Editor’s Note: This is a contribution by Barbara Hammond
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize that prisoner was you.” ~Lewis B. Smedes
We’ve all heard the saying “forgive and forget.” It seems easy when you say it like that. The forgetting part can be daunting, though. I can say that when you let go, the memory dims. That’s a start.
I didn’t understand the importance of forgiveness until I was in my mid-forties. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve forgiven people over the years. I just never understood how it related to my own well-being.
Let’s face it, not forgiving someone for standing you up or forgetting a birthday isn’t going to weigh on you for years and inhibit a full life. Not forgiving a parent for abuses, real or imagined, can.
As with most “aha” moments, we want to share our new found wisdom with everyone. A friend of mine understood what I had just discovered. She had been abused by her father.
It took her years to let go of the anger. The hurt never really leaves, but the anger can keep you from truly living. The only way to move on is to forgive.
She told me about her father-in-law, and how badly she wanted to share this wisdom with him. He is now in his 90’s and filled with anger. No matter how she tries, he won’t let it go. Let’s call him George.
George’s father abandoned their family when he was a toddler. It was the 1920’s. There was no shared custody, no every other weekend. It was a very different world. Women had just gotten the right to vote.
It’s difficult enough in today’s world to be a single parent. Imagine being a single mother in NYC during an era when society frowned on women working, let alone supporting a fatherless child. His mother must have been constantly distraught.
George and his mother moved in with his grandmother, who was getting on and not fully able to handle a toddler. This only added to his mother’s stress. Yet somehow, his mother managed to support and care for George until he was seven years old.