“How have you ever found the ability to forgive?”
“You’re a better person than me. I don’t think I could do it.”
“How do you ever move on?”
How I have found the ability to forgive the abortionist and my maternal grandmother, who were both involved in the abortion attempt on my life, is one of the biggest questions that people have for me, if not THE biggest question that they have.
Regardless of our experiences, the need to forgive is universal.
We have all been rejected by someone.
We’ve all been hurt by someone.
We’re all vulnerable to holding grudges and resentments.
I’m no expert, because I believe God is the expert and source when it comes to forgiveness, but I do have a depth of personal and professional experience with forgiveness and its impact on both those who forgive and those who are forgiven, so I wanted to pass along some insights that maybe you’ll find helpful.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you’re weak.
I know we hear that frequently, and I even pass along social media inspiration with this message, but it’s important to take a closer look at this statement.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you’re a pushover, that you excuse someone’s behavior, or that you’re a bleeding heart.
I think forgiveness is a sign of strength. Being willing to work through anger, resentment and find peace is courageous and not an easy process. It involves you having to take a serious look at yourself, the other person, confront memories and experiences, a lot of prayer and for many of us, a good counselor. There’s no weakness to be found there!
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you forget.
But….the key, of course, is that you don’t hold onto negative thoughts and emotions.
I acknowledge what was done to me, not just in the failed abortion attempt by my grandmother and the abortionist, but also others who have hurt me in my life, and although the actions and words are palpable, they aren’t painful. I hope that makes sense. I remember them, I feel them, but they don’t hurt. The tears that I usually shed in memoriam are tears of sadness over how messy this world is, how badly I feel for them for having to live with their actions.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you have the person or people in your life that harmed you.
Having a relationship with them is a separate issue from forgiveness.
Boundaries are important! They keep us emotionally, physically, and mentally safe. Just because you have forgiven someone doesn’t mean you should have them in your life or that you need to.
I say need, because I’ve found that there are abusive people who try to manipulate you into feeling bad about the boundaries that you place wit them. “You say you’ve forgiven me, but you must not have, if you won’t let me spend time with you or see my grandchildren!” is a great example of this.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what they did was okay or that you’re condoning their actions or choices.
Forgiving someone involves us recognizing their brokenness and ours.
We all have hurt people. We all make mistakes. Our words and actions have consequences, not just on our own lives, but the lives of countless others.
We all are sinners who are in desperate need of grace and mercy.
Yes, the abortionist who tried to end my life and my grandmother who helped to facilitate it committed a horrible, egregious act. I hate the act of abortion. I hate what it’s done to tens of millons of children, what it’s done to men and women, to families and our society. I hate knowing that it was supposed to kill me and that our laws permit this to happen.
What I don’t hate, though, are the abortionist and my grandmother. They were broken people, just like you and me, who live in a broken world.
Although I could go on and on about forgiveness, I want to leave you with a parting piece of advice, that came from our parish priest a number of years ago:
“When you don’t know how to forgive, pray for the grace to forgive.”
We each need to take the necessary steps to recognize people’s brokenness, work through our thoughts and feelings, establish boundaries, seek professional help when needed, but above all, we need to pray. The peace that I have is nothing that I could have obtained for myself. Yes, I’ve done the hard work that comes with working through traumatic experiences, but I’ve also prayed. Long and hard. And I will never stop doing so.