Learning to Forgive Our Imperfect Parents for Their Mistakes


TRIGGER WARNING: This post deals with an account of physical abuse and may be triggering to some people.

“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.” ~Oscar Wilde

I couldn’t tell you if Oscar Wilde’s quote is entirely accurate. You see, my biological parents abandoned me and left me with my grandparents at birth.

Growing up with grandma and grandpa was the best childhood I could have ever imagined, and I didn’t miss my biological parents at all. I guess in that sense they were my parents, and perhaps Oscar Wilde’s point is correct.

However, my biological parents eventually came back. During the summer before my fourteenth birthday, my parents came and took me “home.”

I didn’t know much about my new parents, but within a few days here’s what I did know…

Mom and Dad didn’t love each other.

They argued every single day, putting each other down in ways no child should ever hear. Their unhappiness toward one another would often times escalate from verbal abuse to physical fighting, and when their fight was over, the final punishment always landed on me.

Perhaps it was because I couldn’t stand seeing the anger, violence, and sadness. I couldn’t stand seeing my father beat up my mother, so I would get into the middle of their arguments to stop the fight, even if it meant getting beat up myself.

The days and nights were filled with chaos. I felt like I was walking on eggshells, not knowing when one parent was going to explode and punish me for their bad marriage. My fear turned into anger, and the anger brewed to a boil inside me. I couldn’t continue living like this.

Arguments and beatings went on for years until I finally collapsed and I ran away from home.

As expected, both my parents disowned me the moment I left the house.

In fact, my mother was so mad she didn’t even allow me to come back and pick up any of my belongings. At seventeen years of age, I left to start a new life with my backpack and one set of clothes.

When I left home I was still in high school. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but the risk of going back was far greater. I made up my mind and there was no way I could ever go back. To me, our relationship was over.

Luckily, my best friend’s parents opened their door to me. They let me stay in their home until I graduated high school. I got a part-time job to help contribute. Things were looking up, but inside I was building resentment and blame toward my parents for putting me in this situation.

For years after high school graduation and into college, I continued to blame my parents for not having enough food to eat, clothes to wear, and somewhere to belong.

I blamed them for everything.

I had made a promise to never talk to them again, and I kept that promise for seven long years. But as time passed and life experiences taught me new lessons, I learned that resentment and blame were emotions that hold and push you down, never to let go.

Like it or not, it was time for me to let go and forgive.

I’m not going to say it was easy, nor am I going to say I didn’t have doubts throughout the entire process.

But I eventually learned to stop blaming my parents for my life. It was like a load of bricks was off my back. I was finally free from this emotion that I had carried with me and which had shaped my life for so long.

Learning to let go and forgive taught me that:

Parents also hurt.

Sometimes we forget that our parents have lived a life and have had struggles too. We don’t always know about their pains and sorrows. I see now that I have the ability to help them overcome and grow.

No one is perfect.

We’re not perfect, so why expect our parents to be? Parents make mistakes too. Of course violence is not excusable, but people make mistakes, and we cannot hold a grudge forever.

Forgive them.

It wasn’t easy for me to forgive my parents, but forgiving them gave me peace in my heart. When we hold anger inside of us, we’re the ones that get hurt the most.

Take the initiative.

I wanted a relationship with my parents, and so it was I who needed to take the first step and reach out to them. We have to be the ones to step up and harvest it, otherwise, who ever will?

Build trust.

Rebuilding trust when there was none (or very little) to begin with is a difficult process that’s going to take time. There’s no secret or shortcut. Get right into it and start by being honest with one another, even if it hurts.

Stop judging.

I would always ask myself why they couldn’t be better and listen, care, and love. I had to learn to accept them for who they were. As soon as I was able to accept them as my parents, and accept them for who they were, I was able to accept myself for who I was.

In the end, all you can do is try. There are no guarantees.

Before making the decision to call I prepared myself as best as I could for total rejection, and at the same time I defined what a win would look like—what could happen that would make it all worth it. All I could hope for was a small token of reciprocation.

So, after seven years I picked up the phone and called my parents. We shared a thirty-minute phone call, first with my dad and lastly with my mom. To my surprise, there was no anger, just sadness. They listened more than they spoke, and I could feel that they were hurt because they had hurt me.

I could see that they had changed, and perhaps it was only then that they were ready for this call.

I hung up and could feel a sense of relief take over, and I knew this was only the beginning.

I realize now that change must go both ways. And, if your parents are still abusive and are not ready, or are not willing to be ready, then you must go on with your life. Your life cannot wait.

Today my parents and I have an open relationship. It’s still a work in progress, but I believe it’s something worth working for. We all have changed for the better, and I am certain this was how it had to be.

I forgive them for all they did and accept them for who they are.

If you have resentment toward your parents, what’s preventing you from forgiving them?

Photo by Belezza87

About Veronica Nguyen

Veronica Nguyen is an entrepreneur with a passion to help the world become a better place. Visit Veronica at masterplanlife.com, a free website that helps you focus on life's goals and dreams. In her personal life Veronica spends time with family, friends, hiking, cooking and volunteering.

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