Growing up, life was not easy.
I experienced many traumas- physical abuse from my father, being deemed the scapegoat and being blamed for everything by my immediate family members, bullying from classmates, being talked down to and humiliated by teachers, and outcasted by people who I thought were friends. I remember the words of wisdom repeated by my mother- “Life is not fair.” She seemed to know this from her own personal experiences. It was almost like we were all born to suffer and that was it. To her and me, at least in that period of time, life was merely a board game of “Survival of the Fittest,” and I was not sure if I was winning the game or losing it. I only remember questions- many of which had no answers: Why is life so cruel? Why am I the victim? Why do some live happyily, and why do others suffer? Eventually as I grew older I would try to hide all these questions internally, yet those questions followed me; forever, I would be their prey.
As I grew older, no longer a child but a teenager, I was gifted yet another problem- a couple of auto-immune diseases that seemed to feel like the end of me. With the traumas I survived, plus the extra baggage bestowed upon me, it seemed like I received from life a combination of miseries. In a way, the word auto-immune was the perfect word for how I felt. It wasn’t the physical aspect of the traumas and suffering that I had received, but how I felt inside. All of my problems, and the fact that I would not let them go, were killing me slowly from the inside out. My emotional immune system was attacking me. I could not defend myself against myself. So there I was with a weight that I could not let go of.
My turning point happened after I found my passion for diving into the works of philosophers, into autobiographies of trauma survivors, and in the stories of religious heroes. In all of what I read, from the Gospels to a book titled A Child called It*, there was one never-ending theme… forgiveness. Even though I kept asking the same questions, the theme repeated itself in my research.
Why was I holding on to my problems?
If I knew I had a weight attached to me, why didn’t I just release it?
If I was drowning, why couldn’t I hold on to a life-raft?
Forgiveness! Forgiveness! Forgiveness!
Every trauma survivor,
Every spiritual philosophy,
Depended on forgiveness.
How could I let go of how my father treated me if I did not forgive him? How could I view my family in a loving way if I did not forgive them? Not only should I forgive them, but I should forgive myself as well. How could I recognize myself as someone of high standards if I maintained myself below those standards? I knew at once that I could not continue without the gift of forgiveness. It was in this moment in life, the moment of realization and enlightenment, that changed me into the person I am now- extricated from transgressions imposed upon me and liberated from the melancholy that attended them.
In whatever I do and wherever I go, I can feel free because there is not one aspect of darkness following me. Forgiveness, society once said, is the key to lifting off a weight that life puts on us. It is the solution to living in peace, and it is the doorway to the next level of happiness. My personality and my self-esteem owe it to that one act. I will never forget that lesson, and neither will I keep it to myself, because such a gift should never be ensconced in secret. It should be shared with the world because I believe without a doubt that if the world lives happily, life in general would be enhanced.
*A Child Called It written by Dave Pelzer