Every one of us walks through life a little wounded. We have all had experiences that left us feeling as though we were robbed of something, or negatively changed in some way. For some of us, those experiences were unthinkably sinister, or at the very least, just plain nasty. It doesn’t matter if your experience was worse than someone else’s, or if you feel you are justified in holding onto anger and resentment. What matters is that you give yourself the opportunity to move forward in a healthy way and focus on thoughts and emotions that serve you. Negativity never serves you very well.
I sometimes meet people who have been holding onto anger and resentment for most of their lives and consequently, have a myriad of physical and mental health issues. In many ways, they deny themselves the opportunity to have healthy relationships and live a fulfilling life. A shift in perspective allows people to let go, so I will attempt to support that shift in this blog.
The most misunderstood thought around forgiveness is that it in some way sets the offender free.
Forgiveness is not about being okay with the offending behaviour.
It does not give permission to the other person to reoffend and it is not an acceptance of the excuses offered by the offender. It is simply an unwillingness to allow the past to colour your present. Remember, you get to choose your thoughts and emotions around every single circumstance in your life. Resentment is disempowering. Forgiveness allows you to get on with your life in a productive way.
Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness.
Forgiving someone does not make you a doormat or a weak person in any way. There is probably nothing more empowering than being able to say that you have made a choice to not let your past experiences define you. In doing so, you get to define who you are, what you are, how you are and what you stand for. You get to stand tall and move forward without the past coming back to haunt you, because the buck stops with you.
You have to make peace with things you cannot change.
There is always something positive to glean from your experiences if you take time to reflect without judgement.
There are many things in life that we cannot control or change, so we must make peace with them. I can tell you from my personal experience, that I can fully see how those who have transgressed against me have shaped my future in a positive way. The trials of my earlier relationships set me on a path that has led me to where I am today, helping people and inspiring them to change the way they think so they can live a more fulfilling life. I feel like I have been called to do this work, but I would not have anything to offer without those experiences. Nevertheless, it could have gone the other way. I could have allowed myself to be consumed with anger and resentment, and I’ll admit that for a while, I was, but I learned to let it go. I learned to look for the wisdom behind my experiences. There is always something positive to glean from your experiences if you take time to reflect without judgement. My reflection taught me the value of being true to myself and of being kind in my thoughts and emotions about my life. My journey continues to offer me a variety of experiences to appreciate, even if they are sometimes uncomfortable.
People seldom reflect on the effect bad behaviour has on the transgressor.
The worst transgressors are usually good at manipulating the truth to support a more positive public image. Those who deliberately bring harm to you have a reputation to protect, after all. They need to weave a story that downplays their actions, makes them look innocent in some way, or that makes you look deserving of the bad behaviour. There will always be people who believe them, but what’s interesting is that they ultimately created a situation where they have to be afraid of you. Suddenly, they have to control relationships and wonder who you told and what you said. That’s one side of the problem they created for themselves. The other is that as they watch you live through the repercussions of their actions, there is a certain emotional burden they must deal with if they have any conscience at all. Either way, they created an emotional hell for themselves. In this way they unwittingly give power back to their victims.
Think of all the drunk drivers who have killed people, the wife beaters, rapists, child molesters, con artists and such. You cannot feel sorry for them, but boy do they have an emotional burden to live with. Imagine the self-contempt they wake up with and try to hide from the world. That’s the thought that will allow you to take a step back and rethink your decision to go through life as a victim. It’s a beginning, anyway, but you really don’t want to go through life with some sense of smug satisfaction, either.
Moving past all of it means focusing on your own well-being, not your misery or victimhood.
Forgiveness is the only antidote for the poison brought to you by someone’s foul behaviour. Try to become more aware of your thoughts, your mood, and your corresponding emotions. Focus on feeling good about yourself, loving who you are, not defining yourself by your experiences or diagnoses. Focus on changing the talk in your head. Your thoughts are yours. They will either imprison you or free you. You get to choose. I chose happiness and freedom a long time ago and it’s been great for me ever since. I think everyone should make that choice no matter what happens to them.