I was encouraged by my counselor to write a letter. To my mother. And not mail it. To get it all out, so to speak.
With great dread I completed that project. Four pages, single spaced letter.
I did this with my dad years ago, but since I'm just starting to work on this with my mom this was the first I'd done this in relation to her.
When I walked into the counseling session he asked me to read it out loud to him. So I did. Four pages of sheer anger intermixed with questions.
I finished reading it and I expected him to agree with everything I said and go into how horrible I had it. Instead what he said was, "Okay, now, can you forgive her?"
What? And let all this go? Just that easy? Don't we need to rip on her a little first?
Isn't it always that way when we have been hurt by someone? We want to stay in that anger and have everyone else support us and confirm us in that anger. Usually when they don't agree with how I feel, I end up feeling extremely inferior to them and back away. But it's a little hard to back away from a counseling session when you're not an assertive person.
So I listened and participated in the conversation.
I told him I thought I could probably forgive her for everything but telling me to sleep with my first boyfriend. I didn't know how I could possibly do that when she had encouraged me to give away something so precious - something that could not be taken back. Something that hasn't stopped bothering me since the day it happened.
Then he asked me if I could forgive myself.
Not going to happen.
He asked me if I remembered what Jesus said to the criminals on the cross when they hung Him there.
Yes, I remember. "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."
He asked me if I knew what I was doing when I slept with my boyfriend.
And I have to say no. I mean, I obviously KNEW what I was doing, but I didn't understand why I was doing it and how it could possibly effect me in the future. I had no idea.
He said, "I think if the 30 year old woman could stand here and look at her 15 year old self and see she didn't know what she was doing, then Jesus would also stand beside that 30 year old woman and say, 'You knew not what you were doing. And I already forgave you.'"
I never considered applying those words to my actions. Or to the actions of others.
He said, and I already knew, there was a reason for why my mom behaved the way she did. Of course. Her dad treated her the same way and worse. Her mom died when she was 12 followed by a stepmother who died 2 years later and then another stepmother who could have cared less about parenting 5 children who were not her own. She had no mother. So she didn't know how to be one. After the age of 12 she had no idea. She did not know what she was doing.
I'm reading a book right now called The Art of Forgiving by Lewis Medes. One of the things he says is necessary for forgiveness is finding compassion for the person who injured you. Looking at my mom in the light of what she experienced and the fact that she truly had no idea what to do after I turned 12 provided that. My view of her changed dramatically with the words of Christ.
I know that forgiveness of myself or my mother will not come easy because that pain still exists and simply can not be forgotten or brushed under the rug. That's what causes the pain to grow. Still, I feel hopeful that it will happen someday.
What do you think about Christ's words?