Forgiving seems like the hardest thing that we can do sometimes, however it’s one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.
Lack of forgiveness is an emotional state of mind that keeps us bound and chained to memories of the pain, hurt, anger, disappointment, hatred, and other negative emotions caused by someone. We can also have these feelings towards people, an institution, a whole race of people and much more.
When we hang on to the pain, anger, hurt, disappointment of things or people for days, months, years, decades, what are we really hanging on to? Is it that somehow we feel a strange sweetness knowing that at least we feel something? Do we derive pleasure after a while from knowing or telling ourselves that someone, something, people deserve to suffer and somehow we project this energy hoping they really do? Or are we actually hoping that these feelings will one day magically go away?
When we look within ourselves, and realize our difficulty to let go, even when we say we want to forgive, the truth is a lot of times, we are afraid. We are afraid that if we let go, what will we find, what will be left, the vulnerability of facing life without the familiar comfort of blaming someone of our problems, pain, misery or disappointments in life. We will be forced to face ourselves.
Maybe once we decide to look in the mirror, we see that the whole time it was ourself we had not forgiven. Not because we caused the pain, but sometimes we are angry that we allowed the hurt to happen, we were vulnerable. In some instances the people we hate, or hold grudges against don’t even know it, they are unaware that they have done something that did not match the reality of what we expected of them. Even further, sometimes these people don’t even know of these expectations! On the other hand, yes, people do hurt us deliberately and sometimes not deliberately, but as human beings we will fail at some point, and we will disappoint someone, no matter how hard we try not to.
The interesting aspect of lack of forgiveness I have seen, apart from the obvious instances where a true grievance or hurt exists, I have seen where a grudge is held by one group of people against another group for crimes commited decades or centuries before they were born. An inherited hatred, a learned feeling fed to us by stories, pictures, literature and continuous reminders of these events. These seeds are hard to erase, because we don’t even realize that’s what is going on.
How do we forgive? For me, the answer is simple. We decide to forgive, we make the decision and daily we try to manage that decision. Managing the decision to forgive is the challenging part based on how much we need to forgive, the degree of the hurt and the length of time we have held on to that grudge, or the reasons for hanging on to it. But no matter how hard, we should still recommit and keep deciding to forgive. Forgetting comes with time, don’t sweat it. Changing your perception through the desire to let something go, makes it easier that when we remember the hurt, it slowly looses its power to wound, then one day you realize, the power of the memories isn’t there anymore.
I have come to conclude for myself and dealing with instances of forgiving and not forgiving, that I erroneously interpreted “forgive and forget” to mean literally waiting on the moment I delete the memory or event. How frustrating when that is your expectation, and then when you realize you haven’t forgotten, the assumption is you havent forgiven right? So you judge yourself as unforgiving. Hm, no. One day I told myself, I am not unforgiving in this thing I needed to let go. Maybe I am expecting wrong. I truly had made the decision to let it go, or the various instances I have encountered in life, needing to let go stuff. Daily I recommited to forgive, each time the memory came with hurt. Then I realized, the forgetting happens when over time the memory loses its power to hurt, then soon, we truly forget.
The unforgiving heart resides in a prison, bound by chains and locks that no one can break but the decision to let it go. Holding on in expectation that the other person or people somehow will suffer is a magic trick that is yet to be accomplished, it is futile and only hurts us.
Forgiveness is for us, ourself, our peace of mind, our healing, our progress, and our growth. It doesn’t mean that the hurt is diminished, we don’t have to pay homage to our pain by holding on to a grudge that no one is giving awards for. Make the decision to unlock your own chains, break the locks on your heart, feelings, emotions, and mind. It doesn’t change the quality of anyone’s life to forgive, but yours.
( Images copied from: iconarchive.com, psychologytoday.com, skyranch.org, barbarajpeters.com)