Before I started to write this essay, I Googled the word "forgive". The first hit is a dictionary definition – "to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake." After that there are dozens of results that rave about the value of forgiveness. From faith-based websites to psychotherapy blogs, nearly all the results had something to say about the importance of forgiveness for healing. They promised me that it would improve my well-being. They assured me I was giving myself the gift of moving on.
None of this is new to me. I've sat through enough sermons, read many self-help books, and double-tapped plenty of social media posts that prescribed forgiveness as the cure for my trauma.
For a long time, I was convinced that if I could forgive the man who ruined my adolescence with his wandering hands, I would one day wake up okay.
So, I tried.
I searched my heart for forgiveness.
I argued with my anger. I whispered soothing words to my resentment.
I begged my bitterness to let me go.
But no matter how I tried to warm up to the idea of forgiving my abuser, my heart remained stone cold.
I concluded that if forgiveness was the answer, my inability to practice it could only mean that something was wrong with me. Because of that, instead of being able to fully acknowledge that my abuser had done a terrible thing, I questioned whether I was a good person because I couldn't forgive him. And when I found myself still struggling to get out of bed in the mornings or flying into a rage over the smallest inconveniences, I blamed myself for the symptoms of my unhealed traumas.
Fighting for forgiveness filled me with more anger, shame, self-doubt, and insecurity than my trauma already had.
No amount of therapy and morning meditation was able to fully pull me out of the tailspin I'd spiral into every time I realized forgiveness just wasn't going to come.
My story changed the day I learned that the road to healing does not always need to be paved with forgiveness. I had a new therapist, and in one of our first sessions, I told her I had been trying and failing for years to forgive my abuser.
She told me, "You don't have to."
I didn't know what to do with that answer. My whole body felt frozen while those words bounced around inside my head like a ping pong ball. They bumped into every reason I had ever been given for forgiveness. Those reasons that had seemed so concrete shattered like glass.
I didn't have to forgive him.
So, I didn't. Instead, I asked to meet with him, and when I came face-to-face with the man who had spent nearly a decade abusing me, I told him that if he ever received absolution for his sins, it would not come from me. I told him he would die without my forgiveness. And for the first time in 14 years, I no longer felt like my trauma was bigger than everything else in my life.
Because I discovered that my heart was big enough and strong enough to carry both the righteous indignation I felt about my abuse and the genuine happiness I had found despite what happened to me. I finally understood that forgiveness felt impossible because it wasn't meant to happen. That idea went against everything I'd ever been taught, and it contradicted so many beliefs I held about life and healing and myself. But the weight that lifted off my shoulders in the moment that I decided not to forgive told me I had made the right choice.
And that's the thing no one tells you about forgiveness…it's a choice. We get to decide if we will extend forgiveness or withhold it.
Because when we are wronged, no one else can measure what crosses our threshold of unforgivable, and only we can decide if forgiveness will help or hurt. We can choose to forgive the man on the subway who steps on our toes but not the partner who betrayed our trust. We can offer our forgiveness to the friends who didn't show up when we needed them but not to the abuser who stole our innocence.
Because sometimes, forgiveness doesn't come no matter how hard you try. And that's okay. You don't have to. It's not the only way to heal.
If you or someone you love is affected or has been affected by sexual abuse or assault and is in need of help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
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- Why you don't “need” or “have to” forgive anyone if you don't want or ›
- Why Sometimes It's Better to Just Move On and Not Forgive. ›
- Why Being Unable To Forgive Makes You Smart, Not Weak ›
- This Is What You Need To Remember When Someone Chooses Not ... ›
- Why I Reject Forgiveness Culture – STIR Journal ›
- When You Should and Should Not Forgive | Psychology Today ›
- Why Forgiveness is Overrated — Becoming Who You Are ›
- 6 Reasons Not to Forgive, Not Yet | Psychology Today ›
- Why It's Not Always Good to Forgive - The New York Times ›
Talia Leacock-Campbell is a self-care enthusiast, soca baby, and hopeless romantic whose longest love affair has been with the written word. She's spun that last passion into a full-time career as founder and chief creative wordsmith of Word Count Creative, a boutique content agency that helps small businesses and entrepreneurs speak right to the hearts of their audiences. Find her online @talialeacock.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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Feature image by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Religion of Sports