"Look at what you bring to the world, not what you lack." - Miranda Kate

Saturday, 28 April 2018

The Simple Truth of Forgiveness to Gain Peace of Mind

Image of looking between to large rocks out a blue sky, flat horizon with text: Forgive yourself & set yourself free, In freedom find peace of mindDo you find forgiveness hard to do?

Do you believe that forgiving someone means letting them off the hook?

Do you wrangle with forgiveness inside yourself?

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” – Paul Lewis Boese

There is a lot of talk about forgiveness and forgiving people that have hurt you. People tell you to let it go and ‘do the right thing’. They say that you are holding a grudge if you don’t forgive them and that you are causing more problems by holding on to it.

But it can be hard if it is someone that has abused you in some way, whether physically, emotionally, or verbally (or all three). It is especially difficult if that person is still inflicting pain; if they still say things and do things that hurt you.

This is the situation I have with my mother. I have to distance myself from her because she says things that are hurtful – often unknowingly – from off-hand comments about me personally (my weight, my hair, my daily habits, how I pronounce words) to out and out blaming me for events from the past when I was a small child that I couldn’t possibly have been responsible for.

I am now a full grown adult, and although the things my mother says and does now aren’t a scratch on the screaming verbal abuse she subjected me to in my childhood, they can still cut me to the core.

If I talk about it people ask me if I have forgiven her, and if not, why not? She’s your mother, they say, you ‘should’ forgive her, that it will make my life better if I do.

But for years I couldn’t see how I could forgive her for all the things she had subjected me to – and sometimes still subjects me to. I struggled hard, and felt anger and resentment deep into my soul.

“Resentment is like drinking poison, and thinking it will kill your enemies.”- Nelson Mandela

But when I looked more closely at forgiveness and what it would take, I realised that it wasn’t about letting her off the hook for the trauma she had put me through as a child, but letting myself off the hook.

I learnt that forgiveness is not about forgiving them for what they did to you, but about forgiving yourself.

Because you are not to blame for being abused by another, no matter what they say, pretend, or try to twist round.

If you have been abused, it is not your fault.

I’ll repeat that: IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT

So forgive yourself for being blamed.

Forgive yourself for ever thinking it was something you did (or are doing) wrong.

Forgive yourself for letting something from the past still affect you.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and then realise the prisoner is you.” – Lewis B Smedes

And once you stop blaming yourself for being abused you will feel different: You will release the anger and the resentment. You will be less concerned about what they say and do from then onwards. You will move away from caring what they think, because you have put your feelings first and not theirs. You have given yourself the self-love and nurture that you deserve.

What they continue to do is what they choose to do, and you can choose to no longer be affected by it. When you forgive yourself, you also stop responding to them in the same way you did, to the things they say or the things they do. You can choose to stop letting it affect you.

A couple of years ago my mother observed how much I had changed, how different I was towards her - less argumentative, less defensive. I smiled sweetly and thought to myself, I’m not any different, I just no longer react to you the way I did. I no longer allow the things you say to hurt me anymore, because I forgave myself.

“Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself.” – Tony Robbins

I am not saying that the things my mother says don’t still affect me – she is still capable of getting inside my head, but it is very rare now. I have also distanced myself from her physically, and restrict how much contact I have with her. This is something I feel people should do with anyone who is potentially toxic to them – including family.
The most surprising reward for forgiving myself has been the calm it has brought inside. The peace of mind I have gained, and the confidence I have that I will no longer be upset when I am in her company. I feel sure of myself and less likely to be blindsided by my emotions, and have outbursts that make me feel out of control and judged as unstable by others. And I don’t feel angry or bitter inside anymore. I feel okay as though I have a solid foundation at last.

It didn’t happen overnight though; it started by writing my life story out for my therapist, which took some time to do as it was hard to face the things that had hurt me.

Seeing in black and white what I had been put through made me lose all guilt about feeling angry towards my mother. I finally understood why I was angry. I could see that what I had been put through was not right or fair and that I wasn’t to blame for any of it. 

Once I stopped arguing with my anger and trying to find reasons to justify my mother’s actions, I stopped feeling angry. I accepted what had happened and that I was not to blame for any of it.

It released me from the anger and also from the guilt. In writing it all out I freed myself the past.

“You do not forgive for the other person. You do it for your own freedom.” – Kute Blackson

It still took several years of therapy to sort through it all and find new ways of managing and healing some of the damage. But it was a crucial step in the process of listening to my feelings, trusting myself, and building my self-esteem.

Now on the other side of this, the simple truth of forgiveness is that it's about you and not about them.

Forgive yourself. You’re worth it.


  1. I like to think I forgive easily, but I've picked up on resentments I've carried for years and years and I know I need to work on those, particularly as they involve someone who's since died. Makes it harder because it now involves grief that I haven't dealt with...

    1. It doesn't sound like you are forgiving, you are just letting the things that people do that hurt you slide, for their benefit not yours, or to 'make life easier'. I used to do that a lot, it made me angry, anxious, and stressed, but then I would feel guilty for feeling that way and keep giving these people chances, but really I needed to realise they were not supporting me or trustworthy. It affected me mentally and physically.

      Forgiveness is not about them, it's about you. So even if they have passed you can still forgive yourself. (I had to do this about my father)

      Here's what Kim Rezarch, who works with people who suffer trauma from abuse said about the post:

      Great blog! Self forgiveness is without a doubt necessary for any healing journey ❤️ Forgiving perpetrators is not. #RadicalAcceptance is also necessary for healing. Truly, recovery isn’t about the people who hurt you, it’s about building a relationship to Self ❤️🙏

      We can only work on ourselves and only start without ourselves. Until you can give yourself room to feel and accept those feelings, nothing changes. Hugs.

  2. Actually, you hit the nail on the head in your first reply sentence...
    I'm waiting for NHS counselling and someone suggested I should go in with an idea of something I want to deal with...I only get six sessions. So this time I hope I'll be able to deal with the guilt and grief associated with that person.