The Importance of Forgiveness: Finding Freedom from the Pain of the Past

When someone has hurt you, it’s so easy to let your heart become hardened toward them. If you see them in public, you avoid them. You don’t like thinking about them or the way that they treated you. When the pain is deep, it’s so much easier to just avoid seeing or thinking about the person who caused that pain for you.

In the past few years, I’ve experienced this type of pain with multiple people. I was struggling with mental illness, and so many people abandoned me when I was in need. Healing from this has been a process, and but lately God has been taking me to a new level of freedom and forgiveness.

There’s one person in particular who has been on my mind lately — someone that I used to be friends with. Looking back on the friendship, I realized that there had been some lies told to me and about me at various times, even before things ended. Private conversations that I had with this person, where I felt that we were both sharing our feelings about similar situations we had been through, had been repeated and misconstrued. It was hard to feel like I had opened up to someone only to be judged and misunderstood. I found out later that during my illness, they were advising other people to stay away from me.

This person came back to my mind recently, and I realized some negative feelings that I was still harboring. I honestly wasn’t sure if I could let go of these feelings, but I took them to God and asked for his help. When I think of this person and how they treated me, I don’t want to feel negatively anymore. I want to feel God’s love for them. I want to think positive thoughts and desire God’s blessing for their life, even if they don’t feel that way about me.

While I was thinking about these things, I took a look at one of their social media accounts and read something that they had written. I won’t share what it was, but I will say that it softened my heart. I realized that the way this person treated me came from their own painful experiences, and I began to feel a stronger sense of compassion.

When someone hurts you, the last thing you want to do is feel compassion toward them. But in your healing process, being able to see them the way that God does is an absolutely integral part of being free from the past.

Feeling compassion for them doesn’t excuse what they did to you.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to befriend them again.

It just means that you let go of that hurt. You recognize that God is your healer, and that because of who GOD is, you don’t have to feel like a victim of that person’s actions any longer.

The truth is, if your heart belongs to the Lord, there is no damage that anyone can cause that’s permanent. The only permanent damage is what we cause by choosing not to forgive, by remaining bitter, or by believing that God can’t restore what was taken.

Sometimes, in our anger, we choose to remain in a victim mentality. We continue to feel angry and slighted by the actions of others. The person this mentality will damage the most — is us.

I think the most damaging thing about refusing to forgive is the condemnation that it brings for us. As I walk through my own healing process, I find that when I start to villainize someone else, I’m putting myself on a pedestal. In order to remain angry and unforgiving, you have to believe that the other person is a worse sinner than you are. If you continue with this thinking, you will start to feel condemned — because when you believe that another human is more worthy of condemnation than you are, you will condemn yourself.

“Do not judge, or you will be judged. For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2

As humans, part of forgiveness is understanding our equality with other humans. We are all sinners, but sometimes we tend to view our sin on a sliding scale, and we think that others have done worse than we have. God doesn’t view sin on a scale from bad to worse — because he sees what’s in our heart. A common idea we carry is that murderers are the worst sinners and that their hearts are darker than those who have not committed such a sin.

Here’s what Jesus says about this:

“You have heard that it was said to the ancients, ‘Do not murder’ and ‘Anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to the fire of hell.” Matthew 5:21-22

When we are angry and insulting, our heart carries the same contempt as someone who is murderous. We may not carry this sin out to its fullest extent, but the exact same attitude exists in our heart. Jesus doesn’t just look at the sins that we avoid carrying out because of the legal or social consequences — he looks at what is inside our hearts. The fact that we desire harm toward or belittle someone else condemns us, even if we never carry out that sin in a physical way, because the desire itself is proof that our heart isn’t aligned with God’s love.

Extending radical grace and forgiveness to others doesn’t mean we are agreeing with what they have done. It just means that we are recognizing that we, too, are sinners in need of grace. We don’t have to re-engage in a friendship with someone who still carries a malicious attitude toward us. But it’s important that we prepare our hearts in case that person ever does turn to the Lord and ask for forgiveness. We need to be able to rejoice in that forgiveness, and be ready to offer it to them should they ever request it from us.

Things I Didn’t Know About Motherhood

Motherhood is an experience that is both challenging and rewarding. Despite having many friends who became mothers before me, and despite listening to them tell me about their experiences, there was absolutely nothing that could have prepared me for the reality of motherhood. There were parts that were way more difficult than I anticipated, but there are also parts that are so much better than I could ever have imagined.

I’ve only been a mother to baby Alexa for just under two short months, but in this brief time period I’ve experienced so many highs and lows. Here are some of the challenges I’ve encountered in this journey so far!

Postpartum recovery can be lengthy and difficult.

I knew going into my pregnancy that there would be a recovery process after giving birth, but I didn’t realize how challenging that would be. After giving birth, the bleeding can last for several weeks, and everything hurts down there. It’s difficult to move around. Specifically, if I was seated and holding the baby, I had to ask someone to take her so that I could stand up. I couldn’t stand up and hold the baby at the same time.

Trying to keep up with things while I was recovering was incredibly difficult and overwhelming. The first night I came home from the hospital I started crying hysterically. I was sore, exhausted from the lack of sleep in the hospital, and I felt like my husband, Juan, was doing a much better job than I was of taking care of the baby. Fortunately, I had some great friends and family members that came over during this time to help clean, bring food, and hold the baby. I have no idea how I would have gotten through this without Juan’s paternity leave – and I have a newfound admiration for single mothers, because this was challenging, even with all the help.

Once I had fully recovered, taking care of things got a lot easier and I began to find my groove. Parenting still has its difficult moments, but it’s much easier now that my body has healed.

Taking care of a baby is incredible, but it can also be isolating.

During my maternity leave, I got to experience what it would be like to be a stay-at-home mother. Juan’s paternity leave was shorter than my leave, so I had about three weeks of taking care of Alexa on my own during the day. I had some absolutely incredible moments, but I can definitely see that taking care of a baby is isolating. It’s easy to get sucked into the baby vortex and fail to spend time with family and friends. It’s easy to get stuck in the house all day, as taking the baby with you can turn even a simple outing into an event.

I definitely recommend scheduling visits with friends and family and taking your baby out of the house, even if it’s challenging. Being able to spend time with others and go places is an important part of self-care. Don’t neglect your self-care just because of the baby. And make sure that you take some time away from your child to do some of the things you used to do for yourself. For me, that means leaving Alexa with my husband on Saturday for a few hours so I can go thrifting and grocery shopping on my own. It also looks like taking the time to write and journal in the morning before she has woken up for the day.

Breastfeeding can be incredibly hard.

In the hospital, I had a difficult time getting Alexa to latch. The nurses had me waking her up for feedings, and she was so tired that she had no interest in eating. She latched exactly two times, and both of those were times when the lactation consulting helped her do it. I wasn’t able to get her to latch myself, which led me to decide that I wanted to pump and feed her through a bottle.

I was advised to pump every three hours around the clock. This alone proved to be a difficult struggle – who wants to sit there with a breast pump all day, especially when no milk is coming out yet?

At the pediatrician’s office, I started crying when he asked me how I planned to feed her. We talked and it became clear that I didn’t really want to give up breastfeeding just yet. Since Alexa was over 9 pounds, he told me to take her home and for the next two days offer her nothing but breastmilk, even if she cried and refused to eat. We would check in two days later to see how she did.

Fast forward to later that night – Alexa is crying uncontrollably and refusing to breastfeed. I’m falling apart because I feel guilty letting her starve. Juan wanted to cave in and give her formula. Finally, my mom came over to help and with the aid of a nipple shield, we finally got her to latch.

Once she latched, there were still many challenges. The first challenge is cluster feeding. She tends to sleep pretty well at night, but that means that during the day she is making up for it with extra feedings. She can feed for 45 minutes and then half an hour later she’ll be ready to feed again. Making this even more challenging is her love of using me as her pacifier – she loves to comfort feed, and she could do this for hours on end. All of this leaves me feeling like a human milk machine.

Since I’m planning to go back to work, I had to figure out how to pump as well. To make pumping less of a hassle, I invested in a hands-free portable pump, which was a game changer. I hated pumping, but with this pump I am able to get some chores done at the same time. The only challenge is that I’m supposed to pump after each feed, but Alexa is often awake and requiring attention. The one thing I can’t do while pumping is hold my baby, so right now my pumping is a bit sporadic. When I return to work and she is in daycare, I’ll be able to adhere to a consistent pumping schedule.

I’ve grown to love breastfeeding her – especially since I learned to how to feed her while lying down in bed. I often will lie down in bed the afternoon with a tv show on and allow her to comfort feed a bit, which helps her fall asleep for a late afternoon nap. This has become one of my favorite parts of the day.

Leaving your child at daycare is super emotional

As of this writing, I have one week of maternity leave left. I am dreading having to drop off baby Alexa at daycare next week. We really love the daycare we selected, but I still feel the dread. I’m going to miss the long hours spent with her during the day, and I don’t want to pass her off to someone else who will get to enjoy her while I’m at work all day. Before giving birth, I didn’t think this was going to be difficult for me to do — I thought I might enjoy the break. But now that I’ve met my child, I have no idea how I’m going to be able to be apart from her during the week. Since I work from home, my plan is to prepare dinner during my lunch break so that I have the entire evening to savor my time with her.

Your Motherhood Journey

What are some of the challenges you have faced in your journey with motherhood? Do you identify with any of the ones I shared? Let me know in the comments!

On Weight Gain and Body Acceptance

Over the past few years, I’ve put on a lot of weight. It actually started with a medication that I had to take for bipolar disorder. One of the side effects was that I put on a few pounds. But it wasn’t until recently, when I got pregnant with my first child, that the weight really started to pile on. During my pregnancy, I was a bit overwhelmed at the rate at which I was gaining weight, and it was hard to prevent it from happening. I was constantly hungry, and as my pregnancy progressed, I replaced going to the gym with more leisurely walks because I was constantly winded and tired from my workouts.