I’m the type of person who holds grudges.
I still remember the people back in high school who used to talk about me behind my back. I still think about the nicknames my siblings would tease me with. I still think about all the times people have said sorry and didn’t mean it. I keep track of these transgressions so that I can better protect myself should similar situations arise.
For our whole lives, we’re told to forgive and forget or to just ‘let it go’. Our lolos and lolas would say, ‘wag ka magtanim ng galit’. It’s a religious and cultural thing to value forgiveness. To preserve relationships, we’re told that we have to give people second chances.
I am estranged from my father.
Whenever I think of my childhood, I think of all the times I’ve hidden inside my closet whenever he had one of his temper tantrums, where he would bang on doors, yell curse words, smash plates. I remember when he punished me for doing something I kept telling him I didn’t do. A hand-shaped welt on my arm greeted me in the morning.
I remember how he shouted at me about something I no longer remember, and the day after he bought me banana cue. My mother said it was his apology. It only made me feel worse.
I spent ten years in a Catholic school. ‘Honor thy father and mother’ has been drilled permanently into my brain. Other relatives have told me to be patient, ‘Intindihin mo nalang siya.’ I hated how much I hated him. I hated how I was expected to be the bigger person and how I failed to be the bigger person because of my anger.
It has taken me a long time to accept that my anger is not my enemy.
Anger is a completely justified and mostly automatic response to abuse, to people hurting us. Being angry informs us that we’re not being treated in the way that we deserve. It motivates us to realize the toxicity of a situation and pushes us to get out of it.
This is not to say that we should let anger fuel all our actions—emotional explosions may cause us to hurt others. This is to say that we should stop fighting what we feel. Instead, we must investigate our anger and the pain that’s connected to it.
When I recognized my pain, I had to accept that my father did not intend to create reparations. Expecting an apology or hoping people will change perpetuates a cycle of hurting. It is perfectly understandable to want an apology, but our healing cannot depend on our abusers. Consequently, we must not force ourselves to forgive when we’re not ready.
Forcing forgiveness is a form of self-abandonment, which means ignoring or rejecting our emotions, wants, and needs. Being related to someone or being close to someone doesn’t excuse their hurtful actions. Even if your abuser was traumatized in the past, that doesn’t make it your responsibility to withstand the consequences of their pain.
To heal, you may need to make difficult decisions, such as setting stronger boundaries or cutting off ties.
Whenever I tried to communicate with my father, he would argue that he was being made the villain. Some people really refuse to acknowledge their wrongdoings. To feel safe, I had to create distance.
This came with a lot of judgment from my siblings and my relatives. They would constantly try to change my mind, saying ‘tatay mo parin siya’ or ‘he wasn’t always that bad.’ For Filipinos, family is everything. I’ve often felt that by choosing myself, I was selfish. I was a bad sister, a bad daughter, a bad person.
Now, I’ve realized that the course of my healing is entirely up to me.
No one else gets to decide how I feel or how I should act, or who gets to stay in my life. I will do what is right for me, even if it’s not what looks right for others. Perhaps I am not holding a grudge; I am simply reminding myself that my safety and sanity matter.
Forgiveness is a choice, it may take years, or it may never happen, and that’s okay.