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Growing Through Forgiveness

Growing Through Forgiveness

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. -Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy

I grew up in a family that defined dysfunctional before anyone ever used the word. Unresolved pain in my parentsí lives served as the foundation of their relationship and my childhood was steeped in unspoken terrifying rage or screaming fits that filled every space. I became an early talker, as it was my only recognizable means of defusing situations that could explode at any moment. My siblings each had their own devices, but no one in my family ever had each other. The strain removed all possibility of any intimacy. We all moved around each other, trying not to bump into anyone, knowing early there was no where to bring our needs.

I dedicated my adolescence and early adulthood to filling that void with a family of my own making. I was devoted to my friendships as most people dote on their families and was reminded continuously of how family was prioritized over friendships, and longed all the more for a family of my own. Marrying early, raising children and creating family rituals that defined us became my solace. Growing a family with the singular goals of kindness while teaching and practicing emotional intelligence was my therapy.

Years of practice and learning to love while raising a family had mostly cured me of the unique brand of family insanity that formed me. This was true at least at a distance. Over the years, at family reunions, my children had seen how my original family didnít bring out the best in me. They have witnessed the wanton cruelty that my family employs as discourse. They have seen me broken by the disrespect and meanness that is my original familyís brand of madness. They have held onto me and reassured me when I saw myself slipping back into old patterns.

Dealing with my original family with thousands of miles between us has provided a pretty good safety valve. Yet still, there are moments, like tonight, when I can be caught off guard and swept into the madness of one or the other, or a miscommunication that I wasnít even aware of. Suddenly I am in the midst of the yelling and raining abuse. I hold the phone away from my ear, trying not to listen, trying to defuse and then something breaks in me and I am in the rushing stream, losing myself, fighting back.

I know from my chosen life, that a healthy, happy, loving family is a form of heaven on earth. It is the place where we can be at our worst and the people around you remind you of your best. It is safety and respite and peace, even amidst the chaos and mess involved in keeping it all going. Creating a home that is built by the connections of loving family is where I can find the meaning of my life.

Tonight, positivity is forgiveness. It is recognizing the small pieces of me that remain tethered to a painful childhood that still shows up in unexpected ways. It is embracing the broken parts of ourselves, without the shame or suffering that so often accompanies it.† Forgiveness is the courageous witness to who I have become and all the tender, fragile pieces that are in the fabric.

Read more: Children, Inspiration, Love, Relationships, Sex, Spirit, Wendy's Positivity Quest, , ,

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Wendy Strgar

Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family.† In her new book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy,† she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative advice.†It has been called "the essential guide for relationships." †The book is available on ebook.† Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13- 22 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

71 comments

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6:04AM PDT on Mar 27, 2012

Thanks for the article.

5:21PM PDT on Mar 25, 2012

Thanks.

12:55PM PDT on Mar 15, 2011

aw thank you so much indeed and bless you

7:07PM PST on Nov 28, 2010

You have just told my life story, how interesting. I would like to find another word for forgiveness when it comes to the extremevabusive behavior that comes from my early life and the extrensions of that into adulthood as a result.

I can easily follow through with forgiveness in things like kids doing typical kids things, sassing, spilling glitter glue, etc, and the normal issues we have in our home as a couple, but I have "forgiven" my mother many many times and each time it has been a catalyst for restarting the cycle of abuse.

Yes as time goes on, I feel less angry and more pity usually, but I have my bursts of complete almost manic madness, and moments mourning the childhood I never had (nothing like a touching mother/daughter movie to completely make me feel empty for a moment).

People say you hate in others what you hate in yourself, I totally disagree, and I work every day to do everything I can to never be "that"kind of parent and to be a better personday after day.

This kind of forgiveness is very difficult.

8:17AM PST on Nov 18, 2010

Forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting. But to remember a lesson, you need to forgive. If I am full of bitterness towards someone, I will just be tied into his or her dysfunction and not see my own reactions and patterns clearly. Besides, if you are bitter, you are less likely to attract happy people to you, and then you start the cycle all over again. BTW, I have always disagreed with the whole happy families are all alike thing. Happy families are expansive and creative: hence one happy family will look different from another. Unhappy families are based on destruction. You can blow up a building any way you want, but in the end, it's the same rubble.

5:53PM PST on Nov 17, 2010

Thank you for the post. It's wonderful the ways we manage to grow. Oh, how much the family of our birth matters! Give thanks for your children, for helping keep you centered and making the future bright.

12:08PM PST on Nov 15, 2010

Learning to forgive is one of the hardest to do, as you may think you have forgiven but the memories still come back if triggered, so to me forgiving is ongoing until you can talk it out with the ones that have hurt you or perhaps try the 'two chair' method. As we learn forgiveness, we start to feel more free and and able to move on with our own lives. We all deserve to feel free of the past.

9:50PM PDT on Nov 5, 2010

How is it that you had my childhood? That 1st paragraph hit home hard. I didn't marry young, I got great therapy, I live my life from a place of love and forgiveness, I refuse to let then be now. Unfortunately, I found myself making choices from the then to live in the now (old scripts die hard), as I didn't know how to choose from the same place I now live in. I'm making changes in my processes. I'm learning to do more than I ever did - I'm learning to protect what's valuable - me. Because I deserve it. I deserve what I give out. Love, Gentleness, Forgiveness and peace. We all deserve it!

3:11AM PDT on Oct 31, 2010

Thanks millions for the article! This was a catalyst for me to start our blog The Silver People Chronicle, depicting the unknown accounts of community and family life of the Silver Roll Blacks of the Panama Canal Zone. Since then we have found that a very large number of people of our Westindian etnic race, who made the world reknown Canal waterway what as it is for the world today, have the same experiences on the Black Canal Zone.
The Gold/Silver Roll system- a segregated payroll as well as social system that separated the white American workers from the Black Westindians (in the majority) caused much evil and trouble in our families; from child abuse, neglect, abandonment, divorce- you name it. Most of us 2nd generation kids grew up angry, resentful and full of hatred for each other and our families. Through our writings we have sought to heal this and make sense of the wickedness left on the Canal Zone.

1:44PM PDT on Oct 28, 2010

I find it quite difficult to forgive, much less forget.

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