Can Forgiveness Help Us Cope with Family Hardship?

By Alexandra W.

I did not grow up in the happiest of homes. It wasn’t terrible or abusive, but it was far from perfect. I dreaded going home each day after school. When away, the actual situation was easy to forget, but the moment I walked through the door I felt the weight of reality slip back on my shoulders. The reality was that my parents, both fabulous individuals, frankly did not like each other most of the time. The reality was that more often than not there was a fight, a slammed door, mother in tears, and tail lights disappearing down the street.

As I grew, life at home became less and less tolerable. Yet we were “the perfect family.” By some unspoken agreement we pretended home life was ideal. If you were to ask friends, colleagues, even relatives, they would tell you we were just another big, happy, Christian family! But the truth tore me up inside. I begged my mother to get a divorce, convinced that if our dysfunction were out in the open we would be better off.  Nevertheless, my parents remained under the same roof.

I used a lot of coping techniques. My self-preservation ranged from heavy involvement in sports to setting up as many play dates as possible. I wrote in my journal, pages and pages of my soul poured onto paper, outlining how my future home would be. But these primitive antidotes were not enough to combat the poison corroding my soul. I was angry.  I held my parents’ mistakes against them, refusing to ever fully wipe the slate clean. I would not forgive, much less forget. The internal result was far worse than that of any fight. I was becoming bitter and hardened, wary of trusting and loving others.

But I had something going for me. I knew who Jesus Christ was and had been saturated in His teachings. The Savior instructs us to “love one another” and “forgive others so we can be forgiven.” I held these precious and simple truths dear, but had yet to apply them in my life.

In the end, I decided to stare the real issue in the face, and the only coping mechanism I found to work was true, earnest, hard-sought forgiveness. While I couldn’t control the actions of others, I could have complete control over myself. Yes, I could turn away from my family in frustration, but better yet, I could love them for who they were, and set myself free from the bondage of anger. I chose to learn from my parents’ mistakes. I chose, and continually choose, to make the best of every situation. I choose to try to be a good influence on my younger siblings. I choose to reach out in service and love, instead of closing up in heartache. I choose to always forgive—immediately. I decided no person can keep me from inner peace and happiness. I may have longed for parents who got along, but I wasn’t dealt those cards. After all, we may not be the Brady Bunch or the Cosby’s, but we’re still a family. And, despite our hardships, we love each other.

I know that living by the teachings of the Savior, especially the teachings of forgiveness and loving others, I will make my future home a happy one. I can choose to overlook a past marred with unhappiness and pain. I can choose to focus on the Christmas Eves, the afternoons on the lake, the rockets built and launched as a family, the camping trips, the days at Disneyland.

Choosing to forgive and forget takes work. It takes practice. Christ never said it would be easy but he said it would be worth it. I believe in that. I believe in Christ. I believe that through His mercy and teachings I can live the life I’ve dreamed of and prepared for. I believe that through His loving sacrifice I can continue to become better each day. The way I am choosing to be better today is by choosing to forgive.

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