Forgiveness

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

This week I’ve been focusing on some forgiveness, and thought I’d share a post I wrote a while back:

ForgivenessI found some notes from conversation I had with a friend a while back:

forgiveness
baggage
anger
toxic

In short, forgiveness becomes a tool with which we expunge our baggage of toxic anger.

Here’s my experience:

The anger I held on to for years kept me captive in my sixteen-year old body where bad things happened. Every day that I woke up angry was a day that I woke up reliving my mother’s death. The anger was a toxin that kept me in a state of non-growth. It’s not that anger is bad, or that we shouldn’t feel anger. It’s that the anger needs to pass. Emotions are to humans, as oil is to engines. We need emotion to run properly. And we need to process that emotion, like we process and change our oil. If we leave the angry oil in our system, it flows through our veins and taints everything we touch: every relationship, friendship, acquaintance, job, stranger, animal we come into contact with.

When I hold on to the negative energy of toxic anger, it becomes a part of who I am because I don’t have room to replace it with forgiveness, with understanding, with love. And without love, I cannot exist. It’s what I’m made of; it’s what we are made of. And what we’re made for.

To hear me tell the story of my mother’s death when I was sixteen was to hear a biased daughter whose mother was “murdered” tell her story. When I was sixteen, Steven meant to kill my mother. He planned it and he carried it out and he was evil for having done so. He was the only one to blame. And this was how I lived.

When I was twenty-two, Steven may not have set out to kill my mother. There was a struggle, he was involved, and my mother was dead as a result. Sure, my mom might have pulled the gun on him, but I knew in my heart that my mother would never pull a gun unless herself or her family was in danger. I had begun to settle and see that my oil might need changing.

At twenty-seven I had yet another story to tell. I could acknowledge that there was gun powder on both of their hands. There’s no way to tell what really happened. It’s true my mother was protective of both my brother and I, and that she said on more that one occasion that she would lay down and die for me. But my mother was also a manipulative woman. (It took me nearly ten years to be able to admit that) I honestly don’t know what happened in that room, aside from the fact that there were four shots fired and two of them hit my mother. And those two shots killed her. As for Steven’s part in it, there was gun powder on his hands. But that doesn’t mean he took aim and shot my mother in cold blood. It just means that he was there, and the gun was in close proximity to his hands when the shots were fired. There is no blame, this is just all I know. New oils, new filters were on the shelves in front of me.

At thirty-four, my story is that my mom was killed when I was sixteen. End of story. That old, angry, toxic oil is being recycled and put to good use.

When my father was in the hospital during his last days, I went to lunch with his best friend and her husband. Jon asked me why I used the word killed rather than murdered when I talked about my mother’s death. There was a struggle and who knows what happened. I wasn’t there. Murder is a strong word. Murder implies deliberate. Murder, when not prefaced with 2nd or 3rd degree, implies first degree. Implies intent. Implies cold blood. Implies planned and executed. I may not know (may never know) the details of the night my mother was killed, but I do know that it was not murder, not in the first degree.

Seeing it this way helped me let go of the anger. Helped me forgive Steven. The forgiveness helped me move on. The forgiveness freed me from my sixteen-year-old angry self. The forgiveness allowed me to live in a world where I do not carry seventeen years of toxic, angry baggage, and to live in a world where I am simply thirty-four and my mother died eighteen years ago.

Forgiveness wasn’t just seeing it as death versus murder, but that I was seeing reality versus what happened in my dreams and nightmares in the days, the months, the years after her death. Forgiveness was also seeing that my mother’s death was beyond my control. That the anger stirring in my soul was no longer productive, but blind. Blind emotion, in any form, is irresponsible and destructive. In order to see the world in reality, I had to let go. I had to stop feeling angry and resentful about something I had no control over. I had to forgive. Had my mother’s death actually been murder, I might have needed a different route to forgiveness. But I would’ve needed a route to forgiveness, just the same. I am not here to judge (or be judged by) anyone for anything. I am here to love.

The difficulty in forgiving, for me, was in the idea that it meant saying, “It’s okay, [whatever you did to me].” Forgive, defined by the Oxford Dictionary of Current English means to: “stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone for an offence or mistake; no longer feel angry about or wish to punish an offence or mistake.”

I always thought that to forgive someone, it meant that I had to tell them that it’s okay: “What you did to me doesn’t matter. And it’s okay that you did it to me. And I forgive you.”

Somehow we have to get to a place where we understand the difference between forgiveness and saying “it’s okay”. “It’s okay,” means that…well, you need to define what that means for you. For me, it means no big deal, whatever happened is in the past and it’s not going to cross my mind beyond this moment. “I forgive you,” means I’m going to process what just happened. I’m going to learn from it. And then I’m going to let go of it, regardless of the intentions of and/or response from the party I’m forgiving.

It means: what [you] did, intentional or not, affected me in such a way that I will think about it beyond this moment. And that [your] actions caused emotion in me. And those emotions have brought me to a place where I am ready to let go of [your] action(s). And I am ready to acknowledge what happened and move forward, taking with me a learning experience.

And it means that I have created more space for love and peace in my life by doing so.

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My original post can be found here.

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Photo by: raylopez

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