Monday, November 23, 2009

What I'm thankful for: Forgiveness

I've debated for some time about how much I care to share of myself with you, after all, as well all know, blog readers can be a fickle crowd. I decided that if there was ever a time to open up, it would be now, when I have a few days to think and respond to comments...right before a holiday that is supposed to be about thankfulness. If you're not into reading or if this many words seem intimidating or too heavy, please come back later (and no, this post does not have a religious persuasion) ...

I'd like to share a story. My story of forgiveness.

Once upon a time when I was about 16 years old I was reading some sort of relationship book that had to do with compatability and advice, a mix of self-help and psychology. I don't remember the reasons I thought this book would be a good idea, but regardless, my little 16 year old self was completely absorbed.
I remember reading and coming to a part that had to do with dating another individual that was a victim of abuse. Basically the author stated that adult survivors of childhood abuse were too difficult to love, would cause problems and headaches and might very well even eventually abuse their own children. The author was very clear in stating that if you want a happy life and a functional relationship steer clear of these types of adults. I clearly remember the emotion I felt after reading this chapter; I placed the book down, put my head in my hands and cried and cried and cried. I thought I would never be loved and worse I thought that my ability to love was stunted and ruined and that I would forever be a victim.
After a few days of what felt like unspeakable despair, I made a decision that would forever change my life.
I decided to throw the book away. I decided that I wasn't going to allow yet another person to decide who I was going to be. I decided that I would NOT allow my past, my pain and suffering to define me. I decided to forgive.
Here's the tricky thing about forgiveness that most of us don't realize. Forgiveness isn't a fuzzy feeling. It doesn't make what happened go away, it doesn't necessarily ease the pain and it doesn't make the person, the abuser change their mind. It does, however, free you from the ties that bind two people- the abuser and the victim. It does release you to become anyone you want to be. Forgiveness is the MOST powerful lesson we as individuals can learn. Forgiveness is a choice and it must be chosen everyday.
It's taken me years of thinking about forgiveness, examining it, churning it over, chewing it up, spitting it out, and rethinking it over and over again. I know I don't have it figured out and as it's a concept I wrestle with everyday, each time an unkind word is spoken to me, every time I feel disappointed or when memories start creeping up again. The point is, though, that forgiveness is something I carry with me, it's a balm I continue to put on old wounds and scars, it's the medicine I take when I feel like I can't take IT anymore.
I've looked at others that lived similar childhoods to myself, many have become drug addicts, many commit suicide, some go on to lead lives of depression and anger, some become abusers.
Often, the cycle of pain and bitterness is continued. I've had many people ask me how it is that I smile and love and have moved forward as a whole individual. One word: forgiveness.
So whether you've been beaten, raped, told you were ugly and would never amount to anything, or even if you were never told that you were loved, please know that you CAN be different. You can continue the cycle of hatred and apathy, the cycle of pain and grief or you can CHOOSE another way. You can choose to be different. You can choose love and peace and kind words and you can choose forgiveness.

So, I'm curious, how has forgiveness affected your life? Please feel free to leave an anonymous comment...comment moderation has been enabled.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story, you are SUCH an incredible person!!

Unknown said...

This is a really touching and candid post, Christina. And I feel you. I get what you're saying.

A lot of people have had shitty childhoods which led to even shittier lives as adults. These people have been studied, measured, analysed to death by science and social sciences. What's completely left out of the picture are those who have had shitty childhoods but have managed to grow up into successful, fully functioning adults. Its these characteristics which have been missing from study - some say its the ability to forgive like yourself, and others quote external sources like finding faith or hobbies, but in general I think it's all about resilience - your ability to bounce back from the pits of despair.

Thank you for this post. You are one of the bravest people I know.

Lesley said...

i love you. i'm proud of the person you have been, are, and will be. powerful word forgiveness. i'm working on understanding what that means too.

Laura Trevey said...

Christina ~~ I am moved beyond words... Your honesty is refreshing, and I know it took a lot of guts to write this all down. You are a wonderful person, and I wish I had the chance to know you in the "real world", so I could tell you that you ARE LOVED :)

xoxo Laura

Amy said...

It's so hard to believe that such ugly words were published in a book for all to read. I don't know you personally, but I will say I always get a loving and peaceful vibe from your blog and it is always a bright spot in my day.

:) Amy

Jane said...

Well I really do feel for you, and I think you have been very very brave. What you are talking about is unspeakable, and desparately sad. However, I truly believe that no self help or analysis book can predict what or who you will become no matter what your circumstances because ultimately that is something you can control. You were absolutely right to not let any dire predictions fell you. The first step is acknowledgement and being aware. The second step is, as you say, forgiveness. I have never had to forgive anyone for something really truly terrible but I am a big believer in it - it one of those funny acts we do with no real tangible result but which somehow on a subconscious level makes everything better. And wihtout being too religious, that is of course the fundamental tenet of Christianity and what made and makes it so different to many other faiths. All power to you.... xoxo

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post.
I'm glad you threw the book away.

Southern Aspirations said...

Really like many of the comments and saw myself nodding. I am not sure of the details- and that doesn't matter- but amen to forgiveness AND to not repeating the past. I've had an interesting background and it is shocking how some were concerned about how that made me. I say it made me stronger, more giving, and more loving!

You are far more brave than I and have a very deep heart, my dear.

Marie said...

What a lovely and insightful post- thank you for sharing these thoughts with us. I appreciate so much that you commented on the fact that though we forgive sometimes we must do so over and over again and it isn't always a comfy warm fuzzy feeling as it's often portrayed. But is oh so much better than sinking into despair and hatred.
As always, love your blog.
Marie @ Lemondrop ViNtAge

Nikki said...

Thank you so much for sharing and giving us something to think about. I'm thankful there are people out there willing to share their stories to help others heal. Happy Thanksgiving.

{andthisiswhatshesaid} said...

Beautiful story. GOod way to be new to a blog!! :)

Kristen said...

Christina- this is an amazing post. You are an amazing person- and I very much knew that before but now I am just that much more convinved of it. I am so, so, so happy you threw that book away. And I am inspired and touched by your choice to live life on your own terms, and to define yourself... bravo! I wish more people had the courage to do this. As for forgiveness, I feel grateful that I seem to forgive easily... I am quick to forgive a mistake, or a mean word, or a betrayal, and look for the good in people... with one exception: my sister. It's just the two of us- and when my sister was very young, she got involved with drugs and alcohol and has been battling these addicitons for almost 15 years now. I know it's not her fault, but her choices and her addictions and her destructive behavior have hurt my family so much, and so often... and for some reason, I am really struggling to forgive her, and find the good in her... I only see the bad decisions, and the failure... and I feel awful about that. But I am working on it... I really hope I am able to forgive her... completely, someday very soon.

Paulina said...

What an amazing post. Truly, and deeply reminds people that forgiveness has the power to release certain hates that can tie down. Your words are inspiring.

Beautifully put:

"forgiveness is something I carry with me, it's a balm I continue to put on old wounds and scars, it's the medicine I take when I feel like I can't take IT anymore."

You are amazing.

Simply Mel {Reverie} said...

Dearest Christina,

Do you feel that? It's a huge hug! I'm wrapping my arms around you and telling you how incredibly wonderful you are! Thank you for sharing your story. Forgiveness is an incredible ability to possess, and it doesn't come easy. It is something we must work at if we really want to make a change and move forward. You are a very strong woman with a beautiful soul and kind spirit. The world is a better place because of people like you in it - the special ones who choose to make a difference and step outside of the vicious circle. Here's to you brave one....may you continue to find peace and happiness. You deserve everything and more.
ONe day, I will give you that hug in person, and that's a promise!


There are so many gray areas of abuse, areas that are less definitive and less acknowledged.
Neglect. Neglect is yet another form of that passive aggression that leads to nothing but distrust.
Our collective and individual memories fail us, and fall into myth, and then doubt.

Was I really hurt?
Did it really hurt?
How did my hurt compare to another?
Is there proof of my past hurt?
Am I still hurting? How? Why?

I have spent much time learning about forgiveness, and what the words mean versus what the actions, emotions and energy of this concept means. And I continue.

>Love helps:
"Love to love you, over there".
>Blessings help:
"Bless you, you need it. Bless me too while we're at it, because I need it just as much as you".
>Mantras help:
"I am perfect and fine and safe right where I am, exactly as I am".
>Prayer helps:
"Please release me these fears, and guide me closer and faster towards my higher Self".
>Compartmentalizing helps: "Divorce with Love from this situation".
"There is no reasoning with chaos."
"We will communicate better, on a better day".
>Free will helps:
"I will gather up all my Graces about me and move forward, joyful and generous once again."

Be well.
Do good.
All days.
All way.
Stay true.

Rachel Follett said...

When I was in therapy dealing with issues with my step mother my therapist told me that forgiveness is the last step. It is really quite hard to get there and I am not sure if I am there yet but to think that I can helps. Something that she taught me was that other people have their own issues and that is why they treat you the way they treat you. It can be so hard not to take all the negative energy in but you have to learn to push it away because we will never be able to forgive if we don't release it. Feeling pity for the person who hurt you helps too! Thanks for opening up! I know it isn't easy! Its nice to know that there are other people out there struggling to forgive.

Cheers to our path to forgiveness!

Anonymous said...

i forgave myself for almost ruining my future in one fail swoop. i forgave myself for wanting perfection. more importantly, i soaked up others forgiveness.

beautiful. thanks.

Rhianne said...

I'm so glad you made that decision, I can't believe that was written in a book. You were strong at 16 for deciding to ignore it and even braver now for writing this amazing post! xxx

Unknown said...

it's good of you to share this... i mean, you don't have to and if your testimony could benefit someone along the way sometime in their lives, it has to be good. i think it's amazing that you knew forgiveness and had the courage to give it at that young age. i don't think many even know what it is.

i've experienced abuse of a few types and i've gone on to hurt people before. i don't think it's because i haven't learnt forgiveness. i really cannot say when the abuse i got when i was a kid i don't think needs forgiveness from me - cos i don't think i was affected by it! maybe one day the revelation will come to me.

as for what happened more recently, i've chosen to forgive. i believe i've forgiven him a long time back. or maybe i really haven't, cos i can't seem to be able to get out of that wintery place?

Moments and Impressions said...

Thank you for your post. I can't even imagine how reading that book would make you feel. Thank you for the courage to share.

I was a victim at age 14. I was too young then to really understand how to forgive. I didn't want to be a victim - so I packed it away and tried to forget.

As I got older - I realized forgetting is not an answer - but I could be a survivor. I did not have to let this bad thing that happened define me. That is when i started to forgive - first myself and then later - my abuser.

Thank you again or sharing.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for sharing your heartwarming story. I know it can be daunting to open up in this forum but please know that this aspiring blogstress for one admires your candor and the reminder of what's really important this time of year. Thank you again.

MissBliss said...

i am glad you threw THAT book away!

Kate said...

For sixteen, throwing that book away and choosing forgiveness was incredibly mature. Good for you. Good for you, for taking your power back. And good for you for having the strength to be so candid, it cannot have been easy. Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and I sincerely hope you feel loved. You absolutely deserve it.

jdavissquared said...

I am so glad you decided to share with us. You are a very brave woman, and your words have really hit home for me. I have struggled with forgiveness myself, and you are such an inspiration! I so admire how you've decided to be happy, and want you to know how much joy you bring to others. Honestly, your blog is one of my favorite reads! Thanks again for sharing your wisdom. Have a glorious Thanksgiving girlie!

Ginger said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, Christina. I cried a little, reading it.
I, too, know the difficult and slippery slope involved in recovering from abuse. I have had so many people try to tell me the best way to get over things, but it has taken me a long time to finally realize that no one can tell you how to heal yourself. You have to let go and move on, and release yourself and the person who hurt you. I've read books and seen shrinks and I am only certain of this: only I know my heart. I have forgiven but have not forgotten everything. I am still working on that, but I know I am and will always be a work in progress.
I am thankful to be here, alive, and undefeated.

Paige said...

I can't tell you how perfect the timing of this post is. Thank you for your openness, its exactly what I needed to hear right now. I'm also really impressed that you threw the book away, there have been too many "specialists" over the years I've taken too much to heart...I think I might have read the one you mentioned :) But your so right about our ability to choose, and I"m going to choose differently today, so thanks!

Laura Loo said...

Thank you for your courage in sharing your story!

I have also experienced physical/emotional abuse, and it IS hard to break the cycle sometimes. You may distance yourself from that person(s) abusing you, but you project your feelings onto the next person you are in a relationship with, at times. This isn't the case for everyone, but I found it was very much the case for me. I'm just now getting to a point where I can trust that if someone is angry around me, it isn't going to result in physical or emotional repercussions (sp?).

Thank you for your inspiring story, and I hope you continue to grow through forgiveness and your ability to share your story!

Iva Messy said...

oh Christina! I don't know where to begin! This is a beautiful post! So honest. So real. I love it!

that sounds like some ridiculously awful book! ... we are inundated with 'self help' books, some are amazing and truly helpful, others, obviously like yours was not. I am glad you were able to see not only the wrong in it..but to use it actually as strength for yourself. To stand up for yourself, and others who have been/are victims.

Forgiveness is so powerful, and truly 'right'. Its not so easy to do, and you are right, it has to be carried around always. Like you said it is a choice. Much easier said then done. But, everyday, with conscious effort and action, it can be done..and would make us all better. The world would be a much better place with more people like you in it. You have a remarkable sense of self. You are strong. You are beautiful both inside and out. Thank you for sharing this with us. I love this post for some many reasons, its so important.

Have a great weekend!! Happy Monday!

avant garde design said...

such a powerful and honest post, thank you for feeling comfortable enough with your blog friends to share. that book sounded evil, generic and unrealistic. i too am happy that you ridded yourself of it and it's advice. i think many of us have had touches of abuse, either by family or outsiders and for me, sometimes i'm a bit too quick to forgive, without considering the impact first. i'm happy you are where you are in your journey and with your friends you are supported!

Malinda said...

awesome post! thank you for sharing!

Magchunk said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I can't imagine it was easy.

I know some very strong women who have come from backgrounds of abuse, childhood or adult domestic abuse. And those who are able to rise above it are some of the strongest and most loving and kind (and forgiving!) women I know. Shame on that book for telling anyone otherwise.

Kellie said...

This is a beautiful post. Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to give. It's wonderful that you were able to forgive and move on and rise above the life that that stupid book said you would lead. I'm glad you realized it was bull and tossed it. How people's lives turn out is how they choose. I'm glad you chose to live w/ forgiveness and be a better woman b/c of it. You are a strong woman!

drollgirl said...

and here comes some anger...whoever wrote that stupid book should be shot!!!

drollgirl said...

this is such a beautiful and a brave post. and you write so well, and express your thoughts so well.

forgiveness is not always the easy route, at all. i have held on to a lot of anger in my life, but that really doesn't make things better. forgiving and coming to grips with hard stuff from childhood really does help. life is complicated, and trying to make sense of it, and finding a way to cope with it is just a lifelong pursuit. and sometimes finding ways to let go and/or move on is really the smartest and most helpful thing we can do.

Live a Colorful Life said...

My husband was physically and emotionally abused by his father. His father then became his role model...on how NOT to be. He consciously made the decision to Break the Mold, a phrase he uses often. His brothers have used the abuse as a crutch in their lives--why they have failed relationships, failed employment, whatever, because they came from an abusive background. My husband, on the other hand, decided that his father would NOT control his life, that he would make his own decisions on how to live. And he has been a phenomenal husband and father. Thanks for sharing, Christina. That was not an easy thing to do.

LenoreNeverM♡re said...

Beautifully written Christina...I'm touched* & had a nice goosebumps reading it! I always tell people to use the 'F' word...FORGIVENESS! Anger & bitterness are toxics to our life; mind+body&soul.
Fab week darling!

Blair Friedeman said...

Wow, how well written and thoughtful! You are truly inspiring and incredibly strong Christina. Forgiveness is definitley something that I have recently realized is more and more important and surely an extremely powerful. I love the way you describe it too--so perfect and definitley made me think.

Fern said...

Thanks for sharing your story. You're so brave - definitely admirable :) I love how you said forgiveness is a choice. You're right on! You ROCK! :)

Erin said...

What an AMAZING post! Thank you for your words. I too am a victim of abuse, but do not let it control me, and really, I dont think of myself as a victim anymore. I think people often think that by holding that hate of the person/s who abused them, they are protecting themselves. I feel that hate only weighs me down. Forgiveness is really a powerful thing. It allows you to no longer be a victim of things in the past. It allows you to leave that abuse behind, and no longer have it as part of your identity. Forgiveness does not excuse what happened to you, but it does remove it from you. Thank you again for your words.

Aline said...

I commend you for being so honest. You can help so many people with your words! You are a very brave and strong woman and I count myself lucky to have "met" you:)

Anonymous said...

You are so brave and strong to share this. I think forgiveness is so important, I had some terrible experiences in highschool but the forgiveness was more for me than anyone else. Moving on and having a true and fulfilling life is so important, and I couldn't have done these things without forgiveness. Big hugs to you and your strength to throw away a book and embrace your life!

Callie Grayson said...

First thing! I am so GLAD you threw that awful book away!

secondly, thank you for writing this incredible post!! Forgiveness has been something I truly believe in, it is a way of life. and it does make you the forgiver find peace in moments you thought you couldn't.

I to have a story about forgiveness and was not sure how to post my thoughts. It's tough to put yourself out there. Big hug to you, you are truly a beautiful and wonderful women and I am glad to call you my friend in the huge blogger world.


Maria | Vintage Simple said...

Dear Christina,

This was such an honest and touching post... I hope you feel proud of yourself for choosing to be who you are and leaving the past behind you. It'll always be there to rear its ugly head now and again, but you are aware of that - clearly. You are brave and wise and a very sweet soul, and I wish you nothing but the very best. Because you deserve it.

Thank you for sharing this.

Sending much love your way,

Jenna @ Mi Vida Bonita said...

You are a brave woman, with a beautiful mind. It sounds like you truly chose the best path for YOU.

Best Wishes to you for the holiday!


Jody said...

Amazing and true. Forgiveness IS powerful and healing, but a difficult choice nonetheless. I am so happy for you to have been able to embrace it and let it change your life's course.
In my own life I have found forgiveness to be a choice that has allowed me to live again too. My husband and I both made statements in court to a woman who killed our 4-year old daughter and injured the rest of our family when she drove her car into the restaurant where we we having Sunday brunch. She claims she was trying to kill herself, but instead she killed our daughter and a young mom and left many of us injured. Her actions changed our lives forever. Yet we have been able to forgive and find Joy in life again. It has been a choice to forgive- the hardest choice I found myself making, but one that has brought healing to my heart in a way I never would have known had I not done it. Forgiveness has been a gift to me and my family- we, like you, have been able to move beyond the feeling of being victims and have felt powerful to create a life that still has happiness and love in it each day. We were on the Oprah Show in 2002 sharing our story- the show was called "Incredible Stories of Forgiveness". I remember thinking that I didn't feel incredible or like we had done anything that amazing. But in this world of so much heartache and pain I see now how too often people don't choose the path of forgiveness and it makes all the difference in the world.
Thanks for sharing your story with boldness and yet with raw emotion. Forgiveness IS incredible. No matter who it's offered to or no matter the reason. Blessings to you for allowing your heart to forgive and thus give you a new lease on life.

Gabby said...

Christina, you are such a brave, strong person and I am so glad you shared this. I think forgiveness is one of the greatest - and hardest - gifts we can give ourselves. Much love to you.

Anonymous said...

This post is so unexpected, I love the direction of your blog.

Reading this made me well up a little. Nobody likes to talk about the ugly side of childhood- the crap that we carry, or we are told to carry. Forgiveness is more than a burden lifted, it's like a whole new awareness of life, a whole new attitude.
The part that brought tears to especially was the part where I remember I was told I was ugly, and you mentioned it. Being half Asian, half Mexican was hard living in an all white neighborhood, especially almost 30 years ago. I know it's not as big as other situations, but I still carried that with me. Forgiveness makes you a better person, and love helps you through it.

justyourtypicalgirl said...

Forgiveness has made me the parent that I always wanted. I've come to a point where I am grateful for the things that I didn't get as a child as I am aware and make sure to give them to mine.

oh, hello friend. said...

Dear friend. thank you for being so vulnerable with us and sharing this.

Whatever your religious beliefs are, I think the ultimate forgiveness comes from our Father above. To receive the forgiveness He gives changes lives, and helps us to forgive others.

Though in our humanity, it is so hard to forgive others. I don't even blame you if you can't forgive - I have to work with forgiving issues with my dad. my story is nothing like what yours sounds like, he just abandoned us when we were young. but i still harbor bitterness in my heart toward him.

But anyway - I think your post is so inspiring ESPECIALLY to those who have similar stories. It is forgiveness you need to have in order to move on, and perhaps the reason why so many don't move on. You are an amazing and strong women. Thank you!

xo. danni

Anonymous said...

i think every time someone can be open and honest about this, it makes it so much easier for someone else to begin their healing process, too. thank you for being so candid; you're a special lady.

UU said...

Thanks for sharing! I totally agree that forgiveness would open up a whole different world, and it's so much better feeling!

Hilary said...

Go you! And thanks for sharing. It lets us know that we're not the only ones out here with skeletons in their past. I thank God everyday for my husband, who puts up with me & my unjustified rants, raves, crying sessions, and mood swings.

Samantha said...


It can take a lifetime to learn what you figured out at 16.

Gabbi said...

Extremely moving and very touching Christina. My dad passed away about a month ago and it sent me through some bad and confusing emotions. We weren't close, in fact I hadn't seen him in almost 7 years. He left us when I was about 2 years old and was a bad father in that he rarely visited, left my poor mom alone and basically went off and started a whole new family with another woman (no financial help at all). And for a huge part of my life I held so much hurt and resentment against him and I've been trying to forgive him for years and years now. Sometimes it seems easier to do than other times, especially if I'm going through stressful or difficult times. I put a lot of blame on him, and when things are good I'm full of understanding. But yeah, forgiveness is the only way to go when it comes to happiness in life.

Thank you for sharing Christina. This is the most I've said over my dad since he died. It's easier to express with 'strangers' maybe.

kadler said...

Oh, hon, this is such an amazing post. I'm so sorry about what you went through, but I'm so glad you were able to move beyond it and create such a wonderful life. Also, I'm glad you're a part of my life now (sorry if that is super cheesy)!

Thanks for sharing.

Marsi @ The Cottage Cheese said...

So sorry I'm reading this late, I feel just terrible that I missed such an important post. You are such an amazing woman, Christina! So courageous to share your experiences with us, and even more courageous to have overcome what you have and end up such an amazing person. You have worked so hard, and you have a wonderful boy, a job that you're very good at and appreciated for, talent and creativity, sensitivity, and the biggest heart of just about anyone I've met on the web. We are all better for knowing you. Excuse me while I wipe away a tear or two. Big hugs to you, love!

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