By Daniel Bobinski
The holidays are upon us. It’s that time of year when families and friends tend to gather to share meals and exchange gifts. And, in addition to bringing gifts to these gatherings, many of us also bring baggage. Let’s face it. The people we love the most can sometimes be the people who have hurt us the most.
If you were raised in a loving and nurturing home, consider yourself blessed. If every friend you’ve ever had has been only kind to you, then that, too, would be a wonderful blessing. But not everybody has that.
Perhaps you’ve heard it said that when you don’t forgive somebody, it affects you a lot more than it affects them. I’m here to tell you there’s a lot of truth in that statement.
My mother passed on a little over 10 years ago. Obviously, she loved me, but she didn’t always know how to show it. I doubt she truly understood me, and she often referred to me as stupid. Later in her life she became very controlling and even vengeful.
I’m not saying this to air my family’s laundry. I just want to set the stage and say that after decades of increasing verbal and emotional abuse that continued after all the physical abuse she dished out during my childhood, I decided to draw a boundary and limit our communications.
Unfortunately, a problem remained. Every time someone called me “Daniel,” I would instantly correct them and say, “My name is Dan.” Sometimes I was almost rude about it. I didn’t know why, but I genuinely disdained the name Daniel, even though all my official documents, such as airline tickets and mortgage papers, required it.
I remember getting into a small verbal tug-of-war with a mortgage lender because I wouldn’t sign their paperwork with, “Daniel Bobinski.” And then there was the time I was opening a bank account and the branch manager was reading my name out loud off my driver’s license. Even I was surprised at how high her eyebrows went up after I gritted my teeth and said, “My name is Dan.” When she asked what my mother’s maiden name was, I got even more tense.
It wasn’t too long after that that I realized the source of my frustration was baggage from my relationship with my mother. Every time she was upset with me, she would grit her teeth and say, “Daniel,” in a demeaning voice.
That awareness rolled through my head for a few years, but the emotional pain was still too deep to deal with. I didn’t feel safe letting down my protective boundary.
Then something strange happened. Within a week’s time, two friends commented independently that I got tense whenever the subject of my mother came up. These friends didn’t know each other, but both suggested the exact same thing: “I think you need to forgive your mother.”
After hearing this suggestion twice in one week — both times coming from good friends — I realized there was truth in their words. The thing is, I didn’t want to forgive my mother. She had hurt me a lot. But I had been carrying that pain around for decades, and it wasn’t going away. I decided my friends were right.
During an evening later that week, I got down on my knees in front of the fireplace in my home. I didn’t know where to start, so I just asked God to help me forgive my mother. I searched my heart and released forgiveness toward her.
It was a long evening. I think I spent several hours on that rug, asking for a change of heart. Afterwards, nothing really felt different. There were no fluttering angels and no great “a-ha’s.” I simply went to bed.
Then, two days later, somebody called me “Daniel,” and I noticed that I didn’t flinch. I was surprised that I didn’t grit my teeth and didn’t correct the person. Then, the day after that, somebody else called me Daniel, and it actually sounded good.
Before long, I was introducing myself to people as Daniel, and correcting them (politely) if they called me “Dan.”
Although I never reconnected with my mother (she had passed away), I’m confident that my act of forgiving healed my heart.
Whenever I share this story with others, they often say it’s a powerful testimony about how freeing forgiveness can be. And so, I thought that by sharing it here on these pages during the holidays, it might give readers throughout the Treasure Valley a glimmer of hope and a gentle nudge. I’m guessing there’s someone you’ll see this holiday season that has caused pain in your past. Pain that you might have quietly stashed away, or pain that might be gnawing at you on the inside.
I’m here to say there’s freedom in forgiveness. Who knows? It might be the best gift that you give — and receive — this holiday season.
Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. is a best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. For more than 30 years he’s been working with teams and individuals (1:1 coaching) to help them achieve excellence. He was also teaching Emotional Intelligence since before it was a thing. Reach Daniel on his office phone, (208) 375-7606, or through his website, www.MyWorkplaceExcellence.com.