“We are doing to ourselves within, what we hold people and adults responsible for having done to us.” –Iyanla VanZant

Haven’t forgiven your parents, yet? Or an ex-husband? A family member? A former best friend?

Then this is probably where you’re at: doing to yourself within, the very thing you accuse someone else of having done to you. That’s what we’re doing when we don’t forgive.

What people are really upset about–really, really; deep down really–is that people, and especially their parents, did not give them some form of unconditional love and acceptance. They did not meet some need, and we feel the lack of that need. Un-peel it any way you wish, and it will come back again and again to a sense of not-enough, of not being loved, of not being accepted as-is.


The belief is: My parents should have given me the love that I needed.

That belief? Patently untrue.

It sounds crazy to imagine anyone saying that our parents were not responsible for fulfilling such needs, but the more I consider this statement, the more I understand that it’s far crazier to assume that anyone, anywhere, can meet our needs. We meet our own needs, and this is the privilege of a lifetime. Other people? Their contributions to our lives are the privilege on top of privilege.

The entire concept that someone else should meet our needs (through marriage or lifelong friendship, not to mention the hundreds of other ways we expect our needs to be met without even realizing it) starts with believing that our parents should have been overflowing with unconditional love and acceptance. Had they gotten us “started off right,” then, the Story goes, we would be okay, now.

It’s just not true.

How do I know that? Because I am not overflowing with unconditional love and acceptance (and hell, I work on that, and have abundant resources available ). If I work on those things, and am privileged and honored to do so, and I am not overflowing with unconditional love and acceptance, how on earth could I expect that of anyone else? How?

I imagine that you are the same: someone who tries very hard, who works her ass off to do what she can, and who still falls short of her own standards.

And you know, even when we are overflowing with unconditional love and acceptance, there are still people who will say that you’re not doing enough.

They’re not actually reflecting that you’re not doing enough. They’re reflecting that they aren’t feeling “enough,” within. You could never give it to them. They can only ever give it to themselves by being open and receiving.

They have to birth themselves.

And if you couldn’t give it to them, and you “get” that now, then hopefully you also “get” that your parents (or ex-husband or ex-friend or whomever else it’s hard to forgive) could never “give” you that, either.

Well, but–

“Well, but–I don’t expect that my parent should have fulfilled my every need,” someone might say. “Not every need.” Then usually this is followed by identifying exactly what needs “should” have been fulfilled.

But honestly, can we really pick and choose like that? Can we honestly say they should have fulfilled this need, but that this other one was less important? How can you know that whatever need you deemed less important was actually one that, given a different life with a different set of circumstances, you wouldn’t swear it was vital?

I don’t think we can pick and choose like that, and play this life game powerfully. My parents fulfilled certain needs that I had, that other parents didn’t fulfill for their children. When other people wish they’d gotten what my parents gave me, or when I wish I’d gotten what their parents gave them, everyone is playing Victim on some level, and no one is living in the present, not to mention practicing acceptance, compassion, or understanding.

Birthing Yourself

This begs another interesting question: What if your job is to birth yourself?

It’s worth it to begin questioning the idea that it is anyone’s job to give us all the skills that we need.

Perhaps the point is for us to birth ourselves, to love ourselves, to speak to ourselves the way we always wished that others would speak to us, to hold ourselves gently, to practice ruthless compassion for ourselves, and to never again spend another moment (time that we can never get back) wishing that someone else could have done that for us.

If I walk the world with the belief that it’s my job to birth myself–oh, how the game changes. Oh, how much more compassion you can have for the people who raised you, or the great love who left, or the hurts that are so hard–especially when you see that it’s damned hard to give yourself the kind of all-encompassing love and compassion and care that you long for, from another.

The Cycle

“We are doing to ourselves within, what we hold people and adults responsible for having done to us.” –Iyanla VanZant

If we live in a space of what others “should have” done for us, we are doing the very damage to ourselves that we accuse our caregivers of doing.

Our caregivers, in those moments when they yelled or screamed or withheld their own love, are being replayed and re-lived through our own denial of self-love, our own inner screaming, our own incessant yelling that we could be better if only we tried harder or did more.

The same energy that we carry that others “should have done it better” is the same energy that we direct towards ourselves.

Do you see how this could be a cycle? How, with this “my parents should have done it differently” story, it might never end?

The Hook

Maybe, just maybe, we could let everyone off the hook.

Our parents. Ourselves. Everyone.

Maybe, just maybe, we could try living life from the perspective that everything that has happened has happened for us, not to us.

We could try that on, and see how it fits, and see if it feels just one inch better.

We could practice a little courageous forgiveness, or courageous acceptance, and drop the energy it takes to catalog whether or not so-and-so’s actions “deserve” forgiveness or if the conditions are right for acceptance.

Letting go, forgiving–it’s all within your reach, right now.

You choose who you are. You choose how you walk this world–and every life experience you’ve ever had has set you up to be exactly who you are, right now, reading this.

And thank goodness! What a beautiful thing that it has. Thank god that you are here, right now, reading this–exactly as you are. Maybe a bit busted up, maybe a bit bruised, but–keeping on keeping on, and willing to take a deep breath as soon as you finish reading this, contemplate what it’s costing you to hold a space of resentment and non-forgiveness, and choose in this very second to live your life differently.