I always wondered what love was and how I could feel this thing that everyone spoke so passionately about. My life was never perfect and for quite some time I masked my pain with a fake smile and gentle demeanor. No one in my life, especially my family truly knew the hurt that I felt on the inside.
Growing up, I had a father who claimed to love me, however, he demonstrated it through what he called “tough love.” He was an old school Jamaican whose approach to love was controlling me with an iron grip. All I ever wanted was for him to truly show me that he cared, without constantly belittling me or taking his frustrations out on me. My heart screamed for a savior. I remember a time where I saved up my little money I had to go to prom and as I went to leave the house my father stood at the door telling me that I was not allowed to go with no explanation. As I sat there on the steps in my prom suit, I felt powerless and isolated. This was just one of the many times I was forbidden to go out, or even communicate with friends.
Many nights I suffered with a feeling of emptiness, my father was extremely controlling and my mother was not present in my life. I would stay awake hoping to see my mother’s face as I remembered it at six years old but eventually it slowly faded away. As I cried due to the growing loneliness inside me, I prayed that she would somehow come back to me.
As I grew up, I continued to mask the pain within and I slowly started to feel my relationships failing. I was angry, I was confused and I blamed it entirely on my family. I had an aunt who was present but rarely defended me in confrontations with my father. I hated myself at times and I constantly wished I was in a dream and I would somehow wake up to a perfect family who would love and support me.
The past has a way of weighing a person down and it was not long before I realized the heavy burden that was laid on my back. My family had caused me so much internal pain that I was not living the life that was truly meant for me. I was not joyful, confident, nor positive nor was I strong. Instead I was pinned down on each corner and slowly wasting away. I knew I would not be able to flourish and truly explore who I was if I kept letting this pain shape me.
The journey to forgiveness was not easy for me. I was perplexed at the idea of letting go of the layers of hurt, but I knew it was something that needed to be done. I realized that in order to grow I had to work forgive my family for the hurt that they caused me, including my aunt, father and mother. If not, I would be consumed by everything they did and the lack of love and care that they provided. I began to acknowledge the past and learn the importance of building from it. I decided to pray more to deepen my spiritual connection with God and I decided to read more to gain the courage and understanding needed to push through.
Forgiveness is not about the other person or people who may have hurt you. Forgiveness is important for you as an individual. It is the power to be bigger and better than your heartaches and the things, which cause you, pain. Forgiveness does not minimize the person who did you wrong, but instead brings peace to your life and creates empathy in your heart and compassion for others.
The act of forgiveness is bountiful and created healthier relationships for me. Forgiving improves health both physically and mentally, lowers anxiety, and there are many more positive benefits. My life has changed since I have learned to forgive. Being able to forgive made me feel more accepted and capable of expressing myself to new people. I am able to smile more because I do not feel as trapped by the pressures I had on me. I was able to learn about my own happiness and what it means to me. Not only am I able to be a better partner in my relationship, but I am also able to love and appreciate my friends and family in a different way. Most importantly I have learned the importance of loving myself over all things. My relationship with my family is nowhere near perfect, and I am still in the process of peeling back the layers of frustration I held inside.. I understand now that forgiveness takes time and has been truly a worthwhile investment.