Forgiveness & Moving Forward.

Via Allie Bombach
on Dec 24, 2010
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“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” ~ Lewis B. Smedes

Forgiveness and acceptance—can you have one without the other?


It has been quite the theme in the last year of my life. A seven year estrangement from my father gave way in the summer of 2009, and the process of healing wounds and moving forward began. It wasn’t easy to forgive him, but it was necessary. Before I forgave him it was a weight that I had to carry with me daily, even though I told people who were close to me that it wasn’t that I was still angry or upset, it was just that I didn’t want someone like him in my life.

Problem is, I found that blocking him out of my life was effecting my ability to forgive others. I was beginning to fear that my silence with him was making me cut and run from anyone who hurt me.  I had a growing intolerance for any kind of apology, and started to resent my own lack of understanding and compassion with my friends imperfections. I was regretfully burning bridges, while good friendships waved frantically on the other side trying to put out the fires.

So, I made it my resolution to forgive.

I reconnected with lost friendships and started the long process of building back the bridges, hoping that they would still meet me halfway.  It was amazing the weight that lifted from my shoulders.  I found it easy to communicate my frustrations with others, and most of the time, our relationships grew stronger.

Still, forgiveness doesn’t change who someone is. Seven years without my father and I almost forgot who he was.  When the waters calmed of our reunion, I saw deep down the same person that made me run all those years ago.  I realized that I made forgiving him more about what was good for me, and not about accepting who he is. Reconnecting with my father was not just about forgiveness, it was also about acceptance.

Recently, I got an email from a woman who made the questions of acceptance and forgiveness arise again. We hadn’t spoken in years. A confusion in our friendship that turned into vicious portrayal of what women are capable of in the heat of the moment had me running literally out of the state of Colorado.

For some reason, I was born without the ability to make others feel small. I can’t give you a good comeback to an insult, or be that “mean girl” that cooly tears another woman’s life apart.  This woman beat me down at a game that I was incapable of playing.  That said, I’m thankful that I didn’t lower myself to that level, even though I couldn’t even if I tried.

In the end, I was shocked and hurt by the ability of a person to show such cruelty to what was once a good friend.  I won’t get into details, but her actions were, in my eyes—and in many others—unforgivable.

After receiving her email, I stared at the words for awhile before starting to reply.  “It’s Christmas” I thought.  A time of forgiveness. She wasn’t apologizing, but just starting up casual conversation as if the past had disappeared. I thought of the weight I was carrying with not forgiving her, and then I thought of my father.

At what point does forgiveness turn into acceptance?  Is it the same thing?  Can we forgive but not accept?  I looked at her casual message of insincere questions like “What cha been up to!?” and could only think to write one word.

“Nope.” I hit send.

I am not sure if it was the right thing to do. All I know is that sometimes when you see the true colors of a person and they hurt you so much that they are all that is holding you back, accepting them may be the exact opposite of moving forward. I hope that I can sincerely say that I forgive her.  But, I cannot yet accept her.

In the last two years I have been able to surround myself with some amazing people.  I have become friends with people I look up to and I think a large part of this is because of my own confidence.  I feel that in my weakest moments, I friend people like the woman who sent me the email because I don’t think highly enough of myself to do any better.  I see now that leaving her behind is not just forgiving her, but forgiving myself for getting to that point in my life.

Moving forward, shoulders and my spirit—weightless.


About Allie Bombach

Living in her restored 1970 Airstream, Allie recently relocated to Portland, Oregon where she works as a freelance videographer and filmmaker for the outdoor industry. She graduated from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado with a B.A. in Business Marketing with a concentration in videography. A former raft guide and snowboard instructor, Allie found a passion in inspiring others to make the outdoors a part of their lives. Finding inspiration from the power of storytelling, she strives to promote simple living and environmental education. Only finding true peace while in between the lines, she finds “home” while on the road. An avid commuter in love with her bike, Allie is always in search for the next adventure, a good high five, and a hoppy IPA.


15 Responses to “Forgiveness & Moving Forward.”

  1. Randall Smith says:

    Yes. Thank You. Now I don't feel so unsure about some recent events in my life.

  2. Diane D'Angelo says:

    There is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, and this piece does a good just of distinguishing between the two. It is makes no sense at all to allow a person back into your life if that individual remains unable to care about the hurt s/he inflicted. In my mind reconciliation can only occur when the individual who has caused harm actively seeks to repair the damage, rather than just hoping the other party has forgotten about it.

    I completely relate to the inability to "make others feel small." I just can't keep up with that kind of behavior; it's not my nature. As a result, I've found it next to impossible to have close friendships with people who are aggressive in that manner, no matter how otherwise charming they may be.

  3. I think you need to have a boyfriend!!!More sex – less such unusual questions!

  4. ajBombach says:

    "otherwise charming"
    Thats the kicker… I think that is why I almost forgave her. The surface of her personality is amazing. When people first meet her they love her. I had other friends warn me, that she was not all that she seemed to be. But the charming part kept me in the friendship. Your comment really made me think back to people in my life that I have forgiven maybe just because it was too difficult not to. And maybe it wasn't forgiveness or acceptance at all, maybe I was just not strong enough to say no. Thank you for your insightful comment. Makes me feel a lot better about saying no.

  5. Erin says:

    You don't have to like someone to accept who they are and forgive them. Accepting who they are is merely seeing what you percieve as their nature and not needing to change that. Forgiveness is harder, as you need to make peace with personal feelings of hurt, and realizing what part of your concept of fairness was violated by that person's actions, appearances, or personality. Making the decision that you don't like someone based on the kind of person they is the culmination, as you've taken a look at everything and are saying " No, thank you" because that is not what you want for yourself. It's no more judgemental than saying "I don't like oatmeal cookies.". You are making a choice and turning to what you do want in your life instead of continuing to spend time and energy on what you don't want.

  6. Lisa Montierth says:

    rock on brave girl.

  7. debby says:

    i don't know how to forgive. i would want to, but feel that if one 'forgives' it can be equated to saying 'oh, it's okay' that you hurt me/etc. accepting that their insensitivity is their 'nature' and the 'why' (they were ________ as a child) can certainly explain them. but to let go of the pain? hmmm. maybe i don't know what forgiveness is. . .

  8. I totally agree. I guess the hard part is the awareness of it all. I can be very aware and put a firm answer to oatmeal cookies (which I do love) but its so difficult to put that same answer to the people in your life. Because what is our tolerance? Are people meaning to hurt you? Or can they not help it and they are just hurting themselves? I guess I try and break down what are malicious assaults and what are merely accidents… Its difficult. The problem may be WHEN you realize those true colors of someone in your life, not IF. Because, maybe, like the woman in the post, it was too late. Thanks for your thoughts Erin, it gives me a lot of confidence about my decision to say no.

    PS: I think I would compare her to a bad pecan pie and not oatmeal cookies. Just sayin'. 😉

  9. I get really confused about forgiveness too. Sometimes I feel like I just want to drop what someone has done because I'm tired and I don't want to carry it any more. Does it mean I am still hurt? Maybe.

    Although, I definitely think that forgiveness is not saying something is okay. The action they did is not okay. But maybe forgiveness is recognizing that the person is owning up to their mistake? And we forgive them, because we can relate to their imperfections. I have definitely hurt some people in my life by mistake. I hope to offer the same empathy with others as I have and still need to receive from the people I have hurt.

    Thanks Debby

  10. In my opinion you commit an

    error. I suggest it to discuss.

  11. walter says:

    i appreciate this piece, all except the part where u simply replied "nope." I can understand why you would not want to reconnect with this person, but i think a sincere and straightforward sentence or two would be more appropriate, and less passive-aggressive, then just "nope." if i received that response after trying to reach out to someone with whom i had fallen out, i would feel very bad…might even feel small. Even if we don;t think we're capable of making someone feel small, we might be. Still I appreciate your essay and can relate to many of the things you said.

  12. D.G. Kaye says:

    This is a timely article for me as I am about to publish my memoir which entails trying to free myself from a mother's narcissistic ways and guilt infliction. After almost half a century I reached my breaking point of ignoring and ended contact for 6 years now. I can identify with just because I left, doesn't lessen the guilt and I forgive but cannot go back as she simply doesn't think there was anything wrong. I commend you for going back and perhaps your father has apologized for the issues but every situation is unique I suppose I will still have to find my way.

  13. Leanne Chapman says:

    Sometimes I think letting go of someone out of your life really IS accepting – it's saying I accept that you are this person, and I realise that doesn't fit with my values and how I live my life, so I let you go. I think you can forgive and accept someone as they are without letting them back into your life. To me that would set up all kinds of expectations for them to behave differently this time, which is not acceptance. I recently receive a similar email, casually acting as though nothing happened, and i sent a similar response. Great to read this article and feel that validation of my own thoughts.

  14. Jenna B. Wiser says:

    Just got back from holiday shopping with my daughter. I put my baby to bed and this is the first thing I have read. You would not believe the timing of this article in my life. You see my husband and I are separating after 2 1/2 years of marriage. For more than two months I knew it was over but just wanted to make it through the holidays for the kids. He has tried everything to get me to change my mind. From getting angry, to crying, to guilt trips, or begging me to sleep with him (hope this isn’t tmi). I stand my ground and say no. But tonight we had a huge fight. Nothing physical, just made me realize that this will probably get messy before we can have peace. He left tonight. He is the type to check phone records and so even though I would love to reach out to my “guy” friend by phone my first desire would be to protect my friends first. So it’s best to have no phone contact until we are fully separated and I file. (Jan). Until then I will use Elephant Journal and articles like this for inspiration. Going to my parents tomorrow with the kids without him. I will finally be able to breathe. Guess my hopes of making it through the holidays faded fast but you can’t stop the inevitable. I will forgive him though as soon as I am fully away. My response will always be “nope” too.