Forgiveness. It seems like such an easy principle to understand. Someone hurts you, they apologize and you forgive them. I teach this principle to my kids every day, yet for adults when the stakes, the hurt and actions get larger and more life altering it becomes so much harder for us to really truly forgive others. One of the stickiest parts of forgiveness can come when someone has wronged you, yet they believe they have done nothing wrong. How do we work to forgive someone who believes they have done nothing that requires forgiveness? How do we unpack and work through the feelings of hurt, anger, resentment and sometimes even hatred that grow and fester in the wounds we suffer in life?
The last 2.5 years have brought a lot of life changing events into my life, some of them I have worked to seek forgiveness from others. Some I have forgiven, while others still require that I work on that forgiveness on a daily basis. There is one event in particular that I thought I had moved past, I thought that I had “gotten over”, until recently when a job posting for my old job brought forward all these feelings of anger, resentment, hurt and negativity. These feelings knocked me down like a brick wall, they were so strong and so unexpected. I let myself feel them and as I was trying to mentally unpack why I was feeling this way, I realized that these feelings were still holding me back because I had tried to move past the event, and move past the people who hurt me without truly forgiving them.
The background of this anger and hurt I was holding on to is the result of being forced to resign from my job a little over 2 years ago. I feel the details of this event are irrelevant at this point other than I felt personally betrayed by two individuals that I trusted. One person in particular I considered a close friend. She held my newborn babies, celebrated their first steps, attended their birthday parties. I trusted her to be part of my daughters lives, not knowing that all that time she was working to find a way to take my job. The feelings of betrayal ran deep for me.
I have not spoken to her since the last day of my employment there. I have seen her in the aisles of my local Target but always avoided the forced interaction because really I had nothing nice to say so I chose to say nothing at all. As more time passed from the actual event I came to think about it and her less and less. It would creep into my mind every once in a while when a news story would break about my former employer, but I would just scoop those feelings back up and put them back in their appropriate box. I never realized until this last explosion of emotions that every time those feelings would find their way out I wouldn’t deal with them, I would just scoop them back up and pack them away in the corner of my brain until the next overflow.
This last time the feelings started out the same but slowly morphed into something different. I was angry that this event and this woman were still able to impact my feelings, my mood and my life. I realized that I skipped a crucial step in moving past it, I never completed the forgiveness step.
Trying to move on without forgiveness is like packing your suitcase but forgetting to zip it, every time you try to pick it up to really move on, the feelings just come tumbling back out creating a mess on the floor all over again.
With this new found wisdom I made the conscious choice to forgive her and really Let It Go. (thanks to Queen Elsa and Frozen for the perfect anthem).
There are a few layers to this forgiveness but once I really examined them all, I realized that the Lord put this bend in my road for a reason. I am exactly where He wants me to be and where my daughters need me to be. Leaving that job and the trajectory my career in that field was on has allowed me to slow down, enjoy and be 100% present for the most important things in life: my daughters, my family and myself. The job I have now has been one of the most unexpected blessings in the last two years. I went from being in a job where it was job first family second, to a place where I am supported in putting my daughters first and working for a family that truly loves and cares about my daughters. They welcome their “tiny colleagues” happily to the office on days school is closed or they have a doctors appointment. I don’t have a requirement to answer emails in the middle of the night, dinner is not interrupted by phone calls that I would be reprimanded for not answering, school programs are not missed for committee meetings, snow days are full of building snowmen and baking, not constant emails and phone calls and telling the girls “give mommy 5 more minutes to finish work”. My beautiful little girls will not be little forever, and I am blessed to now be able to be just “mommy” when I am at home. If I were still working in that old job I wouldn’t have had the opportunities to create these bonds and memories. It is astounding the clarity you get when you really sit down and unpack your feelings and process them one by one. It is so freeing. I feel like I can relate to how Elsa feels in Frozen when she is walking up the mountain and finally lets go of her glove, and with it all of the expectations, burdens and shame and embraces who she is and all that she can become.
I have chosen to forgive this woman for what I used to feel was her stealing my career, ruining my reputation among my colleagues, and kicking me while I was already down on the ground. I have found talents I didn’t know I had, and would have never found if the path of my life hadn’t changed. I forgive her for putting her need for power before her compassion for others, it has helped me change my behavior to always put compassion at the forefront of my choices. The most difficult part of this journey of forgiveness has been forgiving the feelings of betrayal from what I truly believed was a friend, for the use of my daughters to get closer to me and to get me to let me guard down. This is a huge leap of faith and forgiveness because it involves feelings and emotions involving my children, and as their mom my mother lion instincts will always prevail. It has taught me to protect them more fiercely than ever and will give me good insight as they enter the cruel world of school and adolescence. It gives me good perspective as I teach them what characteristics make a good friend. It will help me comfort them when they get their feelings hurt, hearts broken and they themselves learn the compassion of true forgiveness.
It has been so freeing to let these emotions go, to really let them float away in the wind rather than packing them back into their box. I am lighter and the world is more colorful today because I am no longer holding onto the anger, sadness and hatred that has been living inside that little box in my brain for the past two years.
This begs the question….what are you still holding on to? What or who do you need to forgive?