(We received this beautiful letter from a reader and with her permission, wanted to share it with you. Since making changes in life really can be hard, we loved her insight about choosing which “hard” you want to experience. SO good. THANKS, MARINA!)
Dear Danny & Mara,
I wanted to share a little bit about what I have learned about forgiving. This has not been an easy thing for me. I grew up with a mother who had suffered an abusive and neglected childhood. My whole life I struggled to feel loved by her, and even though I knew that she had shut off her emotions in order to deal with her difficulties (which continued into her adult life) I didn’t know how to forgive her for the way she treated me.
I went to my brother-in-law who was raised by abusive, alcoholic parents and yet radiated peace, joy, love and forgiveness. If anyone could help me, he could. He told me that I had to tell the truth about the situation and quit wanting things to be different. He challenged me to love my mom without expectations, to quit worrying about how she treated me and to focus on how well I loved her. I wrote a list of all the ways I could show her that I loved her. I had written a long list in my heart of all the things that she had done to hurt me and I had to throw that list away and focus solely on my new list. I started working my way down the list of things I could do to love her. When she did or said something hurtful I went back to my list and my intention to love her regardless of how she acted towards me.
After about three months, she came to me and said that I had changed, that she had always felt that she was walking on eggshells with me, but that now she felt relaxed around me. I had prayed for a change of heart towards her for years, but it was making the decision to actively love her no matter what that changed my heart for good. We have a very sweet relationship now and when she needs someone safe to talk to she calls me.
This experience has made forgiving easier for me (like that muscle memory you talked about in class), but it is still hard sometimes. I was in another difficult situation where my Bishop wasn’t helping my son in the way I thought he should. I won’t go into details here, but my son was very vulnerable at the time, going through chemotherapy for cancer and dealing with some difficult issues in our family and with friends. I felt so protective of my son and yet wanted to show respect for the Bishop, too, even though I felt strongly that he was in the wrong.
I went back to my brother-in-law for help again. (He is wise and giving.) He asked me how hard it had been for me to feel these difficult feelings. I expressed how hard it had been. I knew that I would feel so much better if I could release the anger and resentment that I was feeling but I was deeply struggling with it. He then asked me how hard it would be to release my negative feelings right then. I said that would be extremely hard. Then he said something that instantly helped me begin the shift.
He said, “Choose your hard.”
Oh, that’s right. I had a choice, and since both of them were hard why wouldn’t I choose the better way? I humbled myself, owned my feelings, and went to talk to the Bishop with a kind, understanding attitude. My Bishop responded to me positively and my son was the beneficiary of that exchange.
I know that things don’t always work out as positively as the two situations I have shared, but I have found that when I have love in my heart, miracles often happen. Both of you embody that trait. Thank you again for all you are doing to bless the lives of so many, including mine and the people that I love.
(photo via The Constant Buzz)