We didn’t host a party for those people who couldn’t pay us. We didn’t send out embossed, hand-written invitations requesting the honor of their presence at our Annual Un-givers Soirée. No one danced the night away in a graceful ballroom. No one raised a glass of champagne to celebrate the collective misfortune of the guests, and no one left with an Oscars-worthy gift-basket.
Our hospital did throw fancy parties with ballroom dancing, champagne, fine china and linens, but it was a fund-raiser, so we could continue to help those who couldn’t pay. Our little hospital had a reliable support team of investors, who rallied around us, and believed in us. They cheered us on, and all that happened first. Before we could forgive debts.
How This Co-dependent Forgave Debts
Before I wised up in the rooms of recovery, I treated those I needed to forgive like royalty. I went out of my way to pretend their abuse was forgiven, and would be forgiven again, and again, and again. I didn’t want anyone to feel ashamed about what they did to me, and I was careful to keep their indiscretions private to protect their reputation. Then I sat around and wondered why I had such a hard time forgiving.
Taking a very detailed and painful look at some of my deepest wounds, let me see patterns in my hurts. The people I need to forgive might vary, but I consistently played the same part in each scenario. I didn’t use my voice. I allowed the behavior to happen. I kept participating in unacceptable behavior.
My motives for behaving that way were also consistent. I wanted these people to know they were loved, and I hoped they would love me back. Since I was in the business of seeking out unhealthy people to love, I catered to people who couldn’t afford to repay me.
How a Recovering Co-dependent Forgives
One of many incidents I want to forgive happened when my son was two. He was a biter; and my sister-in-law, who had NO children, wasn’t happy with how I handled the biting. When my son bit her, she warned him next time she’d bite him back. He bit her again, and true to her word, she bit him.
I watched the 12 second horror unfold and said nothing. Not a word. I was so angry that I didn’t trust myself to not explode, but I was also so afraid of hurting her feelings. My people pleasing runs deep. Please don’t judge me. It’s why I’m in recovery. I didn’t protect my innocent, adorable little biter because I was afraid I might hurt her feelings?!?
Just thinking about this, now nine years later, still makes my blood boil because anger physiologically triggers the same chemical reactions with the same intensity each time we recall them. My remembering this doesn’t hurt her, or my son, but it hurts me.
Somebody owes me something, and it’s not just my sister-in-law. The main person I really need to forgive here is me. I need to let myself of the hook for not knowing the future. My beautiful little boy isn’t scarred for life, and I don’t need to be either. I didn’t cause it. I can’t control it. I can’t cure it.
I’ve felt my feelings; so I’ve put a price on the debt. Now I need to see if I have enough assets (love, respect, and peace) to write off the debt. If I’m low on assets, I might need to get reinforcements from my investors.
My Higher Power tells me I’m not the horrible mom I think I am for letting this happen. My wise friends second that by reminding me that I’m not responsible for her behavior, and I don’t have to ever accept that behavior again. They reassure me that her opinion of me or my son is none of my business. Nor does her idea of us change who we are.
How Can You Forgive?
Some of you live with abuse and trauma I could never imagine, and forgiveness probably seems undeserved. I hear you. I respect your pain, and I don’t have the answer for you. I’m only considering forgiveness to help me. I’ve lived in fear most of my life. I hope forgiveness will set me free.
In the rooms of recovery, I’ve found my own support team. Led by my Higher Power, I’ve met authentic, supportive women who see good in me. They love me for who I am, even when I’m a mess. They cheer me on and share valuable assets like Al-Anon slogans.
This, my friends, is where I’m going to stop and sit a while on my journey to forgiveness. I need to process who I’m really mad at, love on myself, and then account for what is really owed to me.
My sister-in-law was never able to love my child the way I, the controlling Co-dependent, wanted her to. That’s really what I wanted from her, and she didn’t have the means to pay that. It’s time to write this off as a forgiven debt. I’m done trying to reclaim this lost love. When the debt comes to mind, I’m going to pass it on to my supervisor, my Higher Power, because it’s out of my hands and doesn’t need to come across my desk again.
Is this forgiveness? I don’t know, but I’m closer now than I’ve ever been.
Tropical Soirée Coffee Cake
¼ cup (1 stick) of melted butter
3 over-ripe bananas
½ cup sugar
½ cup crushed pineapple and juice
½ cup coconut flakes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon coconut extract
½ teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt (Yes – it’s a bit fancy. It’s for a soirée after all.)
1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved into a tablespoon of water
2 cups unbleached flour
2 cups tropical trail mix, chopped
This recipe is based on my Grandma Davis’s banana bread. I used to make it all the time for friends, neighbors, and family who were a little down or just needed some extra love. Unfortunately, this recipe isn’t called boomerang banana bread. The love I gave wasn’t promptly returned.
As I mentioned, the biggest offender on my list of people to forgive is me. I had expectations, and I put myself in unsafe situations.
I infused her traditional loaf with a tropical twist. The cake is super simple to make. I start by melting the butter into my mixing bowl. Then add the sugar, bananas, pineapple, flavorings and salt. Mix on medium until well combined.
Add baking soda, egg, and flour. Mix again on medium.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease Bundt cake pan with coconut oil and dust with sugar. Pour half of the batter into the pan, then top with half of the chopped tropical trail mix. Add the remaining batter then top with the remaining trail mix.
Bake for 45 minutes. The cake will start to crack when done. You can also check for doneness by inserting a toothpick. It should come out clean – not goopy.
Best shared with friends from recovery; don’t you dare fix this for someone you need to forgive.
A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By Pam Carver