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by Abigail Van Buren

Forgiving Those Who've Hurt Us Is Gift We Give Ourselves

DEAR ABBY: "The One Left Behind in Oregon" (Nov. 16) was disowned by her parents and brother after leaving her abusive husband. She asked how to forgive her father now that he is dying. You told her she didn't have to because he did not ask for forgiveness. I disagree. If she doesn't do it, she will be the one to suffer.

As a recovery counselor, I work with people to help them forgive those who had hurt them -- whether or not the offenders deserved to be forgiven. Why? Because resentment hurts the resenter far more than it hurts the offender. Grudges are cancers in our souls. Forgiveness isn't a gift we give to others, but a gift we give ourselves.

It is especially important for "Left Behind" to see her father now as a way to prevent any regrets she may have in the future. If he's still hostile on his deathbed, that's an issue he'll carry to the grave. -- KATHERINE IN CHILLICOTHE, OHIO

DEAR KATHERINE: Many readers echoed your sentiments and offered a different perspective for "Left Behind" to consider. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I had an alcoholic father who beat us, then left us never to return. I was angry for years until I realized I was hurting no one but myself. He never asked, but I forgave him so I wouldn't carry anger around for the rest of my life. I wrote him a letter and told him I forgave him for all the beatings and drunken rages. He never responded, but I felt a burden lifted off my shoulders.

"Left Behind" might consider writing her father a letter saying how hurt she has been, but letting him know she has forgiven him. She might be surprised and get a response back, but if she doesn't, at least she'll be rid of that burden. -- FORGAVE HIM IN DAPHNE, ALA.

DEAR ABBY: My family members also sided with my abusive ex-spouse. At first it hurt, but over time I came to realize that not forgiving them was hurting me more than them. I'm not saying I have the same relationship with my family now, but in order to truly move on with my life I had to clear my heart and mind. Forgiveness is not only for the offenders as much as it is for the offended. Forgive your father even if he doesn't ask for it, and see him before it's too late. If he sends you away, at least you tried. -- HAVE ALSO BEEN THERE

DEAR ABBY: To forgive someone is a decision to let go of the hatred, hurt and resentment even when the other person doesn't deserve it or ask for it. When we can do this, the terrible deed loses its hold on our lives. Forgiveness is an act of strength, not weakness. It is healthy for us. -- A.Q. IN MOBILE, ALA.

DEAR ABBY: I was in a similar position as "Left Behind" with my mother many years ago. Although I couldn't bear to talk to her face-to-face, I wrote a letter saying a few positive things about our relationship. She never spoke of it to me, but I learned later from another relative that she read it over and over and that it was in her hands when she died. Knowing that I made the best effort I could to say goodbye in a compassionate and loving way has lasted far longer than the hurt and anger. -- ANNA IN CORTLAND, ILL.

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