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When We Have Trouble Forgiving

Originally Posted in October of 2018

Dear Reader,

If you've been receiving my newsletter for a long while, you likely know that I've had some profound ups and downs with my parents over the years, mostly with my dad.

In recent months, I was in a bit of a dark place with deep wounds bubbling up to the surface. I tried a number of things to bring peace to my heart but it feels as though some wounds are like fault lines that lie dormant for long stretches, only to suddenly come to life with unstoppable waves of destructive force.

One of the most painful experiences of my adult life stemmed from a decision to homeschool our boys during their earliest years. I shared what happened and how I processed things in the following blog post in 2011:

https://drbenkim.com/reconcile-or-not-reconcile

To this day, I continue to hear from people from who felt some connection to this painful experience, some even finding this post in searching for comfort while going through homeschooling-related conflict with their families. A few days ago, I received a note written in Korean from a young mother in Busan, South Korea who expressed surprise and gratitude to know that someone else had gone through what she is experiencing now.

And last month, I heard from a young lady whose family endured similar pain during her childhood - here is an excerpt from her message, shared with permission:

"Also, just as a side note, a long while ago you wrote about the impact choosing to homeschool had on your relationship with your parents. I was homeschooled my whole life until college. Similarly, this decision on my parents part sparked a large amount of conflict between my parents and grandparents, leading to complete breaks in their already fragile, and truthfully unhealthy relationships. I have been grateful for being homeschooled, and hope that your family has been similarly blessed by the experience."

Receiving such notes is probably the best part of my "work" though at this point in my life, I'm grateful to feel like I am simply sharing parts of my journey as I continue to learn and grow.

Getting back to my recent private efforts to bring peace to my heart, the path to transcending my pain appeared out of nowhere and came in the form of this thought:

What do I wish to be forgiven for?

As I started to consider my most obvious shortcomings and all of the words and actions from my past that I wish I could take back, I began to feel ashamed as it dawned on me that I was being quite arrogant, focusing solely on all that has been said and done to hurt me, not giving any attention to my own mistakes and weaknesses.

To recall just one example, I will forever be sorry to a fellow elementary school classmate who was clearly uncomfortable whenever it was her turn to read out loud. I had no idea what dyslexia was as a 10-year old, but this is no excuse for not having had the decency to be supportive. I had a crush on this girl, and lacking maturity, my feelings for her led me to cruelly tease her about her reading. I cannot make amends for the hurt that I caused this classmate, and the truth is that I don't even feel like I deserve to be forgiven for being so thoughtless.

I could write another hundred thousand words citing equally misguided choices I have made over the years, but I'll return to the realization that plopped itself down in front of me. When struggling to forgive someone for deeply hurting us, it can be immensely helpful to shift our focus to things that we wish to be forgiven for.

This one shift in focus can be powerful, and it requires nothing but conscious effort to consider our own weaknesses, past and present.

If any of this resonates within, I encourage you to challenge yourself to spend the next 24 hours being ever vigilant of anger and resentment that bubble up within. As soon as you recognize it is happening, put your thoughts on something that you deeply regret and wish to be forgiven for.

If you find this strategy helpful in quelling anger and resentment, perhaps you can continue with it another 24 hours. How transformative would it be if we could adopt this way of being as our ongoing modus operandi?

If you've read all this way, please know that I am truly grateful for allowing me to occupy a part of your thoughts in this moment.

Wishing you and your loved ones peace and forgiveness,

Ben

 
 

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