How to Forgive

monkey_barsI was at the playground the other day with my kids and my 7 year old was reaching for the third rung of the monkey bars, which is still just beyond her reach. As I watched, I could feel myself tense up and in an effort to “help,” I heard myself thinking about all the things she could do to “improve her performance.” But I said nothing. In fact, I had to turn away because I had a sense that she was looking to me for approval that she was “doing it right.” I didn’t trust myself not to express my own frustration, although well meaning, which would come through as judgement. I started reading the book I had with me: Days of Deepening Friendship by Vinita Hampton Wright:

The child who experiences primarily judgment and punishment — at home, in school, in church or neighborhood — will not be free in anything she does. She will get upset at every mistake, and she will worry that the end result will bring anger and ridicule. And she definitely won’t experiment — no, she will ask the teacher repeatedly what the rules are and ask if she’s “doing it right.”

Exactly. “Keep trying!” I yelled over to the monkey bars.

How many of us are pleasers or perfectionists? How many of us do things to seek the approval of our peers? Or, overextend ourselves physically and emotionally because we just can’t say “no?” How many of us base our choices out of obligation/guilt/fear of rejection/fear of failure?

My hand is SO UP!!! And I know there are at least a handful of you mommies that are with me… because we’ve talked about it, live and in person! I know what happens to those little girls who want to be perfect and just want everyone around them to be happy (especially with them): they give themselves away. That’s what I did. I looked outside of me for approval and jumped when someone said “Jump!” or “You should…” or “You need to…” If, as my friend Gail says, there are 86,400 seconds in a day and you spend 80,000 of them doing things that aren’t really about you, where are YOU in your life?

The child who experiences acceptance and forgiveness will be free to make mistakes, try something new, play as she works, and even enjoy what the other kids are making.

Those children will grow up and eventually have children of their own. Those who learned judgment will worry over her kids and turn them toward worry, toward anxiety about failure and doing everything right. The parent who learned forgiveness will help create an atmosphere in which her children can discover who they truly are and become the gifted people they are meant to be.

And when the one you need to forgive is yourself? A friend of mine says that we call to us the relationships or circumstances that reflect our internal dialogue. Aren’t we our own worse critics? So if you will recall the emotional tantrum I had last week… I realize now that the external trigger called attention to my inner work. What about me is a liar and a fake? ZM was so right on! It really was the LIAR in me that I get to forgive. I get to forgive the me that was so afraid of rejection and “not belonging” that I betrayed myself for so many years… giving myself away out of obligation, guilt, fear, love for others, wanting to please, and make everyone happy.

Then forgiveness takes on the dimension of self love, like Zen Mommy says. It means allowing yourself to be human, like Chris Garrett says.

Yes, forgiveness is pivotal to how we get along in the world. Without it, we will never be free. With it, we live in freedom and also free others to live well.

I get to forgive the little girl who grew up to be me… right now on the playground with my kids. I get to break the cycle and free myself and my children from a pattern of well-meaning criticism.

I went to Dotdotdash for a little retail therapy and bought myself a new dress. It wasn’t the one I intended to buy but it was the only one in my size and I loved it. My friend pointed out that this line has a personal mantra sewn into each sleeve. “Let’s see what your mantra is…” She said. “Forgiveness.” Of course it is!

What’s your personal mantra?

Related Articles
How to Love Your Demons
Love without Courage is Cruel and Meaningless

Practical Mommy is Ria Sharon. Click the links for Practical Mommy’s recommendations for pregnancy and exercise, travel car seats, affordable and fun diaper bags (skip hop bag), and the best-selling crib brand, Da Vinci Crib.


  1. Love this blog; found you via twitter (missive). I love this post; relate, have that extremely strong critic I am working to free myself from and so so so (am I clear) do not want to pass that on, to my children, to my husband, to my co workers, or to myself A N Y M O R E. Thank you, I’ll check out that book and I will definitely be back here. now must follow 🙂 jana

  2. Dear Ria,

    I love the way you write. Lots of great information here. Thank you for sharing your brilliance with us.

    Also, thanks for the link to 86,400 seconds. It really makes one think differently when we realize the finite amount of time that you are here, and how we can best use it.

    Thanks again Ria for being YOU.

    With gratitude and hugs,

    Gail Lynne Goodwin

  3. Thank you both, Jana and Gail. A lot of freeing and healing happened with that post! But as you can tell, it is not a journey that I’m on alone. I’m definitely inspired by all the other courageous people in my life, even if our connection is mostly virtual (@inspiremetoday @chrisgarrett @missive … so many, actually).

    Gail, I hope you don’t mind I shared your thoughts on the MMM discussion board on Facebook as part of our Sunday Inspiration series:

  4. “a pattern of well-meaning criticism”…how true is this? and how well said.

    by seeing where our own engrained “judgements” and “well meaning” criticisms crop up in our parenting we are ever invited back into the process of loving and healing our own selves. as we let go of judgement in favor of love, acceptance …and as you say…FORGIVENESS how much is opened up for the next generation??!!?

    ps: now I want a dress with a mantra too!!!!! 🙂
    pss: my mantra is still “i am enough”. has been for a week. could be a life long one…just not sure yet. tee hee. but guess what? i AM enough. and so are you. you are enough and then some dear friend. thanks for the article!!!

  5. My hand is up as well.