‘Forgiving and letting go.’ I never thought much of the phrase until I started to actually practice the art of forgiveness. You see, there was a time when I held on to everything negative that was thrown at me (and I mean everything). I dealt with rejection, hurt feelings and disappointment by silently cutting people out of my life and holding on to every single negative emotion evoked by their words or actions.
It was only later in my life that I realized I was constantly using that hurt as justification for hurting others. It’s a vicious cycle for many of us. For every new relationship or friendship forged, we bring that baggage along with us, and it never leads to anything good. Paranoia – yes, bitterness – yep, but never anything positive. I spent a lot of my younger years acting like the world owed me something every time someone hurt me, and I totally missed out on some great relationships because I hadn’t yet learned the power of forgiveness.
Forgiving Others – For You
“Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.” – Jonathan Lockwood Huie
Let’s be honest, there are some people who certainly don’t deserve our forgiveness. They take and they take, until we have nothing left to give them. Some relationships/friendships can drain you of any positive energy you have left, so there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘peace out. More often than not though, we are left holding on to that leftover anger and resentment, sometimes allowing it to fester until it becomes bigger than us.
There have been a few instances in my life where I felt so hurt by someone close to me, I became consumed with trying to make them feel my pain. I became a victim of that hurt, tied to it because I just wouldn’t let it go. It was only years later that I realized the only person it was causing pain…was me.
Listen, I’m not saying forgiving is easy, it’s not. It is a process, one that forces us to reach deep inside and examine ourselves. But there is something about that anger that destroys a little piece of us each day we keep holding on to it. Yes, we can grieve a breakup or a broken friendship. We are allowed to feel sad. But we should never hold on to that bitterness. It becomes toxic after a while. It prevents us from truly opening up ourselves to someone and something better.
Forgiving Others – For Them
“He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.” – Thomas Fuller
Then there are times when we hold on to grudges for too long, forgetting that we too have caused pain. Listen, we are all human, and sometimes we say and do messed up human things to each other, unintentionally at times. We say things we shouldn’t say, or we don’t say the things we should – either way, it can be hurtful. What can I say? Sometimes we hurt the ones we love, but who among us hasn’t.
Giving someone you care about a second chance, whether it’s a family member or a close friend is not a sign of weakness. It’s called being gracious. In my angriest moments, I sometimes say things I wish I could take back. And I am always grateful when the person at the other end is willing to forgive me. Sometimes we do need to remember our human-ness.
Now please don’t get me wrong. By no means does this mean that I am an advocate for third, fourth and fifth chances (ummm no). Yes we can forgive and forget petty grievances, but at a certain point it’s okay to just forgive (for you), wish them well, and move on.
“Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.” – Maya Angelou
If you’ve read some of my previous posts, then you know I suffer from, and constantly struggle with anxiety. From childhood, I have been my own worst critic. You know that inner critical voice that sometimes shows up to tell you that you’re not good enough, or that you don’t deserve better? Yeah well she only got louder as I got older. I became a young adult afraid to step outside of my comfort zone because I didn’t think I could. Thankfully that changed somewhat, but my inner critical voice still whispers at times. It’s still a struggle.
In the past, I have blamed myself for thinking too little of myself (if that makes sense). I have also blamed myself for relationships/situationships that didn’t work out; jobs I didn’t get; friendships that have failed; people I have hurt and missed opportunities among a host of other things. It was only until I started seeing a therapist that I realized how much self-blame and regret had contributed to my anxiety. I’ll be honest, forgiving myself was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do, because I spent a lifetime being so self critical.
I constantly have to remind myself that at different periods of my life I was functioning the best way I knew how. That everything that didn’t work in my favor were lessons I needed to learn to get to this place. That even when I thought I wasn’t good enough, there were others who knew better, who held me up until I was able to see it for myself. That I am not perfect, nobody is, and it’s okay to be flawed. That even when I’m at my lowest, there will always be a way up.
Sometimes it takes forgiving ourselves to really liberate ourselves. Recently I received a message from someone I used to care a lot about. I stared at the message for a long time, wondering if I should even respond at all. I had been so angry at him in the past. There were so many (not nice) things I had planned to say to him if I heard from him again. Eventually I responded “I’m good, how are you?” The anger was no longer there, I had already let go of that mess and moved on. I had forgiven myself for thinking somehow I was the cause of his rejection. And I had forgiven him, not because he deserved it, but because I deserved it. And because I still had my best life to live.