Welcome to 2020! In the spirit of starting anew, making change and having an enlightened and fulfilling decade, I thought it was a great time to write about forgiveness.
Forgiveness is often a key component in starting over. Whether you are forgiving yourself, your partner, a friend, colleague or your children. So often we hold onto anger, resentment and general upset in order to punish ourselves (feel guilty) or to punish someone else. We feel that if we forgive them, they get away with what they have done and they’ll easily do it again. What we don’t recognize too often, is that when we refuse to forgive and we choose to hold on, we stay stuck. We continue to beat ourselves up or we hold onto anger and only negatively impact our own mental and physical health. Have you ever heard the saying “When we hold onto anger, it’s like drinking poising and thinking the other person is going to die”? It’s the same concept here.
What is forgiveness and how do we do it? Forgiveness is an intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense and lets go of negative emotions such as resentment and anger. Forgiveness only needs to involve one person. I often tell my clients “Sometimes we need to accept the apology we will never receive” meaning often times, we are given the extremely hard job to forgive someone who hasn’t asked for it and who possibly doesn’t even care if they receive it. We need to forgive for ourselves and our own happiness. Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is not allowing someone to get away with something. Forgiveness is your own work of processing, understanding and letting go.
How can we do this? How can we forgive someone who has possibly done something so traumatizing and life changing that is feels like you will always carry around that pain? We dig deep for understanding. Sometimes we have people in our life who repeatedly do hurtful things despite us verbally expressing to them how we are affected. You may need to reevaluate those relationships. By that I mean, you may need to end those relationships. If your children are the ones who you are struggling to forgive, stop telling yourself that they are intentionally trying to bother or hurt you. Let that go. Stop putting yourself in a victim role in a situation that doesn’t make sense. Your 3, 5 or 10 year old’s ego is driving their behavior and it has nothing to do with you. Remind yourself of that so you can forgive them and move on.
If you have been severely hurt by someone in your past and are still holding onto it and don’t know how to move through it and beyond, here are some ideas. First, set the intention of forgiving. It is no longer your intention to be angry or to punish. You are going to forgive someone who possibly doesn’t even deserve it. You are going to do this for you, not them. You are going to start understanding why that person did what they did to you. Is it because they were hurt themselves as a child? Did they grow up in a chaotic, abusive or volatile situation? People are not born bad. Their childhoods are often the reason as to why someone turns out the way they have. Once you find some understanding, it makes it so much easier to forgive them and let go.
Practicing daily forgiveness of yourself and others around you will make it easier to forgive and let go when something bigger arises. Forgive the rude waiter who is probably stressed and worried about something of their own. Forgive your partner when they use a tone you don’t love and understand it was probably just an error. Most importantly, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for not being the perfect parent today. Forgive yourself for not working out, for accidentally hurting someone with the words you said, forgive yourself for not doing all the things on your to-do list. Let it go. Start again tomorrow.
Here’s to a new decade. With love and light.
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