Melissa and Siria discuss forgiveness, what it means to us, and how forgiveness has allowed Melissa to reconnect with her father.
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In this episode, we discuss forgiveness, what it means to us, and at least for Melissa, how forgiveness has allowed her to connect with her father.
Forgiveness, why forgiveness?
I felt that this was an important topic because it was something that is close to my heart. It’s something that I have been personally working on, and I feel forgiveness is so important to discuss because I was always under the notion that if I forgive someone, it’s like I’m condoning their behavior or what they did or said to me, but that’s not the case.
I don’t know that I have spent a lot of time thinking about forgiveness or talking to anybody about it.
I know that in previous episodes, you shed a little bit of light on your childhood and there are probably a lot of acts or words spoken that probably would require or prompt or warrant forgiveness. Have you ever extended forgiveness to the parties involved?
No, and the reason has more to do with it, I think words are bullshit. I’m going to see what your actions show. The crazy part is that I’m a word-of-affirmation person or love languages if you have read into all of that. “Please, tell me I’m pretty all the time.” I want to hear that. My head wants to hear it. When it comes to, “I won’t do that again,” or, “Sorry.” I hate empty apologies of, “I’m sorry I messed up.” Show me you are going to do better and it’s the same thing with any kind of forgiveness. You can tell me that you want forgiveness or that you are so sorry. “I’m going to change my ways.” Until I see you do it, I think you are full of shit.
It’s not necessarily that you wouldn’t necessarily extend forgiveness to your mother or your father, it’s more because the actions or the behavior hasn’t changed.
Right. For example, that day my father made me cry at the counter when I was shopping for Christmas. After that happened, I didn’t talk to him for a year. He was upset, especially when Father’s Day came, and I’m the only one who does anything. Crickets, nothing. His birthday came and crickets. I didn’t do anything.
Thanksgiving came. I was at Matt’s house. I was saved but then Christmas was coming around and my mom was like, “I think you have punished him enough.” He keeps saying he already apologized. I was like, “Who did he apologize to?” He says he left you a voicemail. Do you think that because you can say, “I’m sorry,” and leave it on my voicemail, which I hate, by the way? Don’t leave me a voicemail.
Who does that? “Text me, bro.”
Even then, your text apology is not going to work. It was a full year and it wasn’t even that I was trying to forgive or punish. It was, “I don’t need this in my life.” You felt that there was something lacking because I wasn’t engaging. Finally, for the holiday, we made up or whatever. For me, it was more of, “I want your actions to match. If you are sorry, don’t pull that shit again.”
Do you feel that because there was not necessarily a formal apology, but because you weren’t able to extend that forgiveness, even for yourself, do you feel not cheated in any way, how does that make you feel? Are you able to move on without necessarily providing closure to this?
I think what’s interesting is what you are touching on and what’s coming up right now is the research that I did was very little on this one because there wasn’t a whole lot for me to find. It was that forgiveness is a release of anger and resentment. Even as I’m talking about it right now, I was fucking pissed. That was BS. Every single time, I feel like somebody’s actions aren’t matching their words, it irritates me. It starts building resentment or anger depending on which one it is.
The forgiveness would be me releasing those things. I could probably release it, but going back to what you were saying, I don’t want to condone anybody’s behavior. I want people to do better, and I believe people can do better. I don’t necessarily get into the practice of, “Let me forgive everything because I don’t see it’s worthy of forgiveness. It’s bullshit. I want to see that you have done something and that you have changed. Also, you have learned those kinds of things. If you don’t do it, when you tell me, “I’m sorry. I have changed. Please forgive me.” I’m not going to believe it. It’s no longer an honest thing and you no longer have credibility in my eyes.
I agree with you and I think the reason why I had this negative connotation to forgiveness is that my father and I were estranged for several years. He kicked me out at the age of fifteen. We didn’t talk. My abuelita, my grandmother would always talk to me, “You need to forgive your father.” I’m thinking based on the emotional, mental, and physical abuse that his girlfriend did or exhibited in that house, I was like, “Why am I forgiving him? I didn’t even get a phone call or a voicemail message. Why am I extending this to him to make him feel better? I don’t feel better.”
However, I realized many years later that it’s not for the other person’s benefit. I realized forgiveness is an act of kindness for myself. By holding onto that, I’m reliving that pain. As I’m reliving it, it hinders me from progressing or advancing because now, I’m starting to get angry and that angriness turns to bitterness, which turns into resentment. It creates this barrier.Forgiveness is an act of kindness to yourself. Click To Tweet
It sounds like you are going to the dark side of the forest.
I lived there for the longest time. I know that we have mentioned this several times on the show, but I have daddy issues, a tiny little bit. However, those issues though of him kicking me out. I had huge abandonment issues. I had this overall need for acceptance and approval. I sought out terrible relationships growing up. I had this desire to overachieve like, “Daddy, look at me. Look at what I achieved. Aren’t you proud of me, dad? Will you love me now? Will you stay now?” These issues permeated into all aspects of my life. To protect myself, I learned behavior that prevented me from truly connecting with other people.
Have you forgiven him?
Yeah, I have.
How did you go about it?
It was through conversation. My father was the type, and he maybe still is, where if there is disagreement or he didn’t like what you said, or maybe he was hurt, maybe a pride thing, he would leave, or at least that’s how I interpreted it. He would cut off the conversation. He would avoid phone calls. I learned that I couldn’t speak up for myself. That was another reason why I felt I muted my voice because I’m like, “If I speak up, dad’s going to leave again.”
It wasn’t until I started practicing self-worth, that I go about practicing self-worth. It wasn’t until I realized, “I’m a good person and I’m valuable. I need to speak my truth to him. I need to let him know how his actions or inactions from protecting me from the step monster hurt me.” However, I also had to be open to looking at what my role was in that relationship.
I know that I was a child, but he also has feelings. When I finally had the courage to have a talk with him, I had to be prepared that he might say things that hurt me. I’m not saying that I released the floodgate and every grievance that I ever had, I let loose. No. You have to sprinkle it little by little. Otherwise, that person would become defensive, which is natural. If roles were reversed and someone was like, “Melissa, here are all the grievances you have ever done against me.” I would become defensive. Not because I intended to, but no one likes to hear bad things about themselves or how they might have hurt other people.
Also, how they are feeling and how they are not meeting expectations. Nobody likes that but those are those hard conversations. Good for you for being able to have that with him and it sounds like you had some resolution.
I think that there’s still going to be some talks, but what was nice was I came to the realization that it’s like, “I’m going to speak my truth. If he decides to leave again, then that’s on him.” I’m the only one of my siblings who talk to him. If he wants to burn this last bridge, then that’s his decision. What was nice though was he was able to share grievances with me.
I could understand now, maybe because I have a little bit more life experience. It gave me a little bit of perspective. Again, not condoning his behavior, but it gave me some perspective into what was going on in his life. I was trying to think, “How might I react in that situation, I wouldn’t react the same way,” but it was nice because now I have a little bit more perspective now that I’m older.
Was it mutual forgiveness for acts that happened during that time period?
No, it was more of him apologizing for his indiscretions and grievances. Also, him saying, “I don’t deserve the love and grace you show me.” I have to tell you after I had this conversation with him, the relationship, and the dynamics between him and me changed because I was very reserved in what I shared with him. Any conversation that he and I had, it was very superficial and it wasn’t enriching for me. I would dread his calls, “This doesn’t serve me at all,” but since then, we are engaging in deeper and longer conversations. I get excited now when I talk to him, and we are planning a vacation together. I have to say, I have not gone on a vacation with my father in over twenty years.
I was going to say amazing, but no, it’s crazy to me.
Talk is cheap. We will see. Ask me in a few months if we have gone, but I’m going to hold the intention high that he is.
What it sounds like, and what kept coming to mind when you were talking about having this conversation with him was that you were willing to be vulnerable in that space. That’s all that Brene Brown talks about. Getting to vulnerability with people who matter, not with everybody. You don’t need to be vulnerable with the mailman. You need to be vulnerable with the people who matter in your life. If you get there, that’s where you get to that satisfaction and that whole living. Now, look at the relationship that you have with your dad. You are planning a vacation because you were willing to be vulnerable with him and know what the risk was. The risk was daddy is never coming back.You don't need to be vulnerable with the mailman. You just need to be vulnerable with the people who matter in your life. Click To Tweet
“He went for that pack of cigarettes and never came back.” What you say is true because one of the things that I mentioned in a counseling session. The calls between him and me are so boring and superficial. I was almost playing the victim at this point like, “What my daddy did to me,” and stuff like that. She’s like, “The reason why you don’t have a deeper connection with your father is because of you. You have to understand the role that you play.”
She’s like, “Why do you expect this man to be vulnerable to you if you are showing no vulnerability to him?” I took a leap of faith and it could have been that he’s like, “Mel, screw you.” He didn’t have to reciprocate, but he did. It’s worked out great since, but it was terrifying leading up to it. It was funny because as soon as like he was on the phone, I’m like, “Fuck it.”
You would think at this moment it’s like, “Mel, did you cry?” I didn’t cry at all. I think maybe because I have had or replayed this conversation of what I would say to my dad that it was in the zone and it didn’t hit me like the conversation I had with him until maybe the next day. I was like, “I can’t believe I told my dad exactly how I felt.” How I didn’t feel wanted or safe in his house. Of all the horrible acts the step monster inflicted upon not just me, but my siblings. I was like, “I can’t believe I was so candid with him.”
That’s a lot of growth.
It is, but I think on both sides too, because who’s to say if I had this conversation 10, 15, or 20 years ago if my dad would have been receptive to it? He may not have been. I think it’s also coming back to what you have talked about before, which is emotional intelligence. It’s being able to read the room or a person because maybe now or that time wouldn’t have been the time to have a conversation with my father. I would have waited but maybe I felt, subconsciously, that we were both ready to have that conversation. Maybe I felt like he also wanted to connect on a deeper level, but maybe he was unable due to pride or whatever, to extend the olive leaf. I’m the stronger person for allowing myself to do that first.
Was there an actual exchange during the conversation of, “I forgive you dad. I forgive you, daughter,” and then you guys ugly cried and hugged each other over the phone?
No. I could tell he was crying. It was not that I was numb, but I had come to a point where I was tired of feeling like crap by carrying this with me. I did say that I forgave him later, but it’s weird. Since having this conversation with him, he will now ask me questions almost like clearing the air and getting into deeper meaningful conversations, which is weird when you haven’t had that with your dad or your partner, your parent, or whatever in over many years.
Do you have or have you had those kinds of conversations with your mom?
We are working on it. It’s funny because like I had worked so hard in my counseling sessions about thinking all the problems that I have are because of my dad, but I realize now that there are also issues with my mother. I think it’s also changed me because now my parents are wanting to engage with me on a different level because before I was that caretaker, that parentified child where I was helping my parents emotionally through their own shit, and I wasn’t able to really be a child.
With my mother, for example. She’s like, “Mel, I can tell there’s something that you want to tell me.” You have to understand. I had gone over to her house. She had moved in. I think my husband was helping fix her garage door, and I was going through some random papers to help her with warranties of something. This question came out of the blue and I said, “I’m sure I do, but I don’t know off the top of my head. I’m a reflector. I need to collect my thoughts. You can’t spring a question like that on me.”
I’m laughing because it’s true. I’m like, “Let’s go ahead and do this thing. Let’s see what happens.” You are like, “How dare you. I didn’t have the time to process this.
I said, “I’m sure that I do. You need to give me some time to think about it.” She’s like, “I can tell that there’s something between you and me that needs to be addressed.” She’s like, “You are my sweetest child, but you are also my most critical and I can tell that there’s something there.” It’s funny because it wasn’t until after she said that, and after I left her house that I was like, “She’s right. I feel it in my body.”
I want there to be a good relationship between my mom and me because my mom took me in after my dad kicked me out. I have this alliance with my mom but I guess I was so in awe and so thankful for my mom that I didn’t see the faults or the cracks in the foundation between her relationship and mine until I resolved the issues with my father.
I’m curious about that from a biological standpoint because I do think that as we grow, we do start to finally see our parents as parents. There’s got to be something going on and I don’t know what that answer is, but I’m going to find out because I am curious about it. What is it in our biology that makes us think that they are the world?
I know part of it is survival. We are literally dependent on these people to feed us and to provide our basic necessities. At some point, you can shower yourself. You can microwave your own dinner. In my case it was, I can heat up my own pizza. It’s not a problem. At some point what happens is that we become more mature, and we are able to see them and realize, “Our parents were growing as much as we were growing at the same time.”
I think it has to do with life experience because now we have more things to pull and draw from, or we have gone through similar experiences that we are like, “That makes sense.” I don’t know if you do this. I do this. I’m thinking, “At 35, my parents already had like three kids.” I do that often and it provides a different perspective of, “What would I do in their shoes?”
Especially every birthday when I hit the birthday that my mom had a kid because my mom was a teen mom. When I turned seventeen, I was like, “I don’t know how she did that.” When she was 21, she had my other brother. I was like, “At 21, I can barely take care of myself.”
I’m at this age and I can barely take care of myself.
At 23, she had me and I was like, “You had three kids by now.” Even the following birthday, I was like, “At 24 you not only had three kids, you were in a new country and you only had one of your kids with you.” It’s all of those things. Again, when I turned 32, it was the same thing and by then, it was four kids. I look at that and I think a lot of people do the same thing when they compare themselves to where they were but my choices are so different. My life has been so different that there is no comparison anymore. I’m trying to be mindful about not doing that because I have been so intentional at not making the same decisions.
You and I both participate in counseling. This came up for me in the Marissa Lupo episode, the divorce coach that we interviewed. She uses social media to connect and do coaching with moms who are in the process of divorce or are divorced and are trying to learn life after divorce and co-parenting. It brought me back to, “Technology has helped us in so many ways, but that wasn’t available to our parents back then.” There was no virtual coaching as I participated in now. There weren’t any virtual support groups that people like my mother could participate in and how different you and I are even mentally only because we engage in counseling that maybe wasn’t available to our parents back then.
I do think that there are benefits that we have for being in the time that we are at. That has our life on a different trajectory than our parents. It’s an interesting area that we could get into. I was thinking back to forgiveness. I don’t know that I’ve actively forgiven people for their wrongdoings to me, but I do every now and then get a nagging sensation of, “I need to ask somebody for forgiveness.” Do you ever get that?
I have you have.
I remember this from being kids. I deal with a lot of cases against the school district and have bullying cases. People getting attacked on campus and things like that. In those cases, I think, “Was I ever a bully?” I can only think of one instance where my best friend at the time, and we were in 7th or 8th grade. She got into a fight with this other girl and I can’t remember what the fight was about for the life of me.
I can’t remember what sport I was attempting to play very poorly at the time, but there was some end-of-season party thing going on and they have gotten into some fight. My friend was like, “I don’t want to go to the party.” She was my best friend and I felt like I needed to pick sides. I was like, “Here’s the line in the sand.” We ended up deciding that it would be way more fun for us to go to like a Taco Bell down the street and not go to the actual party and hang out the two of us and I think maybe one other person showed up.
The person who did show up that we were not expecting was this girl’s mom. She showed up and was like, “Why aren’t you guys at the party?” I was like a grown-ass adult getting into middle school drama. That is one instance where I’m like, “Were we being bullies in that instance?” “I don’t think so.” Do I need to reach out to this girl and be like, “I know people weren’t particularly nice to you?” Then she ended up going to a different high school.
She didn’t want to go to the same high school as the rest of us. I’m wondering how much of that had to do with her getting teased quite a bit. I never teased her for not filling out a bra or doing any of those things, but I know she was getting teased for that. I do remember that one instance of not participating and showing up. Being like, “We are protesting this.” I can’t even remember what it is, but here I am way more than twenty years later.
The fact that it’s still lingering with you, maybe you should reach out. She’ll probably be like, “What are you even talking about?”
That’s the thing with forgiveness. Sometimes you carry some guilt about something that you did and the other person doesn’t even know or care.
I think you are right though. There is a sense of guilt. What I was going to share when you asked me that question, I felt like the parent to my two youngest siblings because there was chaos growing up. I am almost twelve years older than my youngest sibling, but my youngest sibling is like my child. Megan, if you remember, he’s my brother. It was Episode 6 and Episode 7. I remember leaving to go away to college because I knew that if I stayed, it wasn’t healthy for me and I needed to get out.
I left but I knew by leaving, I was making those two siblings vulnerable to the chaos that was going on because I felt like I was sheltering them. I carried this guilt for years. It wasn’t until later that I took aside both of the two youngest siblings individually and I said, “I need to apologize. I have been carrying around this massive guilt because I felt like I abandoned you. I left you.” They are like, “No, you did what you had to do.” I have to tell you, it was so freeing for me because I carried that with me for a very long time. I know these aren’t my kids, but they felt like my kids. I felt like I did them wrong.
I resonate with that because I have talked about the ACE score before and the Adverse Childhood Experiences test. I was curious. I sent it to my little brother and he ended up with one point less than I did. It was so upsetting to me and I felt so responsible because I score an 8 out of 10, which the translation is fucking shitty childhood. He got a 7 out of 10. I remember sinking down in my seat and being like, “I failed him.”
When we are going back to this topic of forgiveness, I had to be my own therapist and get myself out of that I wasn’t responsible for him just like you weren’t responsible for your parents putting off your siblings onto you. They weren’t your responsibility. I reflected back and I was like, “Okay. He has a similar score than I do. We grew up in the same household. We grew up with the same people.”
They were at different stages in their lives and even though I thought I was more of a buffer, maybe I wasn’t, but it wasn’t my job to do that. Once I was able to think about that and let that part go, that was forgiving myself for not being a better parent to them. I was like, “I was never meant to be his parent. I was meant to be his older sister.”
There is one quote that I came across. “If you don’t heal what hurt you, you will bleed on people who didn’t cut you.” What I was alluding to before, was how not forgiving can create all this negative emotion when I and the decisions I made that resulted from it. I thought that I was doing myself a service by protecting myself, “I’m going to create this wall and it’s going to prevent people from leaving or hurting me.”If you don't heal what hurt you, you'll bleed on people who didn't cut you. Click To Tweet
I’m doing well, but what I later learned was I wasn’t building a wall to keep people out. I was barricading myself in. Once I made that shift, or once I acknowledged that I was barricading myself and how alone I felt, I decided that’s when I needed to start to extend forgiveness to other people starting with my father. Since I have done that and it’s still a work in progress because there are many things.
Are you on a forgiveness road show right now?
I’m not on the tour yet, but it’s something that I’m trying to work on.
I’m proud of you for doing that. I can tell you, I don’t know that I will be attending that concert anytime soon. I don’t see it. I don’t see it for myself. I feel like I have had moments where I’ve asked for things a little bit out of my comfort zone with my parents, and I don’t quite get a response. I don’t know that we are there yet and I don’t know that we will ever be. I work on myself and do those things. I can have vulnerable conversations with a lot of people, with you, with Matt, and with some other dear friends of mine. I think that’s good for me. I don’t know that I need that with my parents. I feel like you value family much more than I do. It’s a much higher value for you.
I do value family. For me, family is the family I choose and has always really been the family of the friends that I build around me and the people that I keep close to me and that I see on a regular basis. It’s because blood family for me, has let me down but you are doing good stuff and I’m excited and proud of you. I hope you don’t have to make a stop for me for anything for forgiveness. If not, I only ask for a clean slate right now. I’m sorry. My actions will usually match. I try to.
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