struggling with forgiveness

I know that maintaining a clean heart is essential to my well-being on all levels.  I know that I need to forgive to be forgiven.  I have forgiven some pretty big things in my life.  So when seemingly smaller things come up that I struggle to forgive, I wonder why.

I am stuck.

I wonder if I don't really want to let it go.

You know that quote about anger (or lack of forgiveness) being like a hot coal that only burns the person holding it?

Having gone through the 12 steps in one form or another enough time, I know that there is that step about forgiveness looming before me.  I know that I need to do it.  But it is so hard.

My heart aches to heal damaged relationships....relationships that I believe cannot be healed because I do not believe the other parties desire what I do.  I wonder if my heartache is a desire for the healed relationship or really just a desire for validation.  That would be a codependent speaking.

Both I know have been weighing heavily on my mind because of circumstances arising that means I might see these individuals in the temple soon.  I want to be able to see them there and have no ill feelings toward them.  I know that if I were to go tomorrow and do so then that would not be the case.

Help me out here.

The first individual is the friend who said many unkind things about me last year and had a ripple effect on many of my relationships and friendships.  It has been for the best as I have realized how I had allowed myself to be held back by fear of judgement from others.  However, it has still hurt.  I feel like I should have been able to let it go by now.  Especially having found some good from it.  I think I hurt because I will not get an apology.  I haven't sought one, but I don't know that I should.  Feelings and opinions were expressed and though I do not agree with them, that does not invalidate the fact that they felt them.  Still, it was my character that was assassinated.  Why do I feel ill will toward this person?  Or is it hurt?  Or sadness?  I do not know.  All I know is that I am still not in a place that I feel like I could see them in passing in a store and be as all was before- letting bygones be bygones.  I feel like that makes me a terrible person.  Perhaps it is simply that I sought this person's approval to give myself validity for so long....so long that I'm only now seeing it... that it is hard sometimes to really feel and remember that I don't need it.  Another person's view of my worth does not define my worth.  Especially when I have confirmation from the Lord.

The second situation involves my family.  I struggled with whether to write it here or not because I don't know if any of them read this or whom.  I need the help though and this has been weighing on my mind.  My brother will be leaving on his mission soon, which means the endowed family members attending the temple together.  My father remarried about the same time that I got married.  My relationship with my stepmom has been.... I don't know how to describe it.  It seems fine and then suddenly it is not.  And I never seem to know quite what to make of it.  I know we have both been on learning paths and experiencing things and growing in different ways over the years.  The whole blended family is not something either of us have experience with and me getting married and starting my family meant that I was not on the same path as she.  Anyway, I thought things were finally in a good place and that we had established a friendship and understanding.  We have different views on many things but I felt maybe that was finally allowed to be the case.  Then last summer I arrived for a visit with my children, as I had done the previous summers, and a rather large misunderstanding ensued.  I was put in a very awkward situation and felt backed into a corner.  This is how confrontations have frequently been with my dad and stepmom together... a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere situation where I feel like some helpless child in a corner.  I was confused.  Direct lies were being told about things I had supposedly said or not said and no one was hearing me.  I could not believe that such blatant lies were being said by her.  I truly believe she believed what she was saying.  I am still confused by this.  Being that my children and I were not welcome and that my experience over the year previous had taught me about boundaries, I stuck to my boundaries and left the following morning.  I cannot tell you the heartache of packing my children up to leave their grandparent's house after having driven 6 hours to see them for any amount possible.  Trying to determine how to explain it in a way that was truthful but that would not make them feel like it was their fault or color their view of their grandparents.  As no one was home when we left, I left a note explaining myself (rather kindly I felt) and we left to make the best of things- staying with friends off and on through the week until I just couldn't take living out of the car any longer and went back home.  The only response I received from that encounter was a negative one saying that I was in the wrong and owed them an apology.  I still have not figured out what it was that I was supposed to apologize for.  I don't know if any of this makes any sense really.  I don't want to go into details because I don't want to rehash it all when it should be in the past.  And that's just it.... Nothing has been spoken of it since but she has hardly spoken a word to me since.  I feel I should have an apology if nothing else for the lies said about me directly to me.  For saying that I sent or did not send messages that I have proof otherwise of.  I made a boundary that I, or my children, would not linger in a place where we were not accepted or wanted.  Feeling like a burden has long been a trigger of mine.  I don't know why but I recall being concerned with that even as a child.  So I know that it is in my best interest and safety to not allow myself to stay in a situation where I have to wonder or worry about that.  I am sad that my children are paying for this.  I am sad that their grandparents don't seem to care enough to repair this.  I am sad that when my daughter was baptized a few months after this happened and we held off on it to a three day weekend just so these grandparents could come down and make a real weekend of it and spend time with them, that they came for the baptism and pretty much turned right around and left.  I am sad that my kids have asked me all summer long when we are going to go up there to visit like we have every other summer, and I have no answer for them because we will not go until we are welcome....and I certainly do not feel welcome in a home where the person who lives there barely says hello to me...and I won't take my children somewhere that I, as their mother, am not welcome.
And that brings me to the next thing..... As I posted recently, my great-grandmother recently turned 100.  All the family came down and family pictures were taken.  They were really cute.  A couple weeks ago we had the family reunion and it was announced that the pictures from the birthday party were available for purchase.  My dad (whom everything seems 'fine' with, at least when it's just us) commented under his breath that he and my stepmom were upset that they couldn't get the digital file of the picture because they'd planned to photoshop it.  I asked why as I couldn't imagine why....my MIL had snapped a picture of it with my phone so I'd seen it and thought it a very good picture.  I asked if they planned to edit the background or the stools they weren't happy to be sitting on or something.  No, that wasn't it.  It was my brother's hairstyle.  They didn't like his mohawk and plan to photoshop it out.  I was dumbfounded by this response.  I still am.  I think all I said was "are you serious!?" and the reply was "well, if it's going up on the wall in my house" and "we don't want to be looking at that and other people looking at it".  Really?  I feel like as family members we should love and accept one another regardless of the choices we make.  We can set boundaries to protect ourselves but to alter the appearance of someone for the way it will make your family portrait look???  How is that representative of God's love?  How is that setting a Christlike example?  I feel so angry on my brother's behalf and I don't think anyone but me even knows about this.  What if he goes to visit and sees the altered image on the wall?  What message does that send to him, someone who already feels that church members are so hypocritical?  Someone who is already so cynical and who struggles with their self-esteem?  (then, admittedly, I selfishly had the thought of wondering if they would photoshop me if I was 'too fat' or had some other visible 'blemish' that they were embarrassed of- which of course then led me to wonder if all my being upset was really just a reflection of my own insecurity).  As I was talking this out with my mother-in-law, trying to get the perspective of an older person and of a parent, I think she got to the heart of the problem with both situations.... She said "It's like they don't accept you as a part of the family if you don't behave, act, and look according to their perfect mold of what is acceptable.  Since you aren't perfect like her kids seem to be then you must not be a part of the family and so they don't treat you as such."  How do I fix this?  Do I even try?  We cannot change others.  This has been an ongoing pattern it seems....and it is so below the surface that the average person outside the inner circle would not see it, which seems to make it doubly frustrating.  It's like a secret wound that can't be talked about because it only fuels the fire that is burning you.  I pray for my heart to be softened.  I pray for theirs to be softened.  I don't know whether to say anything.  I don't know if saying anything would do any good since it seems I am so often not heard.  You know how quickly others tune out anything you say when they are quick to be defensive?  That is how every conversation with them has ever seemed to go in regards to any confrontation of any type.  It seems that I have always been in the wrong and never they... and that isn't right.  It isn't just me being prideful or feeling victimized.  That would be true of any relationship.  It just isn't possible for one side to always be completely in the wrong.  Not where any love or respect is involved.  Do I chalk it up to they have the right to make the choices they want and leave it be?  I am trying.  I am trying to just let it go.  I am trying to just let it all go.....but maybe I'm not trying hard enough....?  I don't want to dread getting to go to the temple with my baby brother.  Right now I do, because I dread that feeling of being in there with family, and having bad feelings toward any of them.

Comments

  1. I'm sorry you are struggling with stuff! No fun!! Step's 8 and 9 are sometimes the most difficult. For me, I found it much easier to forgive once I took out any and all expectation. At one point you mentioned that your heart aches to heal damaged relationships... THAT is an expectation. Only the Lord can heal them, not you. All you can do is offer up your humble accountability, face forward, and strive to do better. The Lord does the rest. The only expectation necessary is the expectation to feel awesome for doing what the Lord wants.

    The family dynamic you describe is somewhat like mine... clear boundaries need to be set. Lies being told about you are chains bound around the liar, not around you. There is no need to own that. If the relationship is so toxic, don't hesitate to pull back.

    I love your honesty throughout this post... and I love YOU!

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    1. Oh that is what I needed to hear! Thank you! I never thought about the aching for the healing being an expectation, but you are right.

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  2. I guess the 2 things I would say are first off. Getting ahead of yourself in the steps can be super scary. I know the first time I read Step 9 I thought it would be impossible. Not now that I am working on Step 8, it doesn't seem so daunting. Working each step prepares us for the ones to come. So if you're not on 8 and 9, you don't have to stress about them yet.

    Secondly, I thought of the following quote from Step 8 in the LDS ARP manual as I read your post;

    "Before you make a list of people from whom you need to seek forgiveness, first list those people you need to forgive. Don’t be surprised if some names appear on both lists. People often get caught in terrible cycles of exchanging hurts with others. To break these cycles of mutual resentment, someone has to be willing to forgive."

    It definitely sounds like this is your situation and working an 8 and 9 will be a great way to come to terms with it. The only way the relationship can heal is when someone breaks the cycle of hurt. Ultimately forgiveness is for you, not those you are forgiving. Letting these feelings go will only make you lighter, freer and happier. Its hard but the Lord will always be there to help you.

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    1. Tim, I sort of feel like having facilitated a group for a year and half I've gone through the steps so many times that they just sort of naturally flow in my head. I don't know if that makes any sense. I feel like the quote you shared is precisely where my desire is coming from. I feel like the other won't forgive (which, I know, is a judgement on my part and wrong of me) and so I must. I want to let it go, but I keep picking it back up. Maybe now is not the time? Maybe I need to be okay with stepping back and starting intensively working each step individually from my new perspective? I'm working on that as I put together this compilation of the different programs.

      I was just about to say 'Do you think that God is okay with us not forgiving right away and not pushing for it by a timetable?' Then I realized I already knew the answer....just like any other WoPA. ;)

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    2. See - you're a bit skewed here. "I feel the other won't forgive, and so I must"... "of you it is required to forgive all"...

      Your forgiveness shouldn't be dependent on another't forgiveness, or apology or action.. we are to strive to give our forgiveness always, no matter what.

      I feel like it might be good for you to take some steps back and remover yourself from the situation. It's like you still have a shoe rubbing against a blister. The shoe is good, in itself. But you need to remove it for a while in order to let the wound heal up.

      Also, there is a difference between working the steps daily, overall and working them for something specific. If I am struggling with something, for instance, I will work a 1-2-3 for it and actually go to the step and read it with my specific issue in mind, and answer the questions with my specific issue in mind. This helps me really see things more clearly.

      :-)

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    3. Right. I know that is precisely my problem. I've had it before in a different situation. ;) Forgiveness is not a dependent action. Wouldn't it be easier if it we just got the apologies we deserved? :)

      I think I am trying to 'force' the issue because of the upcoming temple visit with the family. Like you said, taking a step back may be best. Having faith that if my heart is in the right place and if the desire is there, then it will work out and I don't need to worry about having a perfect heart toward them before seeing them in the temple.

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