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When It’s Hard to Forgive

by Cecile Bibawy

Beacon of Light Favorite Things Day 6!

Have you ever been owed a debt, and they just don’t pay? What do you do when they tell you they don’t have it—when the money pot is empty when there’s too much month left at the end of the money? When emotional funds run dry, the tension is no different. When you’re owed a debt of affection, attention, kindness, and trust, and they just don’t pay. The debt I was owed reaches back decades.

The Story

When I was 13, my mother said that my best friend was part of a committee of evil psychiatrists who watched our family. Not to be trusted, she posed a great danger. Demons lurked - family members and friends. One by one, they would be pronounced evil and removed from my life.

If only I could have known that it was not so. But truth to a budding teen is whatever your mother says, and she said it only to me. No one else could know. If they found out, we’d be in more danger. If I don’t protect my mother and my younger siblings, I betray her. I stab her in the heart with a knife.

In high school, my friends were forbidden from coming to the house. Some hung out with me in secret. Others somehow found out and walked out. Of course, they never heard it from me - that my mother was delusional and paranoid schizophrenic.

Breaking Free

Though shame, bitterness, and disconnection became my unspoken identities, I wasn’t aware I wore them like a noose around my neck. I was mildly aware of anger and resentment that I knew was affecting my relationships 20 years later. So, I made an appointment with a therapist.

I cringed when she asked about my childhood. Asking me to face my past was like asking me to jump into an empty dark well with no rope and no one around.

I informed her that I had forgiven my mom a long time ago. She’s sick, after all. She didn’t hurt me on purpose. Wasn’t that enough? She said,

“You can’t forgive her until you know what you need to forgive her for.”

Gradually, I could see my captors, invisible as they were—shame and bitterness. I needed to forgive and break free.

Meanwhile, I had recently met my Zumba instructor, to whom I was developing an attachment. Strangely familiar to me, she would strongly resemble my mother in personality and remove the mask of schizophrenia. For the first time, I saw the person she might have been without delusions and rage.

While deeply saddened, no, devastated, realizing what I missed out on as her daughter, I kind of fell in love with my mom. It was like jumping into a painting of carousels and carriages and coming to life. The forgiveness gates flew wide open, and I ran through. No more dark pits.

My therapist instructed me to journal all the bad and good that had happened to me. This, and knowing my Zumba friend, who was a fleshly figment of my mother’s beautifully striking traits, set me on the road to forgiveness - but not only of my mother.

I needed to forgive myself.

Keys to Forgiveness

  • A Jailbird Can’t Pay: My mother has not apologized for the pain her illness inflicted on me. Remember that person in your life who just won’t pay up? When you don’t forgive, you wait indefinitely for them to own up, but they can’t or won’t. A jailbird can’t pay a debt while locked in prison. My mother is locked in a prison of delusions. When I don’t forgive, I also lock myself in a cell of bitterness.

  • Get Self-Compassion: I hated myself for being vulnerable to trust and longing for love. I carried a false responsibility because the childhood trauma was not understood and healed. I couldn’t distinguish what I was responsible for and what I was not. I needed compassion for my younger self.

  • Feel it, Don’t Fear it: I discovered in therapy that I needed to feel the pain of long ago that I had swept under the rug. Finally, I was permitted to be angry at those who hurt me, be sad for what happened, risk it, and love freely. Jesus not only put his life on the line, but He also put His heart on the line. He still does when He knocks on the door, and we don’t open it. Feeling everything makes us exquisitely vulnerable, not vile. We become more loving like Him. Forgiveness can then flow.

In the depths, I saw my little-girl self and forgave her. Forgiving, my mother followed freely.

“If the Son sets you free you are free indeed.” -John 8:36

Give a Little Gift of Hope

A book makes a great gift! This season of giving, give yourself and a loved one the story of how one family dealt with the trauma, turmoil, and upheaval of mental illness, what we would change, and how survival was achieved. Caregivers, friends, and families of people struggling will receive priceless gifts that can’t be tied with a bow - tools, assurance you’re not alone, and hope.

“Her (faith) is the cornerstone of her survival ... I found myself lost in her words. LHM is so much more than just a story; it’s a tool to help others in her position.” (-Reviewer)

S.T.I.R. it Up!

Forgiveness is true healing that couldn’t have happened without taking steps to improve my mental health. Together, we can STIR up love and life for better mental health:

  • Speed up recovery

  • Talk about it

  • Instill hope

  • Remove stigma

Cecile Bibawy is the author of Loving Her Mind, a teacher, a speaker, a Zumba instructor, and a coffee-lover who resides in Ohio with her tall, dark, and handsome husband and exceptional four children. Find her at

Buy her book, Loving Her Mind, and support others who have mental illness by learning how she broke free.

CATCH the BEACON of LIGHT PODCAST FAVORITE THINGS tonight 11/19/2021 at 6:30 pm Mountain here:



Facebook Page: Cecile Bibawy, Author

Facebook Group: Cecile Bibawy, Author

Instagram: @sincerelycecile

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