

For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked. How do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet, at the same time, remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?

Bell Hooks, All About Love

I used to be that hateful person that holds grudges. During my recovery journey, I have learned that holding these grudges does absolutely nothing for me. There comes a time in grudges when you have been holding it for so long you forget why you even hate the person. Being upset with people is totally cool and valid, but there really is no need to hold a grudge.

I have learned a lot about forgiveness in the last couple of years. One of the main reasons I’ve been able to forgive is because I have really come to learn that most people are doing the best they can with the cards they’ve been dealt. While I am someone who has been through years of therapy and someone who is extremely self-aware, I realize that not everyone has that same experience under their belt.

Most people are damaged. You really have no idea what anyone has been through. A lot of people go through trauma and most of those people do not talk about it. Trauma does some not so great things to the brain, something I unfortunately know from experience. These traumas seriously effect these people and their lives.

Whenever someone treats me in a way that I think is wrong, I allow myself to be upset because my feelings are valid. A wrongdoing is a wrongdoing. But, instead of dwelling on the action and thinking horrible things about the person who did them to me, I choose to step back and remind myself that I don’t know what’s going on in their life or if something happened to them in the past that has caused them to act this way. I know there are so many things I do that are just a trauma response. These responses never make sense to other people. I remind myself that they are human.

Just because I am able to forgive people who have wronged me doesn’t mean I feel the need to stay connected with them in any way. Being able to forgive and remind myself that I don’t know their story helps me to move past it and continue on with my life. Dwelling and staying in the past is not healthy. There is so much for you in the present and in the future. It’s not worth your energy to bottle up negative emotions and let them take up space in your mind.

When it comes to family and friends, but especially family, I am able to take that step back and actually walk through why people are acting the way that they are and I’m able to remind myself it isn’t personal. In fact, being able to take this step back and realize why someone might be acting in a way that’s not so great is usually a clue that they might be struggling. So, instead of staying pissed off and upset for hours, days, weeks, or years, I know that I should probably ask them if everything is okay and if they need anything, even they just need someone to vent to. This process has helped me immensely when it comes to my family.

Again, I am not saying that shitty behavior is okay, but most of the time, there is a reason. Emotions and trauma make people act out in so many ways and I know I have been one of those people that has done or said things I shouldn’t have when my emotions were high. But, at this point in my life, I do not want to spend my time angry and worked up and holding grudges. I want balance. I will cut off people if needed, but I will no longer allow myself to live in the past. I don’t want to miss out on my present life and my future life because I am too busy dwelling on the past.

Forgiveness is an act of letting go. To forgive is to begin to rid yourself of attachment to that which you cannot change.

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Avoiding Something Is Easy

Avoiding something is easy. I mean seriously, it’s less difficult than facing our problems head-on. We always talk about all the things we avoid like crowded areas or traffic but we don’t talk about emotional avoidance as much as we should. I know some of you are reading this and thinking, what the heck is that? Emotional avoidance is when an individual avoids the thoughts and emotions associated with a traumatic or stressful event. Emotional avoidance is most often associated with PTSD. While you might not suffer from PTSD, you might still be practicing emotional avoidance.

It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with emotional avoidance practically my whole life. I guess it’s just easier to avoid those traumatic feelings and events than to address them. Unfortunately, I do still struggle with this but I’m trying to do better. Addressing our trauma is the only way that we’ll get over it. I’ve never been good at this and tend to just avoid everything.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve avoided a lot of things in my life. Things that were both big and small because avoiding something is easy. One of the biggest and most significant things I’ve ever avoided in my life was talking to my dad about how I felt when he left. Honestly, I’ve always wanted to talk about it with him, I just never did. Now that I’m older, I’ve forgiven him. I don’t care as much but part of me still wants that conversation.

My parents didn’t have a perfect marriage, anyone on the outside could see that. My mom and dad argued a lot. I just thought that was normal. I could tell that they were unhappy. They never really seemed all that happy to me when we were growing up anyways. I began to realize that people grow apart and that’s okay. But what I didn’t understand is how you could grow apart from your children. I mean seriously, is that a thing that happens? I didn’t get it.

My dad and I on my 2nd birthday, May 1999.

My mom always put my aunt, her children, and their problems above us. I always felt like I was on the backburner. Even after my dad left and it was just us, I still felt like I was there. She was so worried about her feelings that she never took the time to ask us about ours. In fact, she spent the majority of my childhood telling me that it was my fault that my dad left. That she never wanted children but he did and then he didn’t want us anymore.

I was heartbroken. Have you ever had someone tell you, a child, that your being is the reason that someone left you? I can tell you right now that it is one of the worst feelings I’ve ever felt. I knew that this couldn’t be true but part of me still wondered if maybe she was right. Honestly, I should have just talked to my dad about it but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead, I let that awful feeling eat me alive for years on end. I felt like it was never going to go away. That feeling drowned me out sometimes. It’s the only thing that bounced around in my head. Did my dad really leave because of us – because of me? It couldn’t be but I was beginning to believe it.

My brother Donovan and I with our dad.

Eventually, my dad remarried and that was great. I was happy for him but what I couldn’t wrap my head around was this. My dad called me the night before his wedding to let me know that he was getting married, I wasn’t upset that it was last-minute knowledge but that he didn’t include my siblings and me. Seriously, we didn’t even know this woman and in less than 24 hours, she’d be my step-mom. I just didn’t know what to say or how to feel. Honestly, I was still trying to figure out why he just left us.

I’ll admit that I was jealous. My dad had a new family, a new home and so many new adventures on the horizon but what we had was nothing. That horrible feeling only seemed to be getting louder every day. When it finally became too much for me, I decided to write about those feelings. I mostly wrote poetry, but it helped. Eventually, I forgave my dad. Not so much for him but for me, because I needed that closure.

To this day, I’ve still avoided talking to my dad about everything. I know that I should but it took me a really long time to forgive him and I worry that talking about it might bring a lot of those bad feelings back. My dad’s always been my best friend and when he left, it felt like he took my heart with him. I know that I’ll have this conversation with him when I’m ready but until then, I will take the time to think about what I might say to him when I do.

This is one of my favorite moments. My dad got to give me my diploma at my high school graduation in 2015.

Are you feeling inspired to write? If so, I’ve included a link to the list of journal prompts for you here, happy writing! 🙂

Is there something that you’ve been avoiding and need someone to talk to about it? Visit our resources page for more information on who to talk to!