Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book  and building my speaking career!  You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up.  You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in

Discovering the Meaning of Forgiveness

Photo is "Headache" by Lel4nd

I recently caught the following quote on The Purpose Fairy website.

"Forgiveness is the most powerful thing that you can do for your physiology and your spirituality, and it remains one of the least attractive things to us, largely because our egos rule so unequivocally. To forgive is somehow associated with saying that is all right, that we accept the evil deed. But this is not forgiveness. Forgiveness means that you will fill yourself with love and you radiate that love outward and refuse to hang onto the venom or hatred that was engendered by the behaviors that caused the wounds."  –Wayne Dyer
This was my first time seeing this definition of forgiveness from Wayne Dyer, but I've lived by a similar meaning of forgiveness for the last 7 years.  I was raised in the church where we are taught to "turn on the other cheek" and "forgive them that trespass against us."  But what does forgiveness really mean? The way I interpreted forgiveness from many pastors' sermons was to give the person or people who hurt you a pass and move on with your life.  Let go and let God handle them. No matter how horrible the action, they are still your brother or sister. I even remember hearing one pastor say to women who were sexually abused that they should forgive their abusers.  I know the pastor meant well, but how can you give a pass to rape?  Where's the part in the sermon about how to deal with the pain in addition to praying? There has to be more to forgiveness than just moving on.

This forgiveness theory didn't sit well with me, especially after a relative stabbed me in the back my senior year in high school. Not only did the person stab me in the back, they turned the knife a few times and dabbed the wound with hot sauce and sea salt. For the sake of drama-free holiday dinners, I won't go into details of what this adult relative did to me (they did not physically harm me). Still, someone I respected and loved let me down hard.  So I was just supposed to give them a fist-bump and tell them I love them and keep it moving? 

I would get so frustrated and angry when people told me to forgive this relative, because I couldn't give them a pass. That's a lot to ask of a person when they've been crushed.  After talking to faith leaders and therapists, prayer, watching Oprah and reading a lot of Iyanla Vanzant. I began adopting my own definition of forgiveness. I learned that holding on to anger and resentment is toxic. It's toxic to your health, spirituality and relationships with other people in your life. Feeling anger or sadnessis natural and understandable. How we act on our feelings is key. While you're wishing that person would suffer as much you, life goes on. As my mother always says, "Don't let anyone rent space in your head." After college, I realized that I rented my relative a Manhattan penthouse in my head for way too long. I'm fortunate that I recognized this long-term resentment early in life. I'm thankful for taking the time to process it and go on with my life. From that experience I learned that forgiveness is not forgetting.  Forgiveness is not excusing one for betraying or hurting you.  Forgiveness is beneficial to you, not the wrongdoer. Forgiveness is letting go, so I thought.  There's more.

Oprah Winfrey said on her show in 2011, "Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been different."  Such an eye-opener for me.   Her words help me release the remaining animosity I had toward an ex-boyfriend. Remember Toni Braxton's song, "Love Should Have Brought You Home"? Well, I lived it.  My ex broke my heart, ran over the pieces with a tractor and sent the debris flying in the air with a leaf blower. He stood me up on, what was supposed to be, a romantic getaway.  He had a blast in the city with God knows who, while I sat in my hotel room waiting for him to return and answer my phone calls. Under traditional definitions of forgiveness I learned, I'm supposed to tell my ex, "It's all good and I forgive you." I knew I shouldn't have gone on that trip because we were having problems.  After the fiasco I thought, "How could he and why? Damn, I should have listened to my gut and stayed home." But when I heard Oprah's idea of forgiveness," I recognized that there was nothing I could do. I was angry at him and rightfully so. It happened and I couldn't travel back in time.  I accepted the past. I learned to listen to my intuition, and then I evicted him from my mind.

So forgiveness is letting go, but not forgetting. Forgiveness is taking a bad situation and figuring out a way to apply it to your benefit. Forgiveness is not a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.  Forgiveness may take some time and is not easy. Forgiveness is living your life and not allowing someone to occupy your mental space or waste any precious second you have left on this planet.  And when they do come into your mental space, remember you're turning that negative experience into something that can benefit you or help others.  Again, Wayne Dyer adds to my philosophy so beautifully,

"Forgiveness means that you will fill yourself with love and you radiate that love outward and refuse to hang onto the venom or hatred that was engendered by the behaviors that caused the wounds."  

And that's how I forgive those that trespass against me. 

**One more to add:
"Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill your enemies."
                                                                  --Nelson Mandela



  1. One of the best sermons I've ever heard on forgiveness was from a female pastor. She said God ask us to forgive but not forget. In fact, God wants you to remember so you never fund yourself in that situation again. Forgiveness is not for the forgiven, it's for the forgiver. I've forgiven ppl they have no idea I forgave the, but they don't have to know I do. I don't let those ppl into my life again, to reek havoc. I remember the lesson learned from that situation. When I forgive I can let them and the situation go, I can release it so it holds no more power over me. Many times ppl are forgiving ppl who are gone from their life, ppl who are dead. Forgiveness released me, so I decided to do it for myself. It's the best feeling ever.

  2. @Flaming Star That's great you received such a great message. Like I wrote in the post, I heard "forgive and forget" and to move on. There was no message about healing, or emphasizing that forgiveness is for your benefit so that the wrongdoer doesn't have power over you. That was revolutionary to me when I first learned that meaning of forgiveness. And forgiveness is not about letting someone off the hook, but liberating yourself. I agree it is the best feeling to forgive.

    And there are people holding resentment toward dead folks. You are so right about that. Feelings can be consuming.

    Thank you for sharing!


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