2018 has been a time of deep reflection for me on my relationship with my parents. Both of them passed away in the last 6 months, and now I'm releasing any feelings of blame and shame in my life. I deeply love them both, and forgiveness has allowed me to open my heart wider.
Forgiveness is often conceived as something we do, where we actively “forgive” someone for something we feel they have done to us. In this context, we lighten our own burden as we let go of the grievances we carry against them. And this can be the first step in forgiveness.
But for me true forgiveness involves another step, a deeper way of allowing the grace of forgiveness to radically change our lives.
True forgiveness requires acceptance.
In my own life I experienced the grace of True Forgiveness when I finally released my expectation as how love was supposed to show up in my life.
For a good part of my life my relationship with my mother was difficult. We were very different and I never felt very close to her. She could say some pretty mean things to me, and she seemed to be selfish a lot of the time, caring most about getting her own needs met. Of course this is how I experienced our relationship, and her experience was probably very different than what I was feeling. I always believed that she loved me, but I also believed that she did not accept me for who I was.
It was very painful for me and I even went through a couple of years of psychotherapy trying to understand and accept the “truth” that my relationship with my mother was the key to this heavy burden I felt like I was carrying around all of the time.
Along the way my journey took me into a deep study of spiritual practice and principles. In my classes to become a spiritual practitioner and spiritual counselor I began to examine my relationship with my mother differently. One day in meditation I got a profound realization.
All I had to do was accept her, to not try and change her but to love and accept her just as she was.
I allowed myself to accept that she loved me in her own way, and that she was doing the best that she could with her own belief system. Suddenly that burden I was carrying around was lifted.
I was 42 years old and I finally felt my mother’s love. It was a radical change.
I never told my mother about this change in me. I never asked her to try and understand or to try and change anything about her own behavior. I just kept accepting her and was grateful for her love, no matter how it showed up.
And miracles started happening.
She started sending me cards with notes written on them about how she loved me. We started having authentic conversations and I started asking her for advice. Our relationship developed a beautiful sweetness to it. She even put a large picture of me playing the guitar up on her dresser, where it stayed until she passed. Even when dementia showed up, she would still remember me and deeply tell me how much she loved me.
The grace of true forgiveness and acceptance had healed our entire relationship, and I am forever grateful.