Before he passed on, my late grandfather, had always offered me good counsel.
“Have the grace to forgive. Let not your mind be held captive by memories of having been wronged in your childhood,” he told me.
My grandfather knew about my broken childhood experiences. He knew I had grown up resentful, depressed and disillusioned on account of the abuse I suffered at the hands of my late Dad.
The rejection and constant physical abuse I was subjected too at a young age had left me wretched and unnerved.
As a result, I grew up devoid of self esteem, will power and strength of character.
The indelible negative upshot as a result was my poor performance in school. My human relationship skills were also at a low ebb.
To most people, I came across as an eccentric introvert, yet in actual sense, I was just a young boy beset and inundated by a mood disorder I had no idea to overcome.
It was hard for me to figure out why I was at the receiving end of my late Dad’s anger.
Theories as to why, he did whatever he did to me came up later but I was too young to fathom.
When I got older, I was brought to terms with the harsh reality but I was to laden with bitterness and last thing I wanted to hear was talk about Dad and what he did to me.
It was not like I was not his child or I was disrespecting him. Far from it.
As fate would have it, Dad eventually chased me out of his house.
As a result, I spent close to 9 months living with a bunch of other young boys on the cold streets of Mbale town.
We subsisted on left over meals from Mukwano restaurant on Naboa road. Often we were chased. All the while, I could not go to school, though I was supposed to be in school.
Majority of the time however, we slept hungry. A short and a t-shirt is all I had on me.
Through mum’s efforts however, I was reinstated back home but I did not know who I was no more. The little self esteem, mum tried to bestow in me, at an early age was all gone.
I was disenchanted with Dad. What he had subjected me too had put a heavy damper on almost every aspect of my life.
I was young but my smile was always locked away. My friends frolicked but I was hesitant to join in because I felt worthless.
I bore a grudge; retaining bitterness in my heart at Dad for the wrongs he had done to me.
My anger did not draw forth any positives however and I was constantly depressed.
There was a silver lining however when I went and visited my ageing but deeply religious grandfather,(Bartholomew Wangasa) in Magale, Manafwa district.
Wangasa is the father to my mother.
He always had something positive to say to me.
First thing he talked to me about was Forgiveness.
“Forgiveness is a redeeming virtue, Richard. Your dad abused and mistreated you but remember the bitterness and anger you kindle for him will only burn you more. Look at it in perspective now and learn to forgive because when you forgive, your heavenly father will also forgive you,” Grandfather told me.
As if to emphasize his point he refered me to read Mark 11:25 and Matthew 6:14-15 which essentially talk about how God will forgive us our trespasses, if we learn to forgive others.
Grand father also laid emphasis on the fact that lingering unforgiveness was a sin.
“God will not bless you if your heart hangs on to unforgiveness. Unforgiveness only breeds bitterness, resentment and anger. If you read the parable of the unforgiving debtor in Math 18:21, you will get my drift,” he told me.
At length, I let go of the bitterness. It was hard but grandfather had prevailed upon. All gratitude to him. Reading helpful Biblical chapters he referenced like Ephesians 4:24, 31, 32 also came in handy.
Now whenever the opportunity presents itself and wherever there is need, I share with my friends my experience and how I have been able to cope.
I can not say I have completely forgotten and overcome all the hurt and ramifications of the abuse I suffered.
There are times when memories play back. There are times too when I inevitably predispose to depressive thoughts.
By and large, however, I have moved on.
I and my dad were on speaking terms before his demise.
The anger and bitterness was gone.
THE VIRTUES OF FORGIVENESS, A PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE
Paul Wanetosi, a psychologist at Wanale community counseling initiative, Mbale says forgiveness as a precept helps people offset depression and other negative energies.
“The anger, resentment and bitterness fire you kindle in your heart only burns you more, not the person who wronged you. Forgiveness means you are letting go of the past, even if it is hard to forget. Mandela’s case is a classical example. Holding onto unforgiveness disrupts relationships. This eventually fans the fires of chronic stress, putting the body at risk of disease. When you forgive, you heal your emotional or physical wounds. Forgiveness allows you to redirect your emotions to more constructive activity. It may take a while but when you forgive people who have wronged you, your body lets go of all the feel bad chemicals responsible for mood disorders like depression and anxiety,” Wanetosi explains.
Letting go of anger and hurt by way of forgiveness is key in improving mental and emotional health.
“There is no greater nourishment to one’s emotional and mental growth than through forgiveness. Retaining bitterness in one’s heart adversely affects emotional growth in all areas of life. It robs one of the energy to stay healthy. Research shows that emotions such as anger and resentment often brought forth by unforgiveness, amongst other factors are risk factors for heart attacks. Letting go of negative emotions is therapeutic. It makes you feel better, happier and relate better. It also creates a sense of inner peace, hence less stress,” Wanetosi says.
The English poet, Alexander Pope put it well when he said to err is human; to forgive is divine.
“Forgiveness is a moral virtue that God himself exhorts us to practice. Learning to forgive is essential in moving along with God. It is an act of love as taught to us by Christ. It is a gift that we give to ourselves to live more peace filled and spiritual lives,”Pastor Fred Sseremba of the Living word ministries, Kyebando says.
Forgiveness sustains relationships and makes hope for reconciliation possible.
“When forgiveness is given a chance, damaged relationships can be repaired and rekindled. Relationships which are not necessarily shaky will benefit in a sense that there will be sustenance,” Sseremba says.
As a precept, forgiveness is good for marriage.
“Forgiveness can be a redeeming virtue in any marriage, whatever the cause of the rift is. Spouses who are more forgiving and less inclined to vindictiveness are better at resolving conflicts. A long-term study of newlyweds carried out by researchers from the University of Tennessee, in the United States; found that more forgiving spouses had stronger, more satisfying relationships. The researchers however noted that when forgiving spouses were frequently mistreated by their husbands or wives, they became less satisfied with marriage,” Wanetosi says.