07/05/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Forgiveness: You Want Acceptance, But Are You Giving It?

I went to hear a spiritual teacher speak last night. She opened the floor up for questions, and the theme of all the questions seemed to be forgiveness. I think because Mother's Day is coming up, this issue is in the air. People who feel wronged by their mother, or who feel guilty perhaps for being angry at their mother, people who are holding grudges towards their mothers, who feel their mothers have betrayed them, done them wrong, and so forth. Many people asked how to deal with these feelings.

A young gay man spoke about being angry at his mother because she voted yes on Prop 8. He said he hasn't spoken to her since then, and he never will again. He felt betrayed. He said that he didn't want to forgive her. That he has no desire to. He just cut her out of his life. I totally understand his hurt and anger. It's like his mother is saying that she completely disagrees with and disregards who her son is at his core. Ouch. That is so painful. But the spiritual teacher had an interesting question for this young man: In his choosing to cut his mom out of his life because of who she is at her core, is he, in some way, doing the same thing to her? This question really made me start to see forgiveness in a whole new light. His mom has beliefs which caused her to vote the way she did. It is who she is. And her son is gay. That is who he is. This is not a political or ethical or religious piece, so let's just keep it neutral and look at the facts: He is angry at his mom and can't forgive her for not accepting who he is, but is he, in turn, not accepting who she is?

With the popularity and availability of self-help and self-growth movements, everyone likes to analyze why they're messed up. And usually they come to the conclusion that it's because of their parents. Ok, but now we're adults. As children, it's different. But now you have the choice to not let what your parents did or didn't do ruin your lives. So now, as you are still constantly seeking their approval, and yearning for their acceptance, how about you just accept them? You don't have to like it, you don't have to have a relationship with them if that's the best thing for you, but you can just accept it. Accept them, the way that you have been craving for them to accept you.

Just sit with it for a second. Sit, and think, "I accept my mom (or dad) for exactly the way she is, and the way she raised me. I don't have to like it. I don't have to have a relationship with her, but I accept her for exactly who she is and the mother she was to me." Just sit with it. I'm sure now all sorts of "buts" are coming into your head - "but she is evil! but she did x, y, or z to me! but she hurt me!" OK. So she is who she is. She did what she did. Maybe she did truly horrific things to you, and I am so deeply sorry that you had to experience that... However, it's done now, it's in the past. There's nothing you can do about it now. Our parents came from their own experiences and way of being raised. They did they best they could with the tools they had... Now try it again. Sit and think, or say out loud - "I accept my mother (or father) for exactly the way she is, and the way she raised me. I don't have to like it. I don't have to have a relationship with her, I don't have to have her in my life, but I accept her for exactly who she is and for the mother she was to me." How do you feel now? I hope, just by accepting it, you feel a little bit lighter. You don't need to carry that heaviness around with you anymore. All it's doing is bringing you pain and keeping you from bringing more love into your life. We hold on to our anger and grudges like they are armor, and in doing this, we choose to carry around all this heavy, extra weight. But by carrying all this extra heaviness and weight of non-forgiveness and anger, then really, who is it that we are hurting?

So while you may not like or agree with how you were raised, or may be angry or hurt that you aren't accepted for who you are by your parents, remember that they are also people with feelings and their own history. Maybe they also feel hurt that they're not accepted by you. They may have done the best possible job they could in raising you with the tools they had. You are an adult now, and have the choice to move forward, take responsibility for your own life, and stop blaming your parents. Again, you don't have to like it, just try to accept it for what it is. Accept them, just as you want them to accept you.