Forgiveness [of others], I have now come to believe, is earned.
I do not believe that forgiveness is unconditional. The offender must offer a sincere apology, express and show a genuine desire to make amends, and demonstrate remorse and a change in their wrongful behaviors before I extend and grant forgiveness.
In the absence of any of these, I do not subscribe to the belief that we “should” forgive any and every wrongdoer — especially as a prerequisite for one’s healing.
Sometimes, because of the severity and brutality of the offense [crime], others find forgiveness unachievable.
For them to have survived and escaped from the ordeal is enough.
And that doesn’t mean that their healing process cannot progress.
I do believe that when we forgive, we do so for ourselves and not for others.
And what that means is I forgive myself for having trusted wrongly, expecting the other to treat me well.
I forgive myself for having allowed them to harm me.
I forgive myself for having turned a blind eye and deaf ear, for being in denial.
I forgive myself for being afraid to make the offending party take responsibility for their actions.
I forgive myself for allowing shame to overcome me — for being ashamed for what other people might think should I rock the boat, hence, avoiding making the offending party face the consequences of their wrongdoings.
I forgive myself for giving more than enough allowances for the abuser — if only because they happen to be family.
One may no longer be in a relationship with another, but that doesn’t mean that forgiveness hasn’t taken place.
We can forgive those who have wronged us while choosing not to have a relationship or any form of communication with them — even and including family.
Even and including one’s birth mother — especially when one’s sanity, safety, mental health, and emotional well-being are concerned.
Similarly, two people may continue to stay in a relationship after having gone through a conflict. That doesn’t mean, though, that they have worked out their differences effectively. Nor does it mean that they have genuinely forgiven each other.
There may also be those who are not in a position or have no capacity or readiness to forgive.
I hold space for wherever anyone is in their process of forgiveness.
I honor and respect whatever beliefs others have around forgiveness — just don’t enforce them upon me.
We must not impose forgiveness upon another. We must give forgiveness, healing, and recovery their rightful space and time to happen organically, authentically, and effectively.
Coercing someone or making them feel guilty for not wanting to forgive, not being able to, or not being ready to forgive invalidates and dishonors the hurting individual.
It marginalizes their painful and traumatic experiences.
It is re-wounding and re-traumatizing.
The unreasonable pressure and expectation from other people and society is the very thing that hinders the process of forgiveness to naturally and effectively happen.
Besides, who is to say, anyway, if the person has forgiven or not, eh? Shouldn’t that be left to the individual [aggrieved party] concerned? Shouldn’t that be left between the offended and the Creator?
Forgiveness as a goal and as defined by society has proven detrimental to my healing — especially concerning my maternal wounding and the difficult relationship that I had with my birth mother.
Acceptance — rather than forgiveness — I have learned, is much more effective and therapeutic.
I had accepted that my mother was not prepared for motherhood.
I had accepted that I didn’t get what I was worthy of, that my childhood needs were not met, and that it wasn’t my job to meet my mother’s needs — it was my mother’s job to meet mine, which she failed to do.
I had accepted that, regardless of all the reasons and explanations — justifications and excuses —- that one can think of, my mother was not able to fulfill her motherly duties and responsibilities towards me, plain and simple.
I had accepted that none of those would change — or could be erased.
And I have permitted myself to feel sad and angry as a result of my mother’s failings. [See related post, The Void — The Death Of A Child Vis-a-vis Having An Unloving Mother]
I have mourned and grieved not only over the loss of my relationship with my mother and family of origin, but of what it could have been, as well as what it couldn’t and could never be.
All these even when my mother was still on the earthly plane and long before her death last February .
And I am now continuing to allow myself to have my unmet childhood needs be met and filled in suitable and healthy ways with the appropriate, healthy individuals — outside of the family — and by giving to myself all the love, caring, nurturance, compassion, support, respect, and validation by re-parenting my little Nadine.
This, without the distraction of the energy of intrusion, I hope — from my mother or other family relations, especially now that my mother had passed away already.
My cousin, with whom I got reconnected briefly during my mother’s passing and who has been privy to the goings-on in the family, had validated my perception and hunch that no shift or transformation took place in my mother or the family.
My mother, with all her narcissistic ways, continued to be in denial.
And there just wasn’t anything I could do about that.
I am relieved, though, because it validated the rightfulness of my decision to keep away — for my sanity and safety, mental health, and emotional well-being.
We cannot heal and recover if we continue to stay in the same wounding environment that brought about the pain, trauma, and wounds. Doing so only opens the door for us to regress to and be stuck in old, familiar, dysfunctional behavioral patterns.
Nowadays, I am no longer as bothered or angered about how my mother had treated me unfairly, didn’t mother or nurture me like my siblings, or she rejected me at birth, etc. [See related post, The Beginning Of A Core Wounding – Being Rejected By My Mother At Birth]
As I’ve said, I had accepted that.
If any hurtful feelings would arise, it is towards how my mother had refused to acknowledge and own up to her shortcomings and wrongdoings, which became even more evident when I confronted her.
It was one of my attempts to resolve our differences. It turned out to be one of the decisive moments in our complicated relationship, which eventually led me to part ways with my mother — with finality.
As I’ve written in an earlier post, A Narcissistic Mother’s Drama, my mother had manipulated her way to make those outside of our relationship believe how “perfect” and loving of a mother she was [to me], pretending to be so clueless and in the dark on why I eventually stayed away.
Therefore, no apology was necessary — as far as my mother was concerned.
Therefore, also, and which is the other source of my triggers and hurtful feelings, there is a lack of support, condemnations, and unfair judgments from those outside of our relationship.
This, even without them bothering to find out from me why I stayed away, at least, before drawing their prejudiced conclusions and passing any unjust judgments about me.
[See related post, “Your mother is just waiting for you…”]
But as Dr. Susan Forward wrote in Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life, it is “a rare toxic parent who gives the acknowledgment, apology, recognition or acceptance of the responsibility that children [of toxic parents] seek.”
I may not have gotten a favorable response, but because I did it for myself, I must consider my confrontation as “successful simply because I had the courage to do it.”
Besides, narcissistic individuals are such great pretenders and manipulators.
A narcissistic mother’s lack of acknowledgment and apology and society’s subsequent unfair judgments and condemnations towards the unmothered daughter come with the territory of maternal narcissism.
That is something I know intellectually. A concept I have yet to fully embrace, accept, and make peace with.
I need to remind myself that I know my truth and the truth of my experiences, and I stand by it — one way I can heal and overcome my excessive need for external approval, resulting from my unmet childhood emotional development needs.
And at the end of it all, it is between my Creator and me. None of what others think or say should negatively affect or bother me.
To be continued – Forgiveness As a Result of the Healing Process Rather Than the Goal or a Prerequisite to Healing
• Daughter Detox: Recovering From an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life by Peg Streep
• Daughter Detox Q&A Book: A GPS for Navigating Your Way Out of a Toxic Childhood by Peg Streep
• Don’t Rush Into Premature Forgiveness by Bethany Webster
• Forgiveness: Not Necessarily What You Think, What the Bible Really Says, and What It Doesn’t Say by Sr. Renee Pittelli
• Mothers Who Can’t Love: A Healing Guide for Daughters by Susan Forward, PhD
• 6 Reasons Not To Forgive, Not Yet by David Bedrick J.D., Dipl. PW
• The Process of Forgiveness by Dr. Karen McDonald
• Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward, PhD
• When You and Your Mother Can’t Be Friends: Resolving the Most Complicated Relationship of Your Life by Victoria Secunda
• Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karyl McBride