- stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forgive David for the way he treated her”
Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which one who may initially feel “victimized,” undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding a given offense and overcomes negative emotions such as resentment and vengeance.
Things happen, people say bad things, do bad things, hurt our feelings, call us names, take sides, or take advantage. We are all flawed humans, we make mistakes. We also do hurtful things to one another, and we think and say terrible things about one another, we hurt each other physically, emotionally and mentally.
Too often we carry that hurt around with us long past the expiration date, we keep the wound alive and then we dwell on it, we relive the pain in our minds, our hearts, even our bodies. We carry the anger, the pain, the consequences of that hurt with us forever. Then We hold the people who hurt us in the same box they were in the moment they hurts us and we go back to that box over and over again and remind ourselves of why we hate that person and why we are still angry. We humans are great at ruminating on the past and holding as if it were still alive.
What we do not realize is that hate and anger, that vitriol that we are holding on to, is only killing us. Over and over again we drag the past into our present moment, and it robs us of the joy of being alive. What is even worse, the past is also creating our future because everything we do is tainted by that which we drag along. It is like swallowing a poison pill and hoping it will kill the other person.
I belonged to an international mastermind group and we would meet every year in Kona Hawaii at the Hapuna Prince Hotel. I remember sitting out on Turtle Point in a circle enjoying the shade the lovely breeze and the sound of the ocean. This was the year I was there to work on forgiveness. It had become clear to me that I was carrying around too much anger and unforgiveness for me to move forward successfully in my life.
I went for beach walks every single day with a different member and I would ask them this questions, What are the steps that lead to forgiveness, how do I do it? You see I wanted a check list so I could go down it and then be able to say I forgave! Soon it was my turn in the center seat and I started to discuss the issue and the people I needed to forgive for all the bullshit mean things they had done to me. What horrible people they were and how I had been hurt and wronged, but now I was going to forgive them, as if I was doing them a favor, but I just could not figure out how to do it. I kept saying I forgive them but I kept feeling angry.
I asked the group if they could help me create the steps so I could get this done. My breakthrough and break down came when someone I have high respect for said the following:
“You are more committed to you being right and them being wrong than you are to forgiving them and until you can let go of that you are not ready to forgive anyone.”
Needless to say, I spent the next 5 days working through this process and it was painful but here is what I learned about forgiving:
- First forgive yourself for anything and everything that you may have in your heart and mind.
- Let go of the story of the past, it cannot be anything different than it was.
- Understand that forgiveness is a moment to moment, day to day activity. Pain and hurt will arise, let it go and forgive again.
- Stop making yourself right and others wrong.
- Forgiving is an act of kindness to yourself.
- Forgiving is not condoning the actions, it is the releasing of the anger you are holding.
This is not easy, and it is not a one and done activity. It is a process that takes time and intention. But the reward is freedom! Freedom to create a life of your choosing, of peace within and of a new way of being in the world.