December 1, 2017

Why we Fail to Forgive even if We Try.

The Thanksgiving holiday with my family had me thinking a lot about the roles of gratitude and forgiveness.

It was several years ago when I began to forgive my father. I had just started studying personal growth and I heard a lot about gratitude and how it could help me on my journey. I found it difficult to truly believe.

My dad had left when I was two, and while he’s always been a part of my life, truly and wholeheartedly forgiving him didn’t feel authentic.

What I learned was that if I tried forgiving him—without feeling the pain, hurt, and anger I had felt when he had left—it didn’t feel true for me. Instead, I was just using gratitude as a coverup for what I was really feeling. There was a little girl inside of me that wanted to scream “holy hell” for what I believed he had put me through.

I remember the first time I allowed myself to really feel that anger, and more specifically, the rage I had toward my dad. It felt like it would never stop. In truth, I have no idea how long it took in that first time. All I know is, after I really felt it and took time to express it, I felt better.

Feeling my anger and rage gave me access to something I truly hadn’t had access to previously: how much him leaving us had hurt me. I knew it had caused me pain, but prior to this, all I could access was just how angry I was at him.

Over the next several years, my pain and hurt would come to the surface, over and over again. Every time I would see him. Every time I would begin a new relationship. Every time I would let someone treat me in a way that didn’t feel good just to be loved.

This wasn’t only about where he had left me, but where I had left me.

Sometimes it would creep up on me—many times after a date that didn’t go well or a presentation that could have been better.

I remember so many times, as I would do this work, there was a part of me that didn’t truly want to forgive him, as I felt forgiving him meant letting him off the hook. But, I finally learned that forgiving him was for me. It was so I could feel better. It was so I could let go. It was so I could be free.

And it was when I was really able to do this, and I stayed committed to it over time, that gratitude for him and how he showed up became authentic and true for me.

I’m happy to say today that I have truly forgiven him.

I no longer look at him hoping he will acknowledge the pain I experienced. Instead, I feel genuine love for him and the way he showed up. This was all for me—all so that I would never leave myself, all so that I could attract the love that I truly deserved and desired, and all so that I could help others who have also been abandoned in some way to heal.

So, how do we forgive a loved one so we can experience true gratitude for how they showed up for us?

1. Start where you are. 

Do a check-in to see what is coming up for you. If you’re given a practice that tells you to forgive that person, and all you feel is anger, go toward the anger. Identify the emotions you are feeling.

2. Give yourself time and space to express, and actually feel, that emotion.

For example, if you’re angry, you’re going to want to give yourself time and space to express that anger. For me, when I was initially letting go of the anger I had toward my dad, I used my voice and body, including screaming, punching, or kicking the air, to express my hurt. If this doesn’t resonate with you, though, find what does. You can do anything from ripping up paper to screaming into or punching a pillow.

And, if you find you’re feeling sad or upset, take time to talk with the little boy or little girl that lives inside of you and ask them what they’re upset about. For me, when I was connecting with my little girl, she would say, “I’m upset that he left me. Why did he have to leave me?”

Whatever she would share with me, I would say that out loud over and over, until I didn’t feel the need to say it anymore. So, in the above example, I might say over and over, while staying connected to my body and what I was feeling, “I’m upset that he left me. I’m upset that he left me. I’m upset that he left me. Why did he have to leave me?” Sometimes, this would be the last time that this came up for me. At other times, though, she might have the same feeling another time.

As I honored what I was feeling, many times, I felt myself getting lighter and lighter, and over time, I found myself less focused on my dad and the pain he had caused me. It took a lot of anger and communication with my little girl to get there and to truly forgive him. I can tell you from working with hundreds of women, that this communication piece is so valuable as, many times, it’s the voice we didn’t have in that moment that keeps recreating the pattern over and over. And, as you begin to honor your feelings, so do others.

Sometimes a confined amount of time can help, and at other times, you just need to know that you have as much time as you need to feel what is coming up for you. It’s important to check-in with yourself and see what you need from each moment.

Important to note: It could take several times of doing the first two steps, before you can move on to true gratitude.

3. Once you’ve felt what comes up for you, then move into feeling the gratitude.

In the above example with my dad, I felt my heart open to him. I felt my walls down coming down, and I was finally able to see and truly take in the good in him and how he had showed up. I accepted that all of this was for me. I took in just how much he loved me for him to show up this way, even though our true selves would never dare to hurt another being. And, I took in how his actions had helped me to love and heal myself, fully and completely.

The picture I see and really feel in my body, when I tune into this gratitude, is him with this bright light behind him—like the sun. And, he is smiling, because, he, too, knows this is exactly what I needed to remember the truth of who I am. And, for that, I am eternally grateful.

What has your experience been with gratitude and forgiveness? I’d love to know. Please comment below and share your thoughts.


Author: Deborah Acker
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy editor: Nicole Cameron
Social editor: Cat Monkman

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Deborah Acker Dec 4, 2017 5:55pm

Jennifer - You are very welcome, and I definitely agree. The gap between saying the words and feeling it to be true is our biggest opportunity and the most challenging part. And, from what I've experienced, definitely the best way to let go is to be where you are and feel your feelings. As you do this, you will find yourself more present than you could ever imagine because there's no longer a little girl inside of you that's recreating her past so she can really take a stand for herself and have the voice she was never able to have as a child. I'd love to hear how your journey goes, and of course, if I can support you in any way on it, please don't hesitate to reach out. Much love to you.

Deborah Acker Dec 4, 2017 5:47pm

Katie Cameron - Absolutely true! I can you tell you, too, for me, when he crossed over, awhile after the immediate and devastating pain, I was able to connect with him from the other side, and we were able to heal our relationship. He was able to see things he wasn't able to see when he was in his physcial body, and he felt terrible for all of the pain he had caused me and wanted to rectify that. We now connect regularly on my healing journey - one of his roles is as my "Laugh" Guides. (He was always really funny in human form.) It definitely was not easy and took awhile to get there, but experiencing this with him, and also the journey of healing my mom's passing, which, after the initial devastation and not wanting to leave my bed, then grief coming over decades in waves, and still creeping up on me from time to time, has really helped me to make peace with death. I know that's not everyone's path in this lifetime, but it is definitely possible and it does feel so much better to be in this space with it and to be able to connect with her anytime I need her, even if it's not in physical form or to get a hug, which sometimes, I just need. But, I know I've experienced so much grief in my life to help others with this, and, as crazy as it may sound, I feel grateful for the practice in this which has helped me to be comfortable in these dark places, so I can help guide others out of them. Much love to you.

Jennifer Evangelista Dec 4, 2017 2:44pm

Thank you for this. Reading this made me realize that I have a ways to go in forgiving someone who is very important to me. I've been doing the work in forgiving myself for allowing certain things to happen, telling him that I forgive him but still dealing with the obstacles of the pain, anger and doubt of whether these things will occur again. It is easier said than done. The past is the past but the journey to be fully present to let go of all of that is definitely a daily challenge. Thank you for writing this.

Katie Cameron Dec 3, 2017 12:10am

It really is our suffering that connects us all, isn't it? My heart goes out to you for your losses. I find solace in the fact the ones that chose that exit are finally at peace, possibly for the first time in their entire life. That in itself is comforting. It's good to open a dialogue about this topic though- I don't think our society knows quite how to talk about suicide... sending you lots of good vibes :)

Deborah Acker Dec 2, 2017 11:13pm

Hi Martha - I'm glad to know this article is helpful for you. If you have any questions as you go, don't hesitate to reach out!

Martha Juelich Dec 2, 2017 8:05pm

Thank you. This article comes at an important time, as I am embarking on a similar journey. It helps to know a little about the path you experienced.

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Deborah Acker 

Deborah Acker is an Intuitive Life Coach & Energy Healer, a Blogger for The Huffington Post and the host of Truth Talk Radio. She helps super successful women clear energy blocks to all areas of life, including love and abundance (two of her favorites!), to open to the world that’s calling them outside of the office, a world where they’re owning and living from their truth each and every day.

Through Deborah’s own journey, she has seen the pain that comes from not living in your truth. She also knows what it’s like to come out on the other side. Things that have shaped Deborah’s journey to truth—her parents’ separation at 2, the loss of her mom at 17 and the knowing that she deserved to bring her dreams, her desires, her true truth to life.

This has meant: Stepping out of the Corporate World. Creating the love of her life. Traveling to every continent. Conquering her fears. Living life with no regret.

She now helps others do the same. Visit her website.