Let’s Be Honest – The Beautiful Art of Forgiveness
Has anyone ever done anything that has hurt you – from the heinous to the benign- that has led you to carry around a resentment with you? Me too. I mean, who doesn’t hold some sort of grudge in these modern times? What with our swift social media responses, abuse epidemic and disconnection from each other, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who is (as they say) resentment-free since ’93. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have stiffened my heart against someone who has hurt me; I believe that our human instinct against emotional suffering often kicks in automatically when we feel that we have been wronged.
The problem with stiff hearts and resentments is the amount of space they occupy in our bodies, minds and souls. And perhaps, more accurately, is the kind of space that they take up, or how they do it – with clutter, heaviness and pain. I believe that if we wish to live a life of emotional freedom, we must begin to learn the beautiful art of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is, I often muse, the most mistaken concept there is. We often learn about forgiveness as children, with our tiny friends. In these circumstances, someone pulled our hair or pushed us, and the remedy was “forgive your brother”. At these tender ages, we began to formulate that forgiveness meant saying, “OK, that’s fine, don’t do it again”. However, as we age, we are no longer carrying around resentments about pulling our hair or taking our toys. Our anger and hurts come from big problems like divorce, abuse, trauma, broken friendships, addiction. Are we supposed to forgive that?
Here is where I want to explain the concept and act of forgiveness. Forgiveness is release. It is release of anger, resentments and the wish for vengeance. It is a deliberate act and process that you do, not to “OK” the actions of the other person, but to “OK” the inner workings of your soul. It is all about you and not the other person. Forgiveness is the act of releasing the wish that the past could have been any other way. It is about changing our “story” around and turning it into one of compassion for self, survival and resilience. It is in taking our power back and releasing the hatred for the other.
I think that forgiveness is so often misunderstood that we ought to just re-name the whole thing entirely. Yet, calling it as it is now demands that we are willing to renegotiate our relationship with the term. I am a trauma therapist and trauma survivor, so I believe with a full heart that when we are abused, victimized or perpetrated against, we deserve to hold those who have crushed us to account. I believe in doing what we need to with these situations -whether that be all the way to the courts or in not pursuing legal action as it would just be too re-traumatizing.
However, even in these situations, the act of deliberate release sets us free. It is hard for me to think about forgiving my ex-husband in the traditional sense, however I can release those feelings of hatred and spite in place of something more soothing that also celebrates my own survival and resilience. That clears up space and helps me to place myself as the chief executor in my own life. It puts the power back into my hands. It allows me to remember that even though awful things happened, I survived them and I am free.
My wish for you is that during this month of love, you are able to pick a situation that has hardened your heart and you can begin to practice the decision and process of release. Fill yourself up with the good stuff, the compassion, the healing. Learn to soothe yourself and regulate your nervous system. Go gently and lovingly into your soul. You deserve peace.
May you be happy.