Have you ever tried to be happy, yet something just irked you under the surface -- a feeling that you had not been seen, appreciated, loved? Or even worse, a feeling of betrayal, total loss of trust or even violation? What can be done? The way out is forgiveness. Let's make something clear from the get go. It's not about saying that what happened to hurt you was OK -- it was not. It's about adjusting your outlook and the way you deal with a situation so that it does not entrap you, keeping you stuck in anger, sadness or frustration for years to come. Your forgiveness opens the door to your own freedom. A quote I love is, "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." -- Louis B. Smedes.
Dr. Fred Luskin of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project defines forgiveness as "the feeling of peace that emerges as you take your hurt less personally, take responsibility for how you feel and become a hero instead of a victim in the story that you tell. Forgiveness is the experience of peacefulness in the present moment."
My parents are getting older, and I find that long-buried feelings like "Why couldn't they be the perfect parents I had wished for?" coming to the forefront of my mind. I thought that I had dealt with this sticky stuff long ago -- what's up? Hey, I know I should feel happy to even have parents who possess several amazing qualities and who are still here! I also know the drill: Everyone is human and does the best they can with the knowledge they have. Yet these feelings of irritation and sadness still arise. So I am trying to write this to learn to forgive, to let go and create more mental space in my life. More room for happiness! Here's what I've found:
Forgiveness is not:
• Accepting unkindness
•Forgetting that something painful happened
•Excusing poor behavior
•Minimizing or denying your hurt
•Making it your fault
•A call to give up your feelings
•The peace you feel when you let go of your grievance story
•About having compassion for yourself and your situation
•About you and your healing, not about the person who hurt you
•Taking responsibility for how you feel right now
•Finding a way to become the hero in your story rather than the victim
•Taking back your power and moving forward toward your dreams
You do not have to reconcile with someone who hurt you, but rather consider making a decision that blame or hurt will not dominate your thoughts or the experiences that grow from them. Anger begets anger. Self-pity can turn into despair. When these emotions become dominant, they take over valuable real estate within you that could be used to channel your awesomeness, creativity and talents. Imagine a body filled with emotions. How much space is anger taking? Anyone full of anger or bitterness has less room for the good stuff, like love and gratitude.
Some questions can help put things into a new perspective. How did you become
stronger as a result of your experiences? What lessons did you learn along the way? Do you really want to have all your energy entrapped in the past, or can you feel the painful emotion, observe it and realize that you no longer need it? It does not have to define you. You are much more than your emotions. Then, can you let it go?
The next step, of course, is to be grateful for the lessons learned. The idea is to have compassion that as people, everyone struggles -- that's the human condition. At that level, your worst enemy becomes your greatest teacher. That's the graduate course. We all have to get through the basics first.
Tonight I will write a letter to my parents, which I will never give them. It will cover what I have discovered through the years, and how I have become a stronger person as a result. From frustration, I have learned patience. From longing for a mentor, I am learning to mentor others, and so on. It should be fascinating, and I am excited about what will emerge. It may not change the dynamics of our relationship; that's not the goal. The idea is that it may very well shift something in me, perhaps to a feeling of spaciousness so I can savor even more deeply all that is good, inspiring and wonderful in life. Forgiveness can be a pathway to personal freedom... I invite you to explore it too.
Have you forgiven someone recently or would you like to? What is on your mind?
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