Forgive and forget, as the old saying goes. The alliteral advice, doesn’t sit well with most folks. For some reason the idea of completely letting go is unsettling to most people. Why? Why are we resisting forgiveness so much in our lives?
This resistance to forgive, to me, illustrates a buried resentment. To not forgive, is to hold resentment and scorn for another. All of those negative energies and emotions, stew deep in our hearts and guts. The longer we hold onto the resentment, the more toxic it becomes. Permeating into our very essence, creating significant dis-ease and suffering.
We hold onto all of this toxicity, and for what? By not forgiving our persecutors, we are only creating that disharmony within ourselves. We are only perpetuating our own misery, by holding on. They do not benefit, nor do they suffer, as a result of your forgiveness. To them- it doesn’t really matter either way. If they intentionally harmed you, you are playing into their victory by continuing to live in that story.
One of my favorite metaphors for resentments comes from Debbie Ford, she describes resentments as stringed hooks. When you don’t forgive another, you are keeping an emotional hook stuck to them. The more resentments you hold, the more string and hooks pulling you and your emotional well-being along.
Here’s my process on forgiveness, and I am sharing it in hopes that can illuminate how you interact with forgiveness in the future.
- Chill out. Breathe- take some time and space away from the situation. This is a good time to practice being mindful of your emotions. Breathe through them, and just let them be exactly as they are. Get back to your center, however you need to.
- Take responsibility for my reaction to the situation- We can not control how others treat us, we can only control our reaction. We are creators of our own reality, and with few exceptions this is a tough reality to accept at times. You can always be better and there is always a lesson to learn. Your happiness depends on you taking responsibility for your circumstances, and willingness to change. Feeling stuck? Ask yourself: How did I contribute to this situation? Where was I acting out of reaction? How could I have handeled this differently?
- Try on a different perspective– Empathy. Once you’ve taken responsibility for the part you’ve played, it becomes a little easier to understand their perspective.
- Apologize for your part– If you feel the need to share and process with the other person (and the time is right) apologize. I challenge you to ignore the urge to tell the other that you forgive them, unless it would legitamatley be of benefit to them. So often we feel the need to share our forgiveness work, and in doing so you are still playing into that resentment, and needing to be “right”. We remove our victimhood, and in turn are gifted empowerment to move.
- Let go!– Move on. This doesn’t mean that you and this person are now best friends, but operating from a place of peace in the present moment and not feeding stories of the past.
To forgive is to let go, is to detach and surrender. Which is truly peace. To forgive means to consciously commit to your own tranquility. It means committing to honoring that peace, above all else including your need to be vindicated. Don’t let anyone, infringe on your peace.