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Forgiving and Refusing to Let Bad Things Change Us

Woman watching sunset

“Humbleness, forgiveness, clarity and love are the dynamics of freedom. They are the foundations of authentic power.” ~Gary Zukav

It was a little after 9:00 PM when my mother's next-door neighbor called upset, hysterical even. Within seconds of hearing her voice, I knew something wasn't right.

I was getting one of those calls that everyone dreads. Deep breath. She said that my mother had been brutally attacked and had been taken to the hospital.

Breathe Leslie.

“What happened?” I asked in my calmest voice, trying hard to listen and not react. “Where is she? What hospital?”

A family friend had taken advantage of my mother's kindness. My mother had prepared a special birthday dinner for him, but that wasn't enough. He wanted more, he wanted money, so he hit her repeatedly over the head with a wooden statue, hoping that she would give in.

For years, he helped Mom with odd jobs around the house, and now he was her assailant. The amount of blood loss, the tears, the hurt and betrayal—it was the beginning of the longest year of my life.

Prior to this incident, I was obsessed about living “the dream,” but the truth is I wasn't happy. I was a control freak who suddenly felt out of control. My desire to marry and have the perfect family no longer seemed important.

After waiting for hours in the hospital, I entered my mother's room and broke down at the sight of her ballooned face and shaved head. She was unrecognizable.

How could he have done this to the sweetest woman on earth? She's alive, so why am I still angry?

Many of my friends and family members thought I'd be more equipped to handle an incident of this magnitude, since I'm a licensed social worker who works with non-profit organizations and families. But it was beyond challenging, and there was still so much work and healing to be done.

Some days later, my mother told us the entire story. She said that when the wooden statue broke, her former handyman grabbed a large crystal vase to continue the beating.

My mother was fighting back and yelling at him to stop. Then all of the sudden he turned around, gently set the vase on the dining room table, and walked out the front door.

He had spared her life, and yet I still felt surges of anger flood my body several times throughout the day.

My mother didn't start to resemble herself until her second week in physical therapy. Her hair was growing back and she could smile again. I felt relieved because it meant that she had survived.

As soon as she was able to formulate thoughts and words, she expressed her well wishes toward her attacker. By the time her physical therapy sessions had ended, she had completely forgiven him.

We knew he had a history of substance abuse, and his defense attorney tried to plead mental illness. He may have been under the influence of drugs when he attacked her, though we can’t be sure.

Regardless of what compelled him to commit such a horrible act, my mother recognized a hidden blessing in this tragedy: she’d wanted to move closer to her family for some time, and she’d been putting it off until this incident.

This was the catalyst for something that’s made her genuinely happy, and that helped her let go and forgive.

A Testament of Love and Forgiveness

In the book, The Giant Within Us, it reads, “Forgiveness is the miracle of a new beginning. It is to start where we are, not where we wish we were.” I kept hoping to be where my mother was in her process of forgiving, but I wasn't. This frustrated me.

When it came to me letting go of the hurt and anger, my approach was vastly different than my mother's.

Three practices that worked for me were:

  • Practicing yoga and meditating
  • Expressing gratitude coupled with positive thinking
  • Energy healing

In the morning, I practiced yoga and meditation, which introduced calm to my day and helped me realize there was so much for which to be grateful.

When the hurt and anger resurfaced, I brought my attention to my mother's smile and the sound of her sweet voice until my thoughts faded into nothingness again.

On the days when I felt extremely low, doing my best in the moment and being positive were equally important. I spent some afternoons walking on my treadmill while watching sci-fi movies. It's all I had energy for at the time and I told myself that it was okay.

Months after the attack, a friend suggested that I reach out to an energy healer or practitioner because I was having trouble sleeping. The sessions were relaxing, which greatly decreased my overall stress level.

The result was that I felt more balanced and clear-headed, and over time the pain and anger disappeared.

My mother joined a Senior Citizen Center to spend more time outdoors and enjoy life with her peers. She also found peace through engaging in therapy sessions to address her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It's interesting how my journey of forgiveness involved going inward, whereas my mother focused on external activities. However, we both learned that forgiveness means taking back the power we may have given to someone else for their wrongdoings.

It's a personal choice that requires a great deal of commitment, compassion, and patience.

My mother's response to the world before and after her attack is to do her part by expressing love, gratitude, and compassion. Her attitude contributed to her steady recovery.

Mom refused to let the incident change her, and that’s why she’s not only surviving but thriving. Whenever something bad happens, we have a choice: we can get bitter or we can get better. My mom chose the latter. Which will you choose?

Woman watching sunset image via Shutterstock

About Leslie Carrington

A champion of healthy living, ancient rituals and self-healing, Leslie is the Founder and CEO of HolistiCitiLyfe, a wellness travel and holistic lifestyle event company based in New York City. She is also a licensed social worker who supports families and their children while working with non-profit organizations.

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  • katina

    My god I can’t imagine what your mother went through that night.. But she’s a brave woman. I salute her. I struggle with forgiving most of the time.. When my friends betray me it’s just so hurting that I hold on to that pain for days..this article was really helpful. I will always remember your words 🙂 Great post 🙂

  • Christine

    Thank you for sharing that. Powerful story.

  • Peace Within

    I am glad your mom is okay. She is an inspiration for all of us. It is easier to be bitter than to be better. Take care <3

  • Struggling

    Your mother sounds like an incredibly strong and compassionate woman, what an inspiration. Thank you for sharing this story; get better, not bitter is very good advice.

  • Inspiring story. Thank you.

  • Bill Lee

    Hello Peace. I’m sure you meant, “It is easier to be better than bitter.” I agree that this story is inspiring. It is a strong testament that cultivating compassion and forgiveness is the path to our true nature of self-efficacy.

  • Andrew

    Thank you for sharing the story of your mother and your story. It seems to me that maybe reaching out and sharing this story is part of your healing as well.

  • test

    nice post

  • Hi Leslie, Happy women’s day
    thanks for sharing your personal life experience. Hats off to your mom, who survived the horrible incident and forgave that boy. It takes great courage to forgive someone. Ya, you can’t tell about the state of mind of that boy, but I can say that you both have heart full of roses.
    This story will stay close to my heart forever. Thanks again for your time

  • Peace Within

    Hi Bill, unless a person is strong and wise I think it is easy to become bitter, and to become negative. This woman was strong and wise.

  • Bill Lee

    I totally agree. Thanks for correcting me. It is better to be at peace than bitter.

  • Leslie this is such a great post. I am glad your mother is better. Unfortunately, human beings tend to forget the good things you have done for them. Your mother is such a great soul. After reading your story I remembered my grandmother who had a heart like your mother. I remember no one would be allowed to walk pass our house without my grandmother calling them in for dinner. It doesn’t matter how small the amount she would shout to them “you there just come in to wet your mouths” People luckily then and in my country didn’t have drug problems etc so they treated my dear grand mother with such respect.
    I do not know what I would do if anyone had hurt my grand mother. She died of natural causes at 83 years and it took me almost 10 years to forgive God for taking her from me. Thanks again for reminding me of the importance of forgiveness.

  • Peace Within

    =)

  • Leah Silver Graves

    Wow. I needed this post today. Amazing words and thank you for sharing!

  • Guest

    Your mother is a courageous person for finding a place in her heart to forgive him despite his horrible actions. It takes a strong and a wise soul to know how to react in a calm demeanor in such a tragedy. Thank you for sharing a wonderful article.

  • Lisa

    Something sort of similar happened when a friend turned out to be an ex con and robbed me !

  • Shanker

    Hi Leslie,

    Thanks for sharing this story with us. However, I can’t even imagine that I can stop my revenge feeling if it had happened to me. This is a fact about me, and I do recognize it. To me, dodging my bad feeling would be like being scared of facing my own feelings.

    However, I’m not advocating revenge for the affected. I do recognize that revenge damages self much more than it does to the offender (if at all it is possible to revenge). So, I’m not sure I can forgive, god forbid, some thing similar happens to me.

    And, are you sure that your anger won’t catch you unexpectedly at the most inappropriate situation/person?

  • Heather Ferreira

    You and your mother are angels. If this story happened to my mother, I’d be writing it in an orange jumpsuit from the solitary confinement ward of a supermax.

  • LaTrice Dowe

    Your mother is a courageous woman for finding the heart to forgive him, despite his intentions to hurt her. If this story happened to my mother, I would be sitting in a jail cell right now.

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Leslie.