Being raised Catholic, I carried a load of guilt around for many years. There were the times I’d yelled back at my parents, fought with my siblings, talked back to my high school Spanish teacher.
I disliked my family so much that I hated being around them. Even phone calls were painful.
After years of physical and emotional abuse, I began to fight back, openly defying their orders.
This was hard to do when you’ve been raised to be obedient to your elders. Granted my brother was only a year and a half older, but in our family, he was in a position of authority over me. What never made sense was why, since my sister was seven years younger, she could boss me around, blame me for her actions and make my life miserable.
I went to confession regularly and offered up my sins of disobedience. I said my prayers of penance, then went right back to disobeying and arguing.
Time didn’t lessen my guilt. I fought against my parents’ dislike of everything I had accomplished, their demeaning comments, their constantly comparing me negatively to my siblings.
Despite graduating from college with honors, earning several teaching certificates and credentials, landing an important position of authority, I was a failure in their eyes.
Despite having a gently loving husband and three wonderful children, I failed as wife and mother.
My house wasn’t clean enough, my meals not good enough, my sewing clothes for myself and my kids not good enough.
I didn’t call often enough, didn’t visit often enough, didn’t allow the kids to visit often enough.
For many years I carried that guilt, so heavy that I imagined it bending my back in half.
No matter that I begged God to forgive my sinfulness, to make my family love me, those prayers were never answered.
Until I started listening to my husband.
His love taught me that I was lovable. He showed me that I was an intelligent, capable wife and mother. He encouraged me to return to college, year after year, slowly completing coursework that qualified me to teach Special Needs students.
I learned that I wasn’t responsible for how my family saw me, treated me. That I couldn’t stop their hate, their dismissal of my accomplishments.
Most importantly, I understood that they would never apologize. And if they couldn’t do that, then I didn’t have to forgive them ever again.
Forgiveness freed me to become who I am today.
What a powerful lesson!