It’s time to forgive your parents for not being perfect. They really did the best they could. In turn, when the time comes, your kids will hopefully do the same for you. Let’s discuss.
Forgive Your Parents for Not Being Perfect, They Did the Best They Could
Last week, I talked about how life is too short to let grudges take away time with our loved ones. That goes for everyone that you love, of course, but if you think about it, our parents seem to bear the biggest brunt of our grudges. We have a hard time forgiving them for their past mistakes, mostly because we expected the most out of them.
After all, they’re supposed to be our role models and heroes, our protectors and champions. They’re supposed to make us the center of their known universe, the sun around which they revolve. In other words, they’re supposed to be perfect, right?
News flash, my friends, our parents are only human, just like we are, and no human being can truly claim to be perfect.
No one has perfect parents
Ardeth Kapp once said, “It’s okay that your parents aren’t perfect; no one’s are. And it’s okay that they didn’t have any perfect children either; no one’s are. You see, our whole purpose is to strive together in righteousness, overcoming our weaknesses day by day. Don’t ever give up on each other.”
You’d think that growing up and having our own children would help us forgive our parents for their mistakes and imperfections. After all, we now know what it’s like to do the best you can and still come up short sometimes.
Yet, for some reason, no matter how old we get, no matter how many people we forgive, and no matter how many mistakes we’re forgiven for ourselves, we have a really hard time letting go of grudges against the people who raised us.
They did the best with the tools that they had
As Kathleen Duncan says in the quote above, our parents did the best they could with the tools they had. I think one of the reasons we have such a hard time forgiving our parents is because we have better tools than they did now, and we’re more aware of just how inadequate their tools were.
I don’t mean that as harshly as it sounds. What I mean is that we now have a much better understanding of child development and psychology than our parents did. We have access to experts in a way our parents never did, too. Raising kids still doesn’t come with a manual, but we definitely have a lot more information to build and guide our parenting choices and styles.
For instance, our parents grew up hearing that “sparing the rod spoils the child.” They were doing what they were taught by their own parents, who learned it from their parents, and so on back through history. They didn’t have access to scientific journals and experts.
Today, it takes literally one minute to find studies explaining how spanking slows cognitive development, impairs brain development, leads to adult mental health issues, and even increases the risk of our children becoming criminals. I found all of those studies- and more– in one quick search on ScienceDaily.
Bottom line, we’re judging our parents against what we know now, not what they knew then. That’s not really fair. I can 10000000% guarantee you that 20 years from now, new studies will come out showing just how much we’re messing up with our own kids.
When that day comes, we hope that our children will know that we really did do our best with the information that we had. Don’t our parents deserve that same courtesy and understanding?
Our parents tried to keep the same promises we make to our own kids today
There’s a “Promise to My Child” quote that trends on Facebook every Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I’m not sure who originally wrote it, but it goes:
“A promise to my child: Being a parent doesn’t come with a rule book. I’m not perfect & I will make mistakes. I won’t always practice what I preach, but I will still try and stop you from making those same mistakes. Not because I am a hypocrite, but because I want the best for you. I won’t promise that I will always make the right choice, but I promise that it will always be made with love. I may never be the perfect parent, but I will always try my best. “
We want our kids to see, hear, and understand those words. We hope that they will know just how true they are. Well, our parents feel the same way. They made that same promise to us on the day we were born. They truly did want what’s best for us, even if they didn’t always make the right choices.
Sometimes, you have to grieve before you can forgive your parents
So far, we’ve been talking about parents who genuinely did try, parents who truly did put us first in their own way, who really did have our best interests at heart. I really feel that 99% of our parents fit that description.
Sadly though, there are parents who don’t fit that description. Parents who didn’t try, who put their own needs first, who really didn’t care about doing what’s best for us. Dr. Susan Ford calls them “toxic parents.” For some, that toxic parent was neglectful. An absent dad or mom, perhaps, who never even bothered to show up. For others, the toxicity was so devastating that they may have wished for an absent parent instead.
In any of those cases, I can’t just tell you to forgive your parents. It would sound trite and hollow. It’s very hard to forgive something that left a lifetime of scars, either physical or emotional. Dr. Ford gave her professional advice on the matter, so I’ll share that with you instead. She wrote,
“People can forgive toxic parents, but they should do it at the conclusion – not at the beginning – of their emotional housecleaning. People need to get angry about what happened to them. They need to grieve over the fact that they never had the parental love they yearned for. They need to stop diminishing or discounting the damage that was done to them. Too often, ‘forgive and forget’ means ‘pretend it didn’t happen.”
Aim your light at all that is wonderful
I’ll leave you with one last quote, by Karen Salmansohn, that beautifully sum everything up. She wrote, “The time has come to forgive your parents for all things, big and small. You must recognize that they were coming from a place of limitations. Promise yourself that you won’t let their limitations create limitations within you. Be aware of what has happened in your past. Shed that light upon it, so you can see it clearly. Acknowledge it all. Then let it go. Your light is better spent aimed at all that is wonderful about you and the present life you are creating for yourself.|
See, as I’ve said in the past, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. By forgiving your parents for the mistakes they’ve made, you’re also forgiving yourself for the ones you’ll make with your own kids. Then you can get to work on aiming your light at all that is wonderful about you!
You should have more children because the second best gift you can give your children is another life long friend, aka, another sibling. Be not afraid! If two are wonderful three are even more wonderful and 4 is more wonderful than 3. Why stop at 2????????? I’ll NEVER understand. I took the plunge and had 5 children. My only regret is that we couldn’t have more. True story.
I’m so happy we chose life as a young couple because part 35 years old, we couldn’t any more.
Emmanuel Doe says
What a great article on parenting this is for me. Thanks for sharing Ursula.
Creative Healthy Family says
My God. Just reading this brought tears 2 my eyes.
This is so very true. The pain we go through as small children can do lots of damage to us as adults. I have forgiven my parents. They was young and learning too…Thats how we grow by learning.
Karen Root says
I have 3 daughters and made mistakesy oldest has moved beyond that let’s me be a part of her life but with rules more from her husband on what I can do with the grandkids my two youngest live further away from me going to psycholist taking depression medicine and have cut me off not allowed to buy them presents at Christmas or birthdays they cut me out there actions break my heart everyday at my own dad’s funeral they didn’t even give me 10 minutes of there time am I to spend the rest of my life paying for past mistakes
Thanks for sharing. Hope more people going through what they thought were bad times, but were done with love at the time , and with the tools they were handed down from generations.
I must say you made good points. Question…when your parents say nasty hurtful things while angry at you words that forever stay in your head, words that shouldn’t have said to a young person, that makes the person feel they’re worthless, stupid, no good, who passed up college or schooling because they had been put down being told they were stupid, didn’t have enough brains to amount to anything! How do you suggest to forgive that. Even when a parent was dying telling not allowing you to help them reason being You Don’t Know What You’re Doing!!!!!! Said parent died a month later. So how does one forgive???????
Creative Healthy Family says
So sorry you had to deal with this difficult situation.