What Can a Rap Star Teach Us About Forgiveness?

Controversial rap star, Eminem, has primarily been known for his angry, rebellious, and epithet-filled songs.  However, he seems to be showing a softer, gentler and more evolved part of himself lately.  On Yahoo! Music yesterday, Billy Johnson, Jr. posted an article about Eminem’s recently released song, “Headlights”.  Apparently, Eminem wrote it as “a mature, sincere apology to his mom, Debbie Mathers.”  The title refers to the last time Eminem met with his mom.  As she was driving away, Eminem focused on her car’s headlights, as he felt “this overwhelming sadness come over me.”  At this moment, he and his mom are still estranged.

In the “Headlights” lyrics, Eminem addresses his regret over previous songs he wrote as verbal attacks against his mom, specifically the one entitled, “Cleaning Out My Closet”.    He talks about how he “never meant that far to take it though, cause now I know it’s not your fault”.  He goes on to say, “That song I no longer play at shows and I cringe every time it’s on the radio.”

While the “Headlights” lyrics still contain Eminem’s signature epithets, they are undoubtedly heartfelt, as well as heartbreaking.  As I read through the lyrics, I realized that Eminem has several things to teach us about forgiveness.  These lessons include:

1.  Forgiveness cannot be forced or rushed.

When Eminem wrote his “Cleaning Out the Closet” song back in 2002, he was neither ready nor willing to ask for forgiveness from his mom.  More than a decade later, Eminem has gained enough insight about himself, his mom, and life in general, to be able to apologize to his mom for the hurt he has caused her.  Only time will tell whether his mom will be ready and willing to accept his apology  — and to also apologize for the hurt she has caused HIM.

2.  Compassion goes a long way toward forgiveness.

Dictionary.com defines “compassion” as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”  It is a sense of not only being able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes when they are going through hard times, but also wanting to help them overcome those hard times.

In the “Headlights” lyrics, Eminem tells his mom, “you did your best to raise us”, and “that cross you bear, few may be heavy as yours”.  He goes on to say, “I didn’t get the chance to thank you for being my Mom and my Dad.”    It is evident by these words that Eminem feels compassion for his mom, and all the life challenges she had to face.   It seems that his compassion has enabled him to apologize and ask for forgiveness from his mom.

3.  It only takes one person to initiate the path toward forgiveness.

Presumably, Eminem has waited most of his life for his mom to apologize to him for all the hurt she has caused him.  He is now at the point where he no longer needs or wants to wait any longer to receive her apology.  Instead, he is focusing on how he has contributed to their estranged relationship, and what HE needs to apologize to her for.  Because Eminem has taken the courageous step of making the first move toward reconciliation, he has opened up the opportunity for his mom to re-connect with him Learn More.  Whether or not his mom chooses to accept that opportunity remains to be seen  —  but Eminem is doing his part to facilitate their reconciliation.

4.  Forgiveness is ultimately for our OWN good.

Toward the end of the “Headlights” song, Eminem tells his mom, “Please accept this as a tribute I wrote this on the jet; I guess I had to get this off my chest; I hope I get the chance to lay it before I’m dead.”  He then says, “If the plane goes down, and if the crew can’t wake me up, just know that I was alright, and I was not afraid to die.”

These lyrics indicate Eminem’s desire to make peace with his mom before he dies.  It seems that he wants to stop carrying the burden of all the pain from his past, and move forward to wherever life will lead him next.  So, regardless of whether or not Eminem’s mom ever accepts his apology and reconciles with him, Eminem can find comfort and peace of mind in knowing that he is doing what he can to help both him and his mom move forward, toward healthier and happier lives.

There may be times in your life when you find it difficult to forgive someone who has hurt you.  Those are the times when it may be a good idea to talk with a licensed family counselor, who can help you figure out how to find your path toward forgiveness  —  and toward a healthier and happier life.

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