98. The Support of a Family

98. The Support of a Family

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

The Support of a Family

We all have regrets from past experiences. You’ve got to learn to forgive yourself, to put one foot in front of the other and go forward.

~Rashida Rowe

I forgave the boy who permanently damaged my finger in elementary school with his discus-throwing dodge ball technique. I forgave Dad whenever he was too stubborn or opinionated. I even forgave my corporate nemesis who did his best to destroy my reputation. Whenever I forgave someone, my pent-up resentment lessened. But the hardest person to forgive was myself, for falling in love with a chameleon.

I was in my thirties when we met. One year older than I, he seemed perfect—fun-loving, bright, charming, and considerate. A nature lover like me, he introduced me to sailing and I introduced him to skiing. After seven years together, his hidden evil twin slowly emerged—the liar, the alcoholic, the adulterer, the skillful manipulator who knew just how to present himself to any audience for the desired effect. At first, I believed the man I fell in love with was the real one and this new creature was a temporary aberration. But as his behavior deteriorated over several years and he admitted that he had lied from the very beginning, I was forced to accept that the new him was the real one and I ended the relationship. Only then did my family tell me the rest.

It turned out that he had learned where my widowed mother hid her cash and had stolen thousands of dollars. Because she knew I loved him at the time, she kept the thefts secret and allowed this man to spend weekends with me at her home again and again until I cut him out of my life. Because of me, he shared two days at my cousin’s house and stole from him too. For eight months, my cousin kept this secret, only revealing it after I told him about the theft at my mother’s house. Even then, my cousin only said “something” disappeared. He never told me what.

I had allowed a conman to fool me. Because I brought this toxic person into our family, the hurt he caused was my fault. No matter that he fooled countless others—I should have known better. His affairs, the money he took from me, and the lies he told me paled in comparison to the anguish he caused my family. What he did to them could not be undone. The unknown “something” stolen from my cousin could not be replaced. When Mom told me about her missing money, I was too shocked to offer to repay her.

Later, she refused my repeated attempts to reimburse her.

“It isn’t right, Mom,” I said. “It’s my fault.”

“What he did is not your fault. The money is not important. What’s important is for you to put this behind you and heal.”

We hugged, I shed a few tears, and my cloud of guilt began to lift. Within two months, the cloud disappeared. Because Mom could forgive me, I could forgive me.

~Janet Hartman

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