“Forgiveness unlocks a whole new world of possibilities.”
– John Griffin, President of the John Maxwell Team President’s Advisory Council
Growing up, I loved when people would visit our home. When visitors were present, there was always laughter… always peace. Those were the times when I could be sure there were no hurtful words or hurtful wounds. As a child, I never knew who would be waiting for me at home after school; the loving mother or the abusive mother. On too many occasions, my mother would wait for me at home only to beat me, sometimes drawing blood on my legs and my back.
In 1986, while I was away at college, my mother was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depression. As I met with a counselor and shared the abuse of my childhood and my mother’s diagnoses, he began to talk to me about forgiveness. At that time, I resented my mother for the things she did to me and forgiveness was the last thing I wanted to do. However, he explained to me that not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It just doesn’t work. It will only kill you.
During the Christmas of 1987, I visited my mother and father. I made a list of everything Mom had done to me. I read it to them, looked at Mom while I tore up the list and said, “Today, I forgive you for everything. Today, we start with a clean slate. Today, we start all over and I want you to know that I love you.” My mother’s face began to turn red and I could see the rage in her eyes as she began screaming at me and eventually kicked me out of her home. She refused to acknowledge any of the abuse or accept my forgiveness and she did not speak to me for months.
Something really interesting happened that day as I left their home. I was free. Up until that time in my life, I had never experienced or felt the freedom that I felt that day. Although I was not pleased with her response, I learned that I could only control me, my thoughts, and my actions. I had no control over how she responded. That day, I left as a free man while my mother continued to be enslaved by her own thoughts and feelings.
Forgiveness unlocks a whole new world of possibilities. We are all perfectly imperfect people and we will certainly make choices that may hurt others. Just as you do not intend to hurt others by your choices, the same is likely true for those whom you love; they probably do not intend to hurt you, but when they do, you have a choice. Your choose whether you will forgive them or not. Forgiving others frees you and empowers you to choose to live your life unshackled from the bondage of anger, rage, denial, vengeance, etc.
There is a happy ending to my story with my mother. Fast forward to 2010, after my father died from cancer, my mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia. She gradually lost her memory until she no longer knew me by the spring of 2015. Later that year, my brother and I visited her and we sat in the same living room where I forgave her 28 years earlier. In a strange moment of clarity, my mother looked directly at me and said, “I did some very bad things to you when you were young… and I’m sorry.” My brother and I looked at each other in shock and couldn’t believe what had just occurred. My brother said to me, “I guess you just got closure.” I told him, “I got closure 28 years ago. Mom is the one who just got closure.” She was free. She died six months later, but she lived out her last days free from her past.
Forgiveness heals. It heals you and it heals others when they accept it. It doesn’t make you forget, but it does allow you to accept the past and to live better in your journey forward.
As a founding partner with the John Maxwell Team, John Griffin serves as President of the President’s Advisory Council and is a Peer Teaching Partner.
John is a highly accomplished international coach, speaker, and facilitator. With a 17-year career in fortune 100 companies and as founder of three companies, John knows what it is like to experience great success and how to survive and thrive from business challenges and failures. John delivers executive coaching and highly experiential corporate workshops for the John Maxwell Company and is an Adjunct Professor at Concordia University Texas teaching Leadership.
Believing that “YOU Matter!!” – John empowers his clients to discover, embrace, and boldly perform to their fullest potential in order to maximize their relationships, results, and revenue.
Find out more about John here.