Some things always hurt.
I've heard that in order to find peace within myself, I must learn to truly forgive others — I mean, it’s the central theme of hundreds of movies and the stuff of fortune cookies and parables. But it's way harder than it seems.
I've never been able to forgive anyone in my life. Sure, the sting of anger and hurt of one's transgressions and wrong-doings toward me eventually erodes with time, understanding and compassion. But forgiveness? I don’t think so.
My refusal to forgive sounds really harsh, I know. Right now you’re probably thinking you're a much better person than I am. But actually I’m a kind person in real life; I just have a really hard time letting things go. If a friend goes back on a promise, I can't forget it My first ever break-up with guy still pisses me off and leaves me bitter on the rare occasions it crosses my mind; I've never forgiven him, either.
Full forgiveness is something I simply can't wrap my brain around. And by 'full forgiveness' I mean no lingering feelings of pain or annoyance and not being reserved or distrustful toward said person afterward. I suppose a sincerely mature and enlightened person could, in theory, forgive while remaining open, happy and unburdened, but I haven’t emotionally gotten there yet.
Because "forgive and forget," while wise in theory, is a useless phrase. You should never choose to forget what was done to you or what's happened in your life — even the most enlightened person will tell you that.
Personal growth isn’t about throwing away bad memories, but learning to live with them in a positive way. But that last part is what makes forgiveness so difficult: Whenever someone hurts me, I keep that pain with me forever.
It's easy enough to toss away the need for forgiveness when the person who hurt you is no longer in your life, but what about if the person you want to forgive is still very active in your daily life, like, a parent or a partner?
I still have a hard time letting go of issues I have with my mother. I love her, but as poet Philip Larkin so eloquently put once, "They'll f*ck you up, your mum and dad." As the only child of a single mother, I dealt with (and still do) perpetual neglect.
She spent the majority of her time working to keep a roof over our heads and to financially provide for me, but emotionally I was left wanting. She'd come home from work, we would eat separately, and then she'd go to bed.
What free time she had on weekends was devoted to running errands and she frequently told me she was too tired to play or spend time with me. She wasn't a bad mom, but the lack of emotional attention is something I still haven't come to terms with.
As an adult, I now realize my mother is human like anyone else. She has her limitations and her flaws. But the child inside me still hurts. It's rare we ever talk about my feelings, but when I'm able to wrestle an apology out of her, it still doesn't satisfy me: Even if she didn't mean to, she caused me pain and nothing can change that — not even an apology.
I still haven't completely forgiven her and I don't know if I ever will. Feeling angry and upset all the time, though, takes its toll. At some point, I have to learn to accept the reality of what's hurt me and live with it.
My acceptance of my own emotions makes life easier and years of therapy has really helped, but forgiving others completely is a different story. Maybe one day I'll be able to be vulnerable, surrender my stubborn ego and fully forgive; I hope so.