Recently, I was the opposite of kindly asked, to NOT volunteer anymore with a parent organization. I know, right? You’re either thinking that I am a horrible person who doesn’t play well with others, or the leader of the parent organization is a horrible person who doesn’t play well with others. Honestly, both statements have some truth to them, minus the horrible descriptor; neither of us are horrible. But the twelve-minute, scolding phone conversation over a request for a form left me angry, hurt, crying and frustrated.
I have had enough trips around the sun to understand that sometimes, continuing to fight the good fight is not actually the best thing. And I’ll be honest, even writing this next statement took some teeth pulling. But occasionally, what I think is the good fight is actually me being on the dead wrong side of the battle. However, in both scenarios – in any discourse – the only way forward as a whole being, is forgiveness.
Forgiveness has always been seen as a bold move to me. Bold because I feel that when you offer forgiveness, in its true form, you are vulnerably handing over your surrender. There will be no further attempts to win the battle; the white flag is flying and the horizon holds no sight of this conflict. From someone who operates from a never give up, never quit, never surrender place, forgiveness, well it’s never been my first choice. In fact, when I’m hurt I tend to isolate. And it’s not because I’m afraid of dealing with the big feelings, but because I want time and space to sort out those big feelings without having to offer anything, just yet, in return. It’s the forgiveness part that I’m not usually ready to deal with, and so I don’t.
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My mom and I are not the same person. I know she has had to work really hard to understand how I am wired. And now, as a parent myself with a child who is wired differently than I am, anytime I think about the effort I know my mom put in, I am overwhelmed by how much she loves me. Several years ago, our differences brought my mom and I to an argument that was really ugly. To make it worse, it was an in-person argument, even though we were currently living in different states. And truthfully, I don’t remember exactly what the argument was about. But I do remember that when my mom left to go back home, even after both of us coming to a gentle resolution, that it was a few months before I felt like I could have a conversation with her again. I just wasn’t ready or willing to lay my hurt down.
It was a year later and I was sitting on the edge of a pool with my mom. I will never forget her humility or her words in this moment. She tearfully brought up our argument, and said that she really wanted to apologize in-person for the things that had transpired. And while I had long since forgiven her, I was so moved by her vulnerability that I can’t ever think about that moment without tears. Tears for how amazing my mom is, tears for her willingness to ask for forgiveness, tears for her love for me, and tears for watching my mom model how to do the right thing, even when it costs something. Mom, you are incredible.
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The day after my twelve-minute phone conversation, where I was asked to not volunteer my time anymore, I uncharacteristically sent a message apologizing for the part of the discourse that I could claim. I was not as vulnerable and heartfelt as my mom was to me (maybe that would have made all the difference), but the tone was there that I was offering an olive branch. My offer was received, but wasn’t reciprocated. And while I don’t think you offer forgiveness with any expectations, the hope is always there that the person on the other end wants to right their wrongs too.
The older and wiser I get, the less I want to spend my days fighting – with anyone. I have two young boys watching how I handle my friendships, relationships and interactions. They’re going to see relationships come and go; they’re going to see their mom get her feelings hurt, and probably, see me hurt someone else’s feelings. And I don’t want them to see me die on the battlefield. I want them to see forgiveness offered up generously. I know still have quite a ways to go.
And I know that offering forgiveness does not always play out with positive results; I’m still a blacklisted volunteer. But some of my most impactful moments have been when forgiveness has been held out to me – truly, sincerely offered. It calms my battle instinct, it calls to the compassion I know is in my heart, it softens me. It’s powerful and bold. And I want that, generosity with forgiveness, to be true of who I am.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “True”.