The dictionary defines forbearance as “abstaining from the enforcement of a right.” Forbearance is quiet, patient and knowing. It refrains from pushing too hard, especially when it would be fruitless. It is noble in its practice of self-restraint.
This excerpt from a poem, called “Forbearance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson says it beautifully:
Hast thou named all the birds without a gun;
Loved the wood-rose, and left it on its stalk;
At rich men’s tables eaten bread and pulse;
Unarmed, faced danger with a heart of trust;…..
How many times did you endure abuse from your estranged adult child or other family members because you chose not to stoop to the level of their negativity? How often did you feel like you were having an out-of-body experience as you listened to the accusations of your estranged one(s), while struggling to understand what the problem was? How many times did you keep your mouth shut, because you knew that any reasonable response on your part would be pointless?
Prior to estrangement, many parents and grandparents walked on eggshells, wanting to be “good,” holding on desperately to their place in the family. They spent so much of their energy doing everything they could to survive in an atmosphere that was tense, tenuous and terrifying in its potential for their expulsion. This was a “going along to get along,” with an unwillingness to face the real truth of the matter.
When it all finally unravels and becomes unworkable, we can choose to practice forbearance. We quietly and humbly understand that the problems are insurmountable and that it’s useless to defend ourselves or argue the other’s perceptions. We call up the strength to accept our adult child’s decision to estrange without accepting their indictment of us, and we find the courage to endure. We take a quiet stand within ourselves for our own life and well-being.
In the case of estrangements that go on for years, we learn to let our kids go and each day they are absent from our lives, we forbear. We go on, with trust in the ultimate goodness of life, with love in our hearts and a knowingness that this is a worthy path, a path with a soul purpose.
Forbearance becomes our friend, our ally and faithful companion. We are at home in ourselves because we have found the peace that comes with unconditional acceptance.