I’ve always told others that I look forward to growing older but now that I am growing closer to middle adulthood, I started posing this question to myself, “Am I gracefully maturing as I age?” I started wondering if I was maturing like I’d like to or am I just allowing time to work its magic on my black hair that has all of a sudden been turning grey this year, by the way. I thought I was until a few years ago, my answer became a huge “No”! I say this because a few years ago, I was forced to deal with some childhood trauma that surfaced in my adult life. Side bar: The interesting thing about trauma is that it can be suppressed deep down in your subconscious self for many years, then one day, a situation comes along that unlocks those unwanted feelings you’ve buried most of your life and your faced with either reacting to them or confronting them. If we don’t deal with the trauma that surfaces in our lives, I don’t care how “dressed up” or “put together” we make ourselves, we are not walking in wholeness and can not present to the world the best version of ourselves! And this is where I found myself. So, I chose to confront my demons. I began looking over my life and examining things from my younger life that has been a hindrance to in my adulthood and I realized that I needed to start doing the work.
Truth is, I’ve been thinking about this now more than ever because I have four beautiful children to raise and I keep seeing myself through them, sometimes good and sometimes not so good. I see good things that I have instilled in them that will make them stronger and effective in life, I also see some characteristics of my quirky personality that have carried over into their individual lives. However, when I see my children, they also reflect back to me in some ways, things I lack or am weak in. Recognizing the fact that my children are a product of who I am and to some degree, a representation of my brokenness just as much as they are an illustration of my feats, caused me to make it my mission to learn how to grow in a healthy way as I age so that I can offer my children (and others I effect) the best version of myself. I began doing this by first learning how to address my past from a posture of forgiveness.
When I first began this journey, I looked back at those who I felt owed me for the things I lacked or silently suffered from. But this obviously kept me in tremendous bondage because no matter how much blaming I did, time could not be rewound. However, learning the true art of forgiveness helped me to see that when I truly forgive it provides me with benefits that helps me to move on such as:
- Healthier relationships.
- Improved mental health.
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility.
- Fewer symptoms of depression.
- Improved self-esteem.
- and other health improvements.
Forgiveness may seem like a common sense concept, especially in the Christian world, but believe it or not, there are a lot of people who don’t know how to forgive. When someone tells a traumatized or emotionally wounded person, “You just need to forgive so you can move on”, they make it seem like forgiveness is a concrete object that can erase an emotional problem. This is why there are many how-to books related to the topic of forgiveness. I truly believe that many people want more than anything to forgive and move one from past traumas but simply don’t know how. For me, I’ve always been told to just “let it go” but it took me years to actually learn how. For such a long time I believed that when you have truly forgiven someone, you don’t feel emotional pain from the offense but that couldn’t be farther from the truth! It it possible for us to forgive but still hurt! I know that the Bible emphasizes the need for us to forgive those who have wronged us but we need to place just as much emphasis on the process of forgiveness which involves relinquishing the offender from the debt owed and learning to let go of emotional wounds so that we can truly be free to move on. Forgiveness is one thing but being healed from the pain of the offense is a whole other procedure that’s needed for our growth.
Unforgiveness keeps us in a posture that victimizes us even after the offense has taken place. Once we have mastered the art of forgiveness, we can then start the process of reflecting back on our lives in a more positive way which comes from a place of ownership (which is also part of the process of forgiveness). For this process, I am defining ownership as a posture of recognizing that moving forward requires me to release my debtor so that I can regain ownership of myself hence, moving forward in responsibility for myself (my actions, my thinking, my feeling). As a result, when we reflect back on areas of our lives that need healing or restoration, we are simply going back to that moment in life to reflect on what was needed for that time that may be affecting us in our present self. Once we have identified what we lacked, we can then move on to the next process which involves seeking provision in order to fulfill what we are lacking within our adult selves. This part of the process involves us taking full responsibility for self (because once we have forgiven, we no longer look to the offender or others to repair us). This is part of the process where we force ourselves to look at how things are still affecting us, then look at what we need to do to bring change into our lives.
With all of this being said, I wanted to invite those of you who have found yourself on a similar path and want to move forward in life with grace, confidence and everything else we need to reach our authentic selves. Here is a link to the introduction of my journey and please feel free to comments and share how you are moving forward in life through forgiveness and aging gracefully!