Can We Forgive the Ghosts?
I know a woman who cannot forgive her mom for something her mom did 25 years ago. I know the story, and I understand why it caused her pain, but there’s no point. In the end, she’s fighting with a ghost.
Her mother is still alive, but that mom, the woman who wronged her, is long gone. She looks much the same, but she is a different person from the one who wounded her child. If mom is sticking to her opinion, and her way of expressing it, my friend has a beef with the mom she knows today. If not, though, she’s volunteering to demean her current relationship in the interest of…what? Does she love the pain that much? Is she a big believer in parallel universes where the same person can exist in multiple forms? Is she stuck in a Schrodinger time warp herself, existing as both the person she is today and the person she was a quarter century ago?
I’ve written before that the worst days of your life can also turn out to be the best days, that a setback in one area can create an opportunity elsewhere. Recently, my daughter recalled the time I declined to increase her allowance in college, which led her to find a job, which led to her finding an internship, and a job, and a career… There’s no way to know how things would have turned out if I had acquiesced and increased her funding. Maybe better, maybe worse, but we’ll never know. All we can say now is that things turned out well, so far.
The same applies to my friend, whose attachment to the memory is likely an indication that the incident affected some of her follow-on decisions in life. She’s doing quite well now, so how can we be sure that the sting from her mom didn’t, somehow, improve her life? It’s possible that she made some changes in how she talked to her mom, how she treated other people, how she made decisions that led to more decisions that led to now. As with everything in life, you can’t get one without the other.
I’ve written before about the importance of moving past the missteps, acknowledging that people can grow as they learn more, encounter more, and empathize more with other human beings. During the quarantine period, I had the “opportunity” to review some of my earlier writings and some family videos that I would absolutely not share with anyone today. They aren’t incredibly terrible, but I cringe just a bit at my lack of awareness and the limits of my vision.
As uncomfortable as I am with those entries in my permanent record, though, I’m also gratified to see them. These reminders of my earlier worldview are a marker for my evolution since then. I’m still a work in progress, but I have absolutely grown wiser, more insightful, less judgmental. Or so it seems to me.
Just like my friend’s mom, I cannot go back into my own past and unsay anything. I cannot change the views I held or the way I expressed them. I cannot undo whatever harm I might have caused someone when I was a child and spoke as a child. All I can do, now, is to work on the person I am today and avoid the impulse to do battle with ghosts.
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8/1/2021 03:59:21 pm
I noticed there were no comments, which surprised me because I thought the blog was particularly insightful. This reminds me of the historical accounts that say the audience reaction to Lincoln's Gettysburg address was quite tepid. Maybe the readers of this blog were stunned into silence because the piece was damned near brilliant.
8/8/2021 08:33:53 pm
Wow. Thanks. I can explain the Gettysburg Address thing for you, though. It was a very short speech and Lincoln stopped talking before people figured out whether "four score and seven" years was a long time or not.
8/7/2021 04:09:41 pm
I read your writing and the lament that there were no comments. Personally I did think it was “damned near brilliant”.
8/8/2021 08:37:33 pm
Thanks much, and thanks for investing a bit of your valuable time with my writing.
1/30/2022 03:23:10 pm
This piece hits the soul. As a survivor of abuse I 100% understand why people react the way they do. The pain from abuse never goes away even though the abuser is now dead, well, one is still alive, but might as well be dead too. We don't just get over it. The abuse had lasting consequences on all aspects of life. I even had a math tutor quit because he witnessed the abuse. He said the problem is I'm being abused, not that I'm "stupid at math."
1/30/2022 03:58:05 pm
Thank you for sharing this. Your perspective.offers valuable insight to others seeking the best balance.
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Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.