“Forgiveness is like a muscle: When you practice on smaller things,
you gain the skill to deal with bigger ones.” -Fred Luskin
Think of someone you hold a grudge against, someone who has hurt you. Are you ready to forgive this person? What does forgiveness mean to you? What does forgiveness require from you?
Forgiveness is a shift in perception.
We change the way we look at a person and the situation that has caused us hurt and pain. It is a private choice, a process, even a way of life. Forgiveness is not only a gift you give others, you gift yourself as well.
My good friend Liz who lived across the street from me for several years began dating someone new. Her boyfriend came with his own group of friends, and she made it clear her new life didn’t include our friendship.
I cried buckets of tears. I vented to my spouse. Still frustrated, I went to our cottage with a large canvas, paints and brushes and painted my pain. I filled the canvas with gray hearts, split open with jagged edges. The background was black, red and yellow. I felt sad and empty.
I shoved the canvas in the back of a closet. Three years later, I came across the painting and realized the pain was gone.
Tucked in my heart were all the joyful and amazing memories we shared.
I knew Liz didn’t single me out for special punishment. Our story ended. We never know how long someone will be in our life. Therefore, it’s important to enjoy and appreciate every moment.
One exercise that helps me move on when a relationship ends, is to repeat the following blessing : “I bless you, I release you, I set you free. I allow you to be you and me to be me.” I find it simple, memorable and it repeat it as needed. Instead of reliving the pain, repeat the blessing.
Forgiving our parents isn’t easy, it takes strength, bravery and time. We do it when we’re ready. When we let go of the ones who hurt us, we also let go of the one who was hurt and broken. We give up that part of ourselves. We are no longer a victim. Sometimes we feel they’re getting away with something and we’re left to suffer. But as we grieve the losses of our childhood, we gain relief, peace and freedom.
Forgiveness isn’t for them. We don’t forgive to let others off the hook.
We forgive to be free from the endless cycle of pain and resentment that fuels the war within us. We forgive so we can fill our empty hearts with love. We forgive and gain our power back.
The deeper the hurt and betrayal, the deeper we sink into our grieving process and eventually move into forgiveness. Forgiving our parents can be difficult for some. The process may be long and hard.
Grieving has it’s own timing. It’s different for everyone. Honor your process. Treat yourself kindly and with gentleness and love. You may want to seek out the support of a therapist or grief counselor. I did.
Eventually, we have to let go of our stories.
Our story that we were unfairly treated or our parents were neglectful and abusive. Our story about our best friend who betrayed us and a boss that fired us. The stories are true. The feelings of being taken advantage of, hurt, betrayed and violated are real.
In order to release our story, it’s necessary to feel the profound pain, the sadness and the lonliness of the loss. We grieve the loss of the relationships that never were and never will be. And then we move on.
Whether you’re fogiving yourself or somebody else ask yourself, “What lessons can I learn from this? What insight can I take away?” We are all human. We all make mistakes. Always look for the lesson. Learn from it. Let go and grow. Go out and live your life to the fullest, don’t look back and don’t hold back.
What forgiveness isn’t:
Forgiveness isn’t condoning inappropriate behavior.
You don’t have to accept what another did in order to forgive.
It isn’t pretending everything is all right.
It doesn’t make us superior.
Forgiveness doesn’t stop you from making changes.
Forgiveness isn’t always reconciling with the offender.
When we choose to forgive:
We have happy hearts, healthy immune systems, less headaches and pain.
We release of the control another’s actions have over us.
We feel lovable and worthy.
We cleanse our heart from shame and guilt.
We release toxic feelings and grudges.
We mend our broken heart.
We free our energy.
We gain the freedom to love.
We transform our lives and relationships.
We increase your capacity for joy.
We are more peaceful, calm and confident.
We are emotionally and physically healthy.