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The Power of Forgiveness

What is forgiveness? The Webster’s New World Dictionary provides 3 meanings for the word forgive:

1. To give up resentment against or the desire to punish; stop being angry with, pardon

2. To give up all claim to punish or exact penalty for an offense; to overlook

3. To cancel or remit a debt.

This may tell us what it means to forgive, but it doesn’t address why we would want to forgive. In her blog, Christina White responded to the question, “ What advice would you give to us as GIFT coaches and the parents with whom we work?” with the following:

Moving on is all about forgiving. Oprah said it best, “Forgiveness does not mean you have to accept the person back into your life. It does not mean you are condoning their behavior or that you are in any way saying that it was “ok.” Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different so you don’t hold on to wishing that you had a different kind of family. You let that go, and you move forward with the Grace that God has given you from this day on. I don’t want the spirit of me to die because of what you did.”

As Christina states, forgiving allows us to get out of our muck of anger, resentment, desire to punish and pay back so we can move forward. Nothing can change if we are stuck. To create the happy life we want for our families and children, we must forgive those who have hurt us, our children and ourselves. The past cannot be changed, but any feelings, regrets, resentments or wishes about the past can be changed. Forgiveness is not about the other person, it is about freeing us of negative energy associated with the person and not allowing that person to have control over our feelings and behaviors. Forgiveness provides the freedom to live in peace.

Lynn Cooper

 

In the winter 2012 issue of Adoptalk, the NACAC newsletter, an article was published entitled "Traumatized Children Require Different Parenting Techniques” by Debi Grebenik.  The author discusses trauma and brain development, parent preparation and parenting strategies for traumatized children. The parent tips are very beneficial, but until the parent is fully capable of consistently practicing these strategies, they will not yield the desired outcome.

Ms. Grebenik states parents must first acknowledge their own fears and past history to prepare to parent a traumatized child. The best gift they can give their traumatized children is to remain present for them in their pain and accept the hurt without trying to fix them. She also tells parents they should identify their own threat responses and how they feel when their fears are triggered. These are all wonderful suggestions, but sound much easier than they are.  As a parent of 2 traumatized children who have manifested extremely violent and frightening behaviors, I know how hard it can be to stay neutral and present when my child is breaking everything in sight. While in the heat of the moment, handling my own fear responses and triggers were not my first responses.

So how do parents learn to acknowledge and deal with their own fears, triggers and possible trauma history so they can become neutral, therapeutic parents? GIFT Family Services provides tools, strategies and practices to assist parenting in becoming neutral, grounded parents. Once parents have reached this state of neutrality, they are in a position to fully utilize the parenting strategies noted in the article and create the peaceful, healthy, intentional family they desire.

Lynn Cooper

What is forgiveness? The  Webster’s New World Dictionary provides 3 meanings for the word forgive:

1. To give up resentment against or the desire to punish; stop being angry with, pardon

2. To give up all claim to punish or exact penalty for an offense; to overlook

3. To cancel or remit a debt.

This may tell us what it means to forgive, but it doesn’t address why we would want to forgive. In her blog, Christina White responded to the question, “ What advice would you give to us as GIFT coaches and the parents with whom we work?” with the following:

Moving on is all about forgiving.  Oprah said it best, "Forgiveness does not mean you have to accept the person back into your life. It does not mean you are condoning their behavior or that you are in any way saying that it was "ok." Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different so you don't hold on to wishing that you had a different kind of family. You let that go, and you move forward with the Grace that God has given you from this day on. I don't want the spirit of me to die because of what you did."

As Christina states, forgiving allows us to get out of our muck of anger, resentment, desire to punish and pay back so we can move forward. Nothing can change if we are stuck. To create the happy life we want for our families and children, we must forgive those who have hurt us, our children and ourselves. The past cannot be changed, but any feelings, regrets, resentments or wishes about the past can be changed. Forgiveness is not about the other person, it is about freeing us of negative energy associated with the person and not allowing that person to have control over our feelings and behaviors. Forgiveness provides the freedom to live peace.

Lynn Cooper

 

I had the most fascinating, frustrating and scary experience with my son a couple of weeks ago. He is 18 and decided to assert his independence by putting himself in a potentially dangerous situation. I spent 24 hours not only worrying about his safety, but also worrying if he was thinking I didn’t love him enough to be concerned. When I saw him again, we discussed the situation. He saw his father and I being over-protective, alarmists and not trusting his ability to take care of himself. He believed we thought he was stupid and inept. I told my son none of that was how I felt or viewed him. I shared with him my feeling terrified that he might be hurt, alone, cold, tired or hungry and I wasn’t there to help him. It tore my heart out to think he could feel this way, as it would tap into his abandonment and trauma issues. My son was stunned. It never occurred to him that his choice could have this kind of response.

This event presented the opportunity for our family to look at and work on how we interpret each others' choices and behaviors. My son has a much clearer understanding of our purpose for parenting him. We are not attempting to control him, but love him so much we want him to be safe. As staying in relationship with traumatized children is so important, he really appreciated knowing this. I have a deeper understanding of how he could interpret my actions as not having confidence in his abilities or judgment. I now choose to be more aware of my actions and be clear with my message when being with my son.

Living with and parenting traumatized children is challenging. I have found when these events occur, dealing with them is not a pleasant experience. However, they are valuable opportunities for all of us to learn about ourselves and each other. We can all grow as a family. It may sound odd, but I am grateful for these opportunities. They have molded and shaped all of us to be who we are. I know we will have more opportunities to come. I am both excited and hesitant, but will continue to move forward through it all.

Lynn Cooper

Having just returned from the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) conference in Denver, my head is still swimming with all of the wonderful and beneficial information regarding working with and rearing foster and adoptive children. The workshops on how childhood trauma affects neurological development, behavior and worldview opened a whole new perspective on why these children do what they do.

I gained further understanding of these behaviors while attending a workshop on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Children who have a spectrum disorder struggle in many different areas, ranging from learning disorders to social difficulties. As valuable as these workshops were in creating a deeper empathy and understanding of our children’s behaviors, the last seminar I attended , “How Parents Can Learn to Forgive” was of the most value to me.

My sons were physically abused, neglected and born with FASD. Parenting them has been a struggle. I thought by providing a loving and supportive home, they would be grateful and have “normal” childhood attitudes and behaviors. When they didn’t, I took their behaviors personally. I thought I was a bad mom because my children were acting out. At the time, I did not know how to separate the behavior from the source. My sons and I have struggled to have a close relationship as they have grown to be teenagers and young adults. This workshop helped me to see how forgiving them for their behaviors, and forgiving myself for my choices and behaviors, would open a space for my sons and I to build the close relationship we want.

The workshop was based on the book Forgiveness Is a Choice by Dr. Robert D. Enright. He speaks of the 4 phases of forgiveness, giving guidance during each phase.

Phase 1: Uncovering your anger; asking you to look at yourself and answering the following questions: Have you faced your anger? Are you afraid to expose your guilt or shame? Has your anger affected your health? Are you obsessed with the injury or the offender? Do you compare your situation with that of the offender? Has the injury changed your worldview or your life?

Phase 2: Deciding to forgive; decide what you have been doing is not working, be willing to begin the process to forgive and then decide to forgive.

Phase 3: Working on forgiveness; work toward understanding, compassion, acknowledge your pain and let it be. Do an act of kindness toward the offender or to honor your decision.

Phase 4: Discover release from emotional pain; this is the growth phase discover the meaning of suffering, your own need for forgiveness, that you are not alone, the purpose of your life and the freedom that comes from forgiveness.

My son and I went to lunch when I came home from the conference. I worked through the phases, sharing what I had learned with him and asked him to forgive me for not understanding that his behaviors were not meant to hurt, defy, or disrespect me. He behaved this way due to the trauma and circumstances of his life before he came to our family. Not only did he forgive me, but by my modeling this for him, he asked me to forgive him for not being more patient with me. My son and I are now free to move past our hurts and create the deeper, closer relationship we both desire. What a gift!

Lynn Cooper

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