I have been faced with my own lack of forgiveness this month as I began to think about my column. When the shooting happened in Las Vegas I wondered how can those families ever forgive the senseless murder of their innocent loved one? My issue pales in comparison to what those families will deal with, however, I felt compelled to share my story hoping that it can make a difference in your forgiveness journey.
Over eight years ago my family experienced the most difficult and hurtful incident we have ever gone through. I will just hit the highlights as the entire story would take up three or four pages. I helped found an organization that benefited young athletes and my children were active participants. We gave countless hours, financial support and talent to help this group succeed. My children formed wonderful friendships and learned many valuable lessons in the years we were involved. They thrived in the environment provided by this group. Until the leadership turned on us. People that were my friends (so I thought), people who had led my children and knew us as a family. They took an incident involving my husband and twisted it into a fabrication—the likes of which I have never seen. They were able to convince people within the organization that the grievance was so horrible they couldn’t even share it with them. In reality—there was nothing to share because it was all smoke and mirrors. We repeatedly asked for open meetings, a mediator or some way to resolve this issue.
Instead—the leadership kicked my entire family out of the organization. I watched my children be punished for something they had no control over. I held them at night as they cried trying to understand why people would do this to them. I begged the leadership to allow the entire membership to hear what happened—as it had been so exaggerated. We even appealed to the board to see if my children’s father could leave the organization allowing myself and my children to remain and participate in the events. Members advocated for us and were shut down; often their children were ostracized in an attempt to silence anyone else that would come to our defense. In the end—we were kicked out. I did my best to help my children accept this horrible upheaval in their lives and to forgive and move forward. For the most part they did, but it left scars that will never heal—and THAT is the part that infuriates me. That anger and bitterness I have buried for years, thinking I had dealt with it. But a few months ago it bubbled up, when the main person that initiated my family’s demise made headlines with an indictment against him. The same person that—a few years after our departure—was allowed to leave the organization due to some of his own behavior, but HIS family was allowed to STAY. When I saw the news— I wasn’t surprised because I already knew about those things—years ago. In fact, I strongly believe that he knew that I knew and was worried I would reveal it to the leadership causing him problems. My theory is, he acted to remove us from the organization before any accusations against him could be brought forth.
In the end the reasons don’t matter. The news against him made me realize I was harboring bitterness and unforgiveness because of what had been done to my innocent children. I began to really think about the deep hurt I had buried. I did a few things that set me on the road to forgiveness, though I haven’t arrived yet. I want to share some steps to forgiveness in an effort to help some of you in your own journey.
1- Acknowledge your hurt. Talk to someone about it, write down the offenses of this person, look deep inside to discover what you may have buried.
2- Accept your feelings and get them out. You have many emotions buried including anger, hurt, sadness, loss, etc. Get those feelings out—do some physical exercise. Run around the block, go to the gym and hit a punching bag. Actively do something to help release those feelings.
3- Grieve for your loss. It could be as drastic as the death of a love one. Perhaps you lost a relationship, money, a job, or something else that altered your life. Give yourself permission to grieve for that loss. Grief can take a long time and goes through many stages—so be patient with yourself.
4- Finally, release that person from the stronghold they have on you. Forgiveness is freeing and it allows you to let go of the paralyzing effect it has on you. By releasing that person and forgiving them, you will be less angry, less hurt and more optimistic.
Studies have shown that people that forgive are overall healthier and happier than their unforgiving counterparts. So as we approach this season of thankfulness, look deep inside and see if you are harboring any unforgiveness preventing you from being truly thankful for the blessings in your life.
So my Go M.A.D (make a difference) challenge for this month is for YOU. Start your journey of forgiveness of someone that has wronged you. Free yourself from unforgiveness.