Episode 60

Forgive has seven letters, but depending on your level of pain, it sounds like a four letter word!

Forgiving the person or people who abandoned, abused, or violated when you were most vulnerable sounds like asking the impossible.

And I get it. I lived it.

You feel like forgiveness validates what they did. But in this episode, I present a different angle on forgiveness. One that moves you from victim to victor.

Are you in? Let’s talk about it.

The Motherhood Unmasked podcast with Vanessa A. Harris Episode 60 Forgive, Don't Forget

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Forgive, Don’t Forget

If you’re a mom who experienced childhood trauma and finds raising your kids challenging, even triggering at times—you’re not alone.


Human beings have a terrible habit of comparison. We use it to prove we’re better than someone else and to prove we’re worse off.

But one of the things counseling unlocked for me is the truth that my experience is valid.

Sure, there are varying degrees of trauma.

From physical abuse to sexual abuse to emotional neglect to surviving trafficking to growing up with an incarcerated parent, no two accounts of trauma are the same.

But they are all devastating.

All of them impact a child’s ability to express healthy emotion, to trust, and to give and receive love, among other things.

Left unchecked, you become an adult with those same issues.

Trauma is trauma. It all hurts. So it does you no good to compare your wound to someone else’s when the bottom line is you’re both wounded.

Qualifying your trauma is just as pointless as the quest to just get over it we discussed in episode 57, because it did happen and your story does matter.

Since it happened to you, make that trauma work for and through you by facing the gory details, overcoming it with renewed strength and sharing your story with others, so they find the courage to do the same.


But none of what I just said happens if you don’t forgive who hurt you.

I know, not want you want to hear and it’s really funny coming from the woman talking about hating her mom in the last episode!

I did hate her as a teen, but not now.

The longer I’m a mother and the more I see how cumbersome ankle weights make my journey, the more I realize any mother trying to do this mom thing without getting free needs mercy, not malice.

Because that woman is up a creek!

And funny enough, I started dealing with my feelings toward my mom before I ever met my husband, much less had kids.

With all the sermons I’d heard on forgiveness, and despite my relationship with Jesus since age 19, the concept of Jesus forgiving me for a lifetime of sin, with his life as the price to pay for it, was difficult for me to accept because it wasn’t fair to Him.

Just like my mother rejecting me and a family friend molesting me wasn’t fair.

How do you forgive all of that?


You only do it when you stop looking at forgiveness as a “them” and “they” issue to a “you” issue.

When I heard someone say unforgiveness was like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die, something clicked.

All this time, I thought my wounds were numb. I had no idea the numbness kept angry feelings suppressed.

Anger that manifested as depression.

Because a cheerful heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones. And there’s nothing like trauma compounded by unforgiveness to take the life out of you.

And realizing withholding forgiveness is not about punishing the other person, but you being against you is—sobering.


So I decided to stop adding insult to their injuries, and I forgave my mom and my godbrother.


Well, talking with God in prayer, I said out loud I forgave my mom for rejecting me and my godbrother for molesting me.

And no, nothing miraculous happened in that moment.

Forgiveness, like the Bible kind of love, is a decision first.

The feelings come with time, especially since you may have to say you forgive them multiple times before the reality of it manifests in your heart.

Forgiveness is hard work!

And if you’re wondering why I didn’t tell them I forgave them, it’s because neither one of them asked for forgiveness.

I haven’t seen or spoken to my godbrother in decades. As God would have it, the relationship between our families dissolved. And while my mom and I speak regularly, she’s not known for owning her stuff.


But because giving forgiveness was for me, my healing, and a better foundation for my own family, I had to forgive her for the specifics long before she gave me her general apology for “any way she may have hurt me.”

And I have to tell you how empowering it is to forgive without receiving an apology. Because in the face of what happened to me, I had control in doing something for me.

Something that didn’t require the permission or participation of anyone else, while still acknowledging what happened and how it hurt. But also that it would no longer hold me hostage.

You can’t be free if you don’t forgive.

And here me when I say, I’m talking about forgiveness—not excusing, or condoning, or watering down the issue—but choosing life and the joy you deserve.

Refusing to forgive sounds like revenge, but all it does is ravage your soul.

Living your life full and free, after the trauma you’ve been through. That’s a “take that” if ever I’ve heard one.

And it’s my prayer for you.

For more food for thought on the role of forgiveness in your healing journey, along with other topics from previous episodes, check out the food for thought tab on motherhoodunmasked.com.

Motherhoodunmasked.com is also where you’ll find resources to get you started on your healing journey and to sign up for my Mama Bare email so we can stay connected.

I send it out every two weeks, which is handy since this marks the last episode of season 6.

If you’re a regular you know the drill, but if you’re new here—first of all, welcome!

I take a break from the podcast about every 10 episodes to recharge and be present with my family.

And with my oldest graduating high school, there’s a lot going on!

But if you join my email list, you’ll enjoy behind-the-scenes fun and be the first to know when the new season starts.

Just go to motherhoodunmasked.com and click the Connect With Me button.

I know today’s topic is prickly and way more layered than I could speak to in our short time together, but I hope this episode encourages you to choose you and the freedom forgiveness offers.

And while it’s a start, this episode is no replacement for someone trained to help you process your traumatic childhood experiences and your path to forgiveness.


Thanks for joining me in taking a risk this season. I risked vulnerability to dive into a taboo topic in mom circles and you took the risk to listen and face the pain you locked away from childhood.

I’m proud of both of us.

And I’m excited for the reward you and your family will experience for generations, because you’re taking the risk to heal.

So until next time, please remember. When it comes to you being the mother of your children, you’re doing more than raising them, you’re leaving a legacy.

And no matter how messy your childhood or unqualified you feel, you are the woman for the job. So, keep becoming the best version of you. I’m rooting for you. Take care.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast should not be taken as medical advice. The content here is for informational purposes only, and because each person is so unique, please consult your health care professional for any medical questions.


Need Help to Heal?

Looking for a journal?

Journal from the Heart is a great every day journal with an encouraging verse or affirmation at the bottom of every page. If you’re working through any kind of loss, the journal, My Journey Through Grief and Loss, helps you acknowledge the significance of your loss while honoring the memories you’ll always cherish. And if you meet with a counselor or a coach, you need a journal to keep track of breakthroughs and aha moments in between sessions. A copy of the My Reflections Journal for guided post-session review would be perfect for you.

The Motherhood Unmasked Journal

A Journal Worth Your Story

160 pages waiting for you to fill it with the struggles and the wins on your motherhood journey!

And she’s pretty coming and going! Available on Amazon.

Got A Minute to Pray?

Got A Minute to Pray? Prayer channel on YouTube featuring prayers about a minute long written and read by Vanessa A. Harris.

New “PrayerTube” channel on YouTube

Features prayers about a minute long written and read by Vanessa. Start your week off right, with a prayer on Monday mornings. Because prayer changes things and you have a minute to spare.

Let’s Stay Connected

Do you know why I call you Mama BARE? Because you’re unmasked and unapologetic in admitting motherhood is tough, and you appreciate conversation that honors that.

So, connect with me for more support, empowering the best version of you as a mom.

For encouraging bi-monthly emails and exclusive access to practical resources that help YOU shine, tap “COUNT ME IN.”

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