For as long as I can remember, Mother’s Day has stirred conflicting emotions in me. As the day approaches, we are bombarded with visuals of Mom surrounded by her perfect, adoring family who shower her with flowers, food and smiles. Everyone is happy, the world is perfect, and Hallmark makes a fortune.
Life can be messy, and we know life isn’t always a Hallmark moment. Those of us who were raised in dysfunctional families experienced rejection and had parents we couldn’t trust. Combine those experiences with the shame we felt about our families and you have a potent cocktail. My parents demanded me to honor and respect them, but in the same breath told me I would never amount to anything; I was a worthless son. And therein lies the conflict: doing the right thing and honoring my parents, or doing what I felt like and feeling indifferent towards them.
I have had the privilege of seeing firsthand what a kind, loving, nurturing Mother looks like. This Mom is easy to honor. It still amazes me her daughters confide in her when they have problems. They trust her and know they are number one in her life. This Mom expresses love selflessly without expecting anything in return. She encourages her girls, challenges them to stretch themselves, and punishes when necessary.
I realize my story isn’t unique. One of my friends sends her dad a Mother’s Day card because he took on both parental roles due to her mothers narcissism and selfishness. How do we honor a mother who neglects her children for selfish reasons? How do we honor the mother who suffers from addiction, refuses to help herself and burdens her children with guilt? And how do we work through the fear of rejection which is buried deep in our DNA, and allow someone to see the real person inside?
One word: forgiveness. Forgiveness frees us from the destructiveness of our pasts. The little voice inside of me telling me I don’t count and will never be good enough loses its power, and I am secure in my identity and purpose. Oh make no mistake, the voices return occasionally, but I don’t have to believe them.
Forgiveness isn’t easy. Sometimes it takes years to forgive someone. Forgiving others is taking the road less traveled. There aren’t many people on that road, but the scenery sure is nice.