Have you ever been so mad at someone (it doesn’t have to be a parent) that it’s all you could think about? Every time you were around that person, you kept thinking about how mad you were. You didn’t want to be around that person. Even though what made you mad happened in the past, your anger was very present and affected how you acted and spoke to that person. When you finally thought you were over being mad, something that person says or does brings all that anger tumbling down on you again. The anger made you feel twisted around inside and made it hard to eat, sleep, or think about anything else.
Is that really what you want to live your life with your parents (or anyone for that matter)? It’s an important question, because if your parents haven’t done something yet to make you really mad, I promise you they will. Once you’re mad, it becomes easier to stay mad. And since you’re mad:
- It’s easier to think anything they’re saying or doing is stupid, wrong, or useless.
- It’s easier to put your parents down for what they do, how they think, or how they look.
- You just can’t stand anything about them.
Anger creates distance; anger makes you want to move away from the person you’re mad at. Teenagers generally want to move away from parents anyway. So when you get mad at parents and stay mad, your anger seems to be moving you in the right direction.
Besides, anger makes you del strong and right — more of your own person. Anger can seem to take you where you want to go. But anger is a trap, a dead end that leads to a loss of relationship.
I know it’s hard to imagine now, but some day you won’t be living with your parents. You’ll be on your own, maybe in a different city or part of the country. And believe it or not, there will come a day when you’ll miss your parents. Some of you already know what this feels like because you’ve lost a parent to divorce or death. Some of you already know what this feels like because you have a parent who simply was or is never around. Loss of relationship is just that — loss. And loss doesn’t feel very good.
Forgiveness is an important part of relationships. Forgiveness allows you to hold on to a relationship, even when you get hurt. It allows you to move past the anger and hurt. You can live in the present and look forward to tomorrow, even if you were hurt in the past. Forgiveness is amazingly powerful, so when you forgive, you are amazingly powerful. The ability to say “I forgive you” means you can take charge over what happened to you instead of being controlled by anger.
Before you say “I just can’t do that,” I’d like you to know something. You are right to feel that forgiveness is hard. Forgiveness is one of the most adult, mature things you can ever do. It’s funny because when you were a kid, it was probably easier for you to forgive your parents. But the older you get, the harder it becomes, especially in adolescence, when sometimes forgiving your parents seems impossible.
It can take years of hard work, even as an adult, to find your way back to the forgiveness you were able to give as a child. The quicker you rediscover a child’s forgiveness as a teenager, the quicker you’ll mature into an adult. Where forgiveness is concerned, you have to act like a child in order to be an adult.
- Forgiveness isn’t taking control over what happened; it happened and you can’t change it.
- Forgiveness isn’t taking control of the other person; that person is in control of him or herself.
- Forgiveness is taking control of you and how you’re going to respond to what happened.
Remember, though, that forgiveness is very hard, even for adults. What this means is there are times it may be easier for you to forgive your parents than it is for your parents to forgive you. Sometimes adults think forgiveness is a sign of weakness. Some adults have lived so long without forgiveness that they can’t remember how to give it. Forgive anyway, even if the other person doesn’t forgive you back.
Sometimes adults will have a hard time accepting forgiveness. Adults don’t like to be told we are wrong, especially by our children — the very people parents are always supposed to be right for. Being wrong makes us feel like failures, and failure is hard to admit. Forgive us anyway. Remind us how powerful forgiveness really is when we get confused and think admitting wrong is a weakness. Parents lose our way, too, and sometimes we need our children to show us the way home.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 36 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.