One of the steps Arianna Huffington talks about in her book Thrive is to forgive yourself of all judgments of yourself and others. I believe that is one of the most powerful things you can do to advance yourself to a state of well-being, joy and enlightenment. It is also one of the most difficult for most people. Many who feel as though they've been hurt, wronged, or disappointed by others feel the need to condemn their offender eternally for the pain inflicted upon them. They have no idea how someone could betray them because they had invested so much faith and trust in that person. The pain of betrayal runs deep and the ability to forgive someone who has inflicted such pain feels monumental. So, we hold onto that pain and hurt, reliving it in our minds every chance we get and discussing it with anyone who will listen, over and over again. What we don't realize is the more we relive the event, the more energy we give it. Hence, the more we keep it alive. As we energize and continuously activate the pain, we impose more stress and unnecessary harm to our physical and emotional well-being. So, how do we learn to release the pain and free ourselves of these negative emotions so we can move on with our lives?
For most of us, it's not as simple as saying "I'm not going to think about that anymore" and be done with it. It's natural to think about what happened and discuss it, hopefully with an objective third party. However, in order to release it we have to ask ourselves some questions. Every experience, negative or positive provides an opportunity to learn. I believe we actually learn the most from our negative experiences if we allow ourselves to absorb the lesson. So, one of the first questions you should ask is: "How did I contribute to this experience"? I know it's difficult to feel like you contributed at all if you feel 100-percent right. However, you most likely played some part in it if no more than failing to set boundaries when necessary. Oftentimes we place too much trust in people without assessing whether or not they are worthy of our trust. As a result, we have expectations of them based on our values, not theirs. Chances are, your offender showed you their values many times and you ignored them because you were operating from your own set of values, expecting them to do the same. Then, when they do something overt to offend and hurt you, you're shocked and terribly hurt.
In any personal relationship, you have the power to control the extent to which you allow someone into your personal space. You have the ability to set boundaries and expectations. However, if your expectations are based on your values, then you must only allow people into your life with similar values. Its' incumbent upon you to determine when someone's values don't match your own. If you choose to accept the relationship anyway, then adjust your expectations accordingly. Failure to do so lays the groundwork for hurts and disappointments. It's important, though, not to harbor regrets when you fail to adjust your expectations to someone with different values. Just use that opportunity as a learning experience to understand your role. This will allow forgiveness to take place so much easier. Remember, forgiveness doesn't mean you think what that person did was okay. It just means that you've learned to let go of the pain and hurt they caused and you're moving on with your life. It also means you've learned a lesson from the experience and, in the future, become more cognizant of the behaviors you've overlooked in the past so you won't experience a repeat performance. Enlightenment begins where victimization ends. Releasing the past paves a huge path for not only your emotional health and spiritual enlightenment, it also stimulates physical health. Forgiveness is exactly what needs to be done in order for you to grow emotionally, physically and spiritually. This is a major component of joyful living.