The biological father of my oldest daughter was killed in a motorcycle accident when she was seven. He had momentarily been in her life, and she had no memory of him, yet the emotional impact was multifaceted and deeply felt by our family. Then there was the financial impact. When I received the letter from the attorney representing his estate, I innocently thought they had my daughter’s interest in mind. Since he had never paid child support and had an outstanding judgement against him, I expected to receive a check for all that was due my daughter. I was deeply mistaken. I did not seek legal counsel and when I pursued it and found out his estate had been settled and she would receive nothing, I was livid. I was furious with the “system”, but mostly irate at myself for being naïve about the system.
Many hurts in life revolve around expectations of ourselves and others to do the “right thing” as we understand it. Money hurts are no different. We feel justified in our broken relationships, bitterness or resentments. The truth is we are only hurting ourselves.
I had to do some soul searching and wrestle with what it meant to financially forgive. I was befittingly angry at him, the system and myself. This was an infringement on a small child entrusted to my care. It was a violation of her financial rights. This was her college money, a future down payment on a home, something tangible from the man that was unable to be a part of her life. I slowly embraced that I had a choice. Part of me wanted to hang on to the anger – even when it was at myself. I could let this consume me, become resentful and bitter, or I could set myself free, forgive and move on.
Part of the process for me was to embrace gratitude in other areas of my life. I was resilient and resourceful. I had the support of my husband, family and friends. I had faith that my daughter would have what she needed in life and a conviction that this “mistake” was not going to define us. I had to accept that I made an error, and that others make them too. We are human, we are fallible. I did the best I could with the knowledge I had, and I was determined to learn more and do better for myself and others. Forgiving didn’t mean I forgot. The pain I experienced played a part in my desire to help others avoid financial mistakes and in the future, seek assistance and expertise when I needed it.
This was just one of many incidents in my lifetime where I have been hurt or innocently hurt someone with my financial decisions. I know I am not alone. Know that you are not alone. This is a matter that we all need to contend with intermittently for the duration of life.
Spiritual belief systems look at forgiveness as a vital component with the foundational belief that you are forgiven and capable of forgiving. If you are a person of faith, explore what needs to happen in your heart and your head in order for you to move forward around financial forgiveness. There may be a ritual of confession, atonement or appeasement that will guide you through the process.
We can scan the horizon and we can be introspective. In order to enjoy a healthy financial life, we need to absolve financial intrusions and move forward. Financial forgiveness ranges from misdeeds by our government, Wall Street and the Madoffs’ of the world, employers and employees to family members, former family members, friends and ultimately ourselves.
“Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.” – Indira Gandhi. We need to bravely face what it means to financial forgive and take the first step forward in doing so. I also appreciate the words of Paul Boese “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future”. Money is an integral part of our lives, and forgiving ourselves and others with make it a much more enjoyable, positive, productive, and powerful part.