How to Forgive Your Parents

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I know someone whose mother has been battling a serious addiction for several years. This has led to a terrible mother-child relationship. So for that reason, I decided to write a different type of article on this Mother’s Day weekend.


There are so many ways in which we are inadvertently hurt by others. For some reason, though, the stings from our parents tend to stay with us. They color our beliefs of ourselves, they impact the ways in which we view the world, they affect our future interactions with others. We may not always realize it, but the words and deeds of our parents have always influenced us a great deal.  

With that much power comes a lot of responsibility. The problem is that as kids, we can’t exactly put into words how much that power affects us. And as new primary caregivers, our parents are not always aware of how their own shortcomings impact our future.  

We are human.  

Our parents are human.  

And in any human interaction, we are all influenced by each other’s strengths and weaknesses, touched by each other’s assets and deficits. We are marred by our parents’ very human flaws. But we are also elevated by our parents’ very human love for our well being.

If you are struggling in a difficult relationship with your parents, then there are two key points I want you to remember. The first is this:  How you were treated by your parents has nothing to do with you.  

If your mother was a mean-spirited verbal tyrant, understand that it had nothing to do with you. She was probably a mean-spirited verbal tyrant before you were born and she may remain so long into the future. If your father was abusive or absent, understand that it had more to do with who he is rather than anything to do with who you are.

The second key point I want you to remember is this:  Holding onto anger or resentment is like drinking poison hoping to kill the other person. Forgiving someone is an act of kindness you give to yourself as well as to the person being forgiven.

Here are three reasons why you need to forgive your parents.

  1. Forgiveness releases someone of a burden that was being carried for a long time. You probably know what guilt feels like after you’ve hurt someone. Now imagine if the person you hurt was your child. That guilt and pain you feel when you hurt your own child is enormous. Imagine how your parents would feel knowing they hurt you so much that it impacted your entire life. NOW imagine how your parents would feel if you forgave them for it all.
  2. Forgiveness releases you from someone else’s power over you. For example, take the issue of my friend with the mother battling addiction. It can be tough for a child to grow up with that addiction in the house, and as that child matures, so does that resentment. But carrying a body-full of anger toward a parent just gives that parent more power over your life. Stop letting other people occupy space in your head rent-free.
  3. Forgiveness makes you feel lighter and happier with your own life.  Sometimes the resentment we feel about how we were raised will fester within us like an ulcer. There’s a saying that anger is an acid that corrodes the vessel in which it is stored (I’ve seen this saying attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to Lucius Seneca to the very general list of Chinese proverbs. I don’t know who to believe on the internet anymore.) The point is that holding on to grudges, anger, and resentment only hurts you and no one else. When I suddenly recognize someone else’s flaws, I am instantly hit with a bit of sadness for them. I feel a bit more compassion for them.  Forgive and let go.

 

If you’ve been carrying resentment toward a parent, maybe this weekend is the time to let it all go.

Blog post ending pic

 

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