Forgiveness: of my parents, of myself, for my kids

“For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” ~Matthew 7:2

It was not until my 3rd child that I experienced being the mom with the screaming kid at the checkout in the grocery store.  The clerk was relatively understanding, until my son screamed ear-piercingly at her when she offered him a sticker.  Her countenance changed considerably after that, and it was clear that I was failing by her standards as a parent.

I have been the mom watching the other moms deal with their screaming, fit-throwing, disobedient children and viewing them with similar judgments.  A friend of mine and I were at a park and another mother joined us.  When it was time for this new mom and her child to leave she did everything she could to coax her daughter into their van.  The little girl ignored her.  As the mom pleaded with her daughter my friend made a comment about the lack of obedience.  I didn’t even notice it (because I was thinking the same thing) until my friend later emailed me apologizing for her criticism of and lack of grace for the other mother.  Understanding and conviction hit me as her words spoke truth from the screen in front of me.

Parenting is daily, hourly, stretching and waring.  Thinning our exteriors and exposing what we would otherwise be able to conceal.  And, so often what we see in those parents around us is just a blurred glimpse of the whole story. It is so easy to cast judgement on these thinly veiled vulnerabilities, especially when I desire to relieve, or even hide, my own guilt-laden mommy heart.

In my life this doesn’t just stop with other peer-parents.  This applies to my parents too.

I consider myself very blessed when it comes to parents.  I have a lot to be thankful for because of them. But, my parents also failed in many areas.  In areas that I am still recovering from to this day.  Moments when those famous words “I’ll never do that to my kids” come back to haunt me.  And when their voices echo in my memory; when thin-worn patience exposed hurts and guilts of their own in harsh and demeaning ways: words that I have to combat with my mirror rituals.

And in these moments, my hurt and my guilt of not measuring up leaks through to critical and harsh judgment of my parents’ parenting.  Sometimes even giving way to splinters of bitterness.  I find myself criticizing details, personality traits, even their choices in moral matters… and I find myself miserable in the realization that I am only trying to hide from myself.  My own mistakes.  My own lacking and failing and running away from taking responsibility for my own choices.

Something I am learning about forgiveness is that it is a process of freeing myself.  I am learning that forgiving simply puts the responsibility of accountability back into God’s hands and frees me from my own condemnation.  In other words, forgiving my parents simply means that I step back from holding the ruler of measuring rightness and wrongness and in doing so, remove myself from the measurements I fail to meet. When I am no longer criticizing their failures, I’m also removing my failures from criticism.

It is amazing what kind of weight is lifted off of my shoulders when I practice forgiving my parents.  It not only frees me up to be okay with my own mistakes, resting in the grace God offers me through His Son, but its showing my kids that it’s okay to make mistakes and that they’ll still be accepted.  When I am practicing the process of forgiving my parents, my own parenting is gentler and my view of other peer-parents is kinder.  Not only that, but the discipline of consistently practicing forgiveness toward my parents has allowed me to enjoy a relationship with them regardless of the hurt that still lingers from their parenting mistakes.  I find that letting accountability rest in God’s control opens my mind and my heart up to accept my parents as they are without requiring any changes of them.  Consequently, in doing so, I am discovering that I have more ability to accept myself as I am, and therefore my children as they are.

Forgiving my parents seems to be a crucial part of relating to people in general for me.  My parents were the first people to love me and to hurt me, and forgiving them seems to be the most basic and most transformational piece to living at peace with myself and those God has placed in my life.  Letting go of holding the power of keeping records of hurts and wrongs has lifted my feet from the cement, offering my heart a chance to soar, opening doors to relationships I wouldn’t have otherwise risked in.

If my children take anything away from this childhood with them into their adult years, I pray it is the understanding of forgiveness and the ability to forgive.

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