Now here’s a question (or few) for you…why is that people forgive? And, what purpose does it serve? Perhaps more importantly, what IS forgiveness?
If you’re as confused as I was when first pondering this question, let’s think about the other side of the fence for a moment. When you have someone or something in your life that you feel unable to forgive, you’ll most likely be harbouring feelings of anger and resentment, maybe even hatred – a marvellously toxic combination of emotions.
For some reason, we think that feeling this way is a punishment to that person. BUT IT’S NOT. It doesn’t serve you, and it doesn’t hurt them. You can’t inject other people with your feelings. While you’re stewing away replaying the wrongs they did to you, IT IS ONLY YOU who feels that. And as long as you refuse to forgive, you may as well be sipping from the poison cup and hoping that they will be the one to die.
Making the decision to forgive
When we decide to forgive, we release our attachment to these emotions. We are saying “I no longer engage in these feelings towards you.” But notice the keyword there. FEELINGS. Not behaviours, but feelings.
The interesting thing about forgiveness is that we treat it as though we’re doing the other person a favour. We look at it with a sense of “I’m doing this for YOU”. But since when has it ever been about the other person? How does that person really benefit? Forgiveness is not about saying ‘What you did was okay’ or ‘I want you back in my life.’ Forgiveness is about changing how YOU FEEL INSIDE.
Despite thinking I had reached near-levels of perfection (jokes), I recently realised I had been, obliviously, holding on to some old relationships from my past. I was going about my day, and then it hit me; “Wow, now that is impressive… that’s a whole bunch of crap to be carrying around with you.’ Excellent work Lauren, well done.
But here’s the thing. Hanging on to resentment, will never achieve anything. And when I realised this, that’s when I decided to stop. There and then. Enough was enough. And…well… that was a life-changing moment.
Letting go of resentment
Let’s say my friend John comes up to me and slaps me hard in the face one day. I could decide to invest all my time and energy into feeling angry towards John because he hurt me. But the thing is, that’s not useful. There’s also the point that he is no longer hurting me. The slap is over. It’s done and dusted. Clinging onto that, and using that event as a way of generating anger is completely pointless. I’m not hurting anymore. And if I am, it’s because I am living in the past. The slap only hurts when I live in the past. I don’t need to go back there.
Crappy things happens in life and we can’t change the way things go sometimes. But we can change how we respond. Thoughts create our feelings and as long as we are harbouring crappy thoughts, we’re generating toxic emotions that only serve to hurt us.
Catching your thoughts and training your brain
So, what is it that you are thinking or believing about this person? What are the common thought processes that come up for you? If we interrupt the thought, we interrupt the emotion. So, when you’ve found the sneaky little trickster that is keeping you stuck, honestly ask yourself “Is this thought useful?”, “Is it serving me in any way?” The answer will almost certainly be ‘no’.
Now it’s time to do something different. What would be a more useful thought to have about this person or situation? Choose what works for you and go with it. Yes there may be bumps along the way but if you keep bringing your brain back to that new thought every time you notice a slip, you will get there.
The power of expression
Sometimes we need to be able to express ourselves freely before we can truly let go. If there is someone in your life who is keeping you stuck – write them a letter. Get it ALL out. Tell them everything they need to hear. Everything. And notice how that weight lifts. That’s you clearing your psychological and emotional space right there.
When you’re done and you’ve said everything you need to say, get creative. Pop it in an unaddressed envelope and send it to the land of nowhere. Maybe burn it and watch all that negativity turn to dust. Whatever you do, allow yourself to use this as the final moment of revisiting that person, that situation, that hurt. And then let go.
So now’s your time. Choose to do something different. Find the thought that is keeping you stuck and make the decision today – release anything that is holding you back and decide to move forwards with your life.