I have a family that I love, but it has not always been happy. I craved and sought my mother’s love and validation my entire life, with very little success. I went back again and again only to be embarrassed, shunned, chastised, or made to feel guilty. Every time, I left feeling hurt and sometimes mad, which really just covered up the hurt. I would ask myself, “Why does she do this? What have I done to deserve this? When will she tell me I am a lovely, worthwhile daughter and that she is proud of me?”
I was stuck in this place for many years—a perpetual victim. I went to therapy, discussed it with my partner, journaled about it, and tried all kinds of strategies to gain favor with my mom. While these things helped a bit, what really helped me find freedom was forgiveness.
In Al-Anon, I have learned to have compassion for the alcoholic—to separate the person from the behavior and to forgive them. I discovered that forgiveness isn’t some magnanimous act that lets others off the hook. It is about me and for me! First, I have no business judging another—the alcoholic, my mom, or anyone. Second, when I have compassion and find the willingness to love others despite their behaviors, I make room to consider forgiveness. Finally, when I forgive, I let go.
Forgiveness gives me my life back! It gives me peace, calm, and serenity. It gives me time and energy to spend on the sweetness of life instead of a merry-go-round of complaining and keeping resentments alive. It gives me a doorway through which to love my mother despite all of the hurts that I have experienced.
As my mother grows old, I am finding my way to loving her unconditionally. If I am being honest, I sometimes revert back to my old way of thinking, but today, I strive to spend less time there and move more quickly toward forgiveness.
By Joy F., Saskatchewan
The Forum, February 2022
Feel free to reprint this article on your service arm website or newsletter, along with this credit line: Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.