What an easy word to say. What a hard thing to do. I think this is something we all struggle with at times in our life. While we may easily recognize the need to forgive others we often overlook the need to forgive ourselves. How many times are we holding on to past issues because we just wanted a different outcome? How many times do you replay something that happened in your brain? Perhaps it is because we are hoping to have a different outcome that actually occurred. Perhaps we want the others involved to suddenly get an AHA moment and change the trajectory of the event. I read a quote the other day that really spoke to me by Lily Tomlin that went something like this….. Forgiveness is giving up on hope for a better past. Read that again.
Forgiveness is not about saying the other person was right. It’s not about telling the other person they are forgiven and it doesn’t mean you won’t have feelings about the situation. Forgiveness just acknowledges the reality of the situation. It’s about taking back our own power so regardless of what the situation was, what was done or said we can move on with our lives. It’s not for them, it’s for you.
When we hold onto past hurts it only hurts ourselves. Don’t believe me? Take two seconds and stop and think about a past hurt that someone has done. Hold onto that thought and tune into where it is affecting you in your body. This is where the hurt is hiding. I am a big believer in the manifestation of emotional issues as physical symptoms. When we bury it and let it fester it comes out sideways as medical issues. There are whole books about how your physical symptoms are tied to your thoughts. Now, unfortunately, in the same realization that hurt is hiding in our body as a true symptom become aware that this hurt is not manifesting in the other person/persons body. Often they are oblivious of the pain they caused you or seemingly don’t care if they did. They aren’t holding onto your event the same way you are. So, who is the event hurting? You! The analogy I often hear is unforgiveness is like drinking poison and thinking it will affect the other person. Hmmm.. let that sink in.
If you are struggling to forgive someone please READ ON
When we are hurt it is soooooo hard to find a landing place to let it go. This is why I just don’t like those words let it go. It implies that it’s super easy, just turn your back and never think of it again. Right. That’s a rare trait to be able to do that and I applaud you if you can. For the rest of us we need a forgiveness toolbox because every situation will require a different approach.
I am going to tell you straight up that this is something that is a work in progress with me. Just when I think I have landed something else pops up so I am not an expert, just a fellow human struggling with the same issues as you are. Here are a few tools in my toolbox that I have found useful. The majority of these have come from Wayne Dyer who has some really good suggestions so I give him full credit.
- Try to find a place of compassion for the other person. What people say, do or don’t do is about them. Not you. They are the ones that are responsible for their actions, not you. We can’t change them. They have to live knowing they hurt you to the core (even though they may not admit it, deep down I suspect they know).
- Be kind instead of right. Wayne Dyer said it so well that if others are behaving “badly” in the world and if you are filled with anger about all those issues then maybe that is one more person contributing to the pollution of anger. Said another way, forgiveness may require releasing your attachment to being right (even though you might just be).
- Let go of resentments. When you hold onto something that only allows the other person to remain “alive and thrive” in you. It takes love, kindness and forgiveness to move that event out of your body. A tip Wayne gives is to practice giving to other people which fills up that void with positive acts.
- Lean into the pain. When we are stuck with blaming others, we are not taking the opportunity to really focus on how it is affecting ourselves. We know we are hurting but by being focused on what that person did/said we are not focusing on how we feel. We cannot understand the other persons actions. Blaming is a part of this – that also means not blaming yourself….I should have, could have. You know the drill. Nobody has the power to make you feel bad without your consent and when you work on actually experiencing your emotions without calling them wrong or blaming someone else or ourselves you are one step closer to taking back your own power. You are changing the way you perceive others and hopefully realize only you have the power over yourself.
- Acknowledge the growth you have experienced as a result of the incident. Maybe you learned something about your needs or your boundaries. What is important to you? Sometimes is takes our own life experiences to behave differently. For example, you don’t really understand how much it means to have a meal brought to you by a friend until you go thru surgery/chemo/etc yourself. Maybe you brushed it off before but when the table was turned you realized how special it was to be thought of. There are so many instances I can’t begin to touch on all of them so take a moment to think about what you learned and how you are going to apply it in your friendships.
- Write a letter in a notebook to that person and get out every little bit that is bothering you. Don’t hold anything back. Then rip out that letter and tear it up, shred it or burn it. Feel the release of all that letter held.
- Seek help. There are some things that happen that are just too difficult to sort through on your own. Sexual assaults & trauma are very difficult to move through but it can be done with the right help. Explore counseling, biofeedback as well as tapping.
Obviously, there are many more approaches. There are numerous biblical references available on this topic so if that speaks to you please explore these. I hope just knowing that there are many people who struggle with this, too will help you not bury it deep inside only to come out as an illness later on.
To your health,