Forgiveness is for You


The only reason I re-enrolled back into high school was because of a family that took me in.  Troy and Lina were devout Christians.  At the time, I had become tired of religion, but their unconditional love for me and their belief in me allowed me to not only tolerate Christians, but also graduate high school.  And the example they set as a family showed me what a healthy family dynamic looked like.

Troy knew I was angry.  Afterall, I had been sent to juvenile hall for physical assault and was expelled from high school for giving a kid a concussion.  One day he told me, “Hey man, have you thought about forgiving your parents. I know they messed up big time. However, It could really help you to forgive them.” I essentially told him no, and that I would never forgive them.  When he said that forgiveness is for you, not for them, I discreetly rolled my eyes.

At 20 years of age I found myself on fire-watch in Korea. It was 3 am in the morning. I was hating life. Slowly but surely, I had become more and more depressed. And at this point it hit me that the Marine Corps wasn’t going to change me into the Rambo I had fantasized into becoming.  Was this America’s best?  The fu*&ng Marine Corps?! I dramatically thought that nothing would change me. I became more angry, resentful, and nihilistic.  I became a full-time victim with unpaid overtime hours.

Forgiveness is for you, not for them… !

I then started to justify my anger… My Dad was an alcoholic! He made our life hell! My mom was bipolar! She ran off with Dad’s best friend; my stepfather. And he was verbally abusive. Oh yeah, and my stepmother drove my father into alcoholic oblivion. My anger was certainly justified. But I couldn’t shake Troy’s words that night…

Forgiveness is for you, not for them… 

At the time I was having some significant problems with an eating disorder.  In my estimation I had cognitively understood that the eating disorder had acted up most when I was feeling extra resentful and angry. But I did not see how letting go of my past would change anything I was dealing with. The anger was something that I could control.  I was not going to let go of that.

Then I had a strange and ominous charles dickens moment. I saw myself in the future.  I was alone.  I had no family.  I was an addict.  I was homeless.  I added nothing to anyone’s life. I saw myself in a room of filth.  My body had stopped forgiving me for my bad habits and one of my feet was amputated.  I had no meaning.  Nothing to live for. I was a loser.  My body was in a constant state of pain and torment.  People made a wide berth of me when I walked by. I was never finishing what I started. I was a whiny and pointed fingers. I took 0% responsibility.  I was in a constant state of pain and torment.  I would die a slow slow death of self-contempt and hatred.

Forgiveness is for you,not for them… 

That night after fire watch I said “f*&k it.”. I looked up at the ceiling and I sincerely forgave my father, my mother, my stepmother, and even my step father. And a psychological weight was released. I actually did feel something different. I promised myself that from then on the finger would be pointed at myself.  I would take 100% for my life.  And I would stop blaming and pointing fingers.

I can only speculate but I feel that the Marine Corps accelerated a lot of my pain, fears, insecurities, doubts, and overall problems.  I am sincerely thankful for this.  Without that environment, I don’t know if I would have come to enough psychological pain to even want to forgive my parents.

To be fair, that night in South Korea was only a reference point of change. It was not magical. I was still very angry.  And forgiveness became a series of moments that helped me grow up and mature overtime.

Today I look back and see that I am very different since joining the Marine Corps. I am certainly less weighed down by others. It is not perfect.  But forgiveness certainly has given me more freedom, and especially peace.

Forgiveness is for you,not for them… 

For what it’s worth, forgiveness is taking your, figurative or literal, hands off of someone’s neck.  And giving them to God; letting God deal with them.  Forgiveness does not mean forgive and forget (i.e., continue to allow abusive people back into your life just because you “forgave” them).

Forgiveness is for you.