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On the Edge of Forgiveness
Part 1: Learning to forgive the past is the first step to a new you.

You have to let go of past hurt before you can set yourself free.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.—Unknown

Forgiveness is giving up the possibility of a better past. It is the path of redemption where life can move forward from the present moment, where the past fades with memory and we have—the internal space—to accept the daily imperfections of life with those we love as they are. The relationship is new, starting fresh, without the burden of selective memory. This is not a path that we command; it is one that we serve.

Forgiveness does not come easily and for many it is an unknown emotional story. It requires patience and is rarely a hasty proposition. It cannot be forced. The most arduous and sometimes insurmountable part of forgiving is that one must fully feel the injury and acknowledge it before anything can be forgiven. This is why so many families never heal; the children don’t have the language and emotional maturity to express themselves. The parents, often suffering with their own unresolved childhood pains, have little insight into the damage they have done. As a parent myself now, I often and painfully bear witness to the enormity of the task and, even with my best intentions, I fall short. Some days there are too many unmet needs and not enough resources and it is impossible to not inflict some harm on the way to raising another human being.

I have been working toward forgiveness, which has been called the final form of love for much of my adult life with my original family. I knew it was a real and promised place from the forgiveness that had transformed my marriage but still, during every family reunion, it has eluded me and inevitably something in me would crack, destroying the tentative approach we were all making. I haven’t had the heart to love the most broken places in me that are so loudly mirrored in these interactions.

I long for the freedom to open my heart in these moments, but mostly am faced with all of my worst and ugliest character traits that are mirrored and louder in the previous generation. As I witness the source of all my most unwanted behaviors; the ones that stick to me regardless of how much or for how long I push away the relationships they came through, I understand finally that all of this brokenness is not about them anymore—my brokenness is mine alone.

Then there is the glimmer of goodness as my father teaches my son about the stock exchange, a piece of my own education that has stayed with me for decades coming through direct to my kids. He starts recounting stories from his own broken childhood that I remembered fragments of, but now I get the missing details, the names and places that made him who he is. Tenderness catches me off guard around my father; it has rarely been safe to have my heart unprotected near him. I sit, waiting to serve forgiveness, to have the chance to be free of the years of not good enough that I have lived out far from his sight.

There have been no explosions on this reunion and it is thanks to my own family that I can inch closer to the edge of forgiveness. My eldest son, who knows me well and is unaffected by my father’s offenses, told me the other day that he thought "it was refreshing to hang around grandpa." In response to my incredulous face he says, "He has no idea how he affects anyone else, it’s funny." I can see his point, but stubbornly remain attached to the small girl that I was at the receiving end of his lack. My son acknowledges, "How that would have sucked to be the kid" and something softens in me.

Wendy Strgar is the founder of GoodCleanLove.com, which provides products and advice for sustainable love. If you have questions about products or toys send them in and Wendy will be happy to share her knowledge. When visiting the website, use coupon code NEWSITE08, to enjoy a new year 15 percent discount.

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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