When painful wrongdoings of the past continue to creep their way into your future, it’s hard to move beyond them, but you owe it to yourself to try.
Right? Absolutely, yes.
The only thing is, you think you’re over something that has haunted you only for the memory (big or small) to resurface at the most inopportune time -talk about anxiety that is hard to explain. When we’re hurt emotionally, it leaves such marks that can resurface at any moment and can be unbearable which is why it requires gentle care.
For me, forgiveness isn’t always easy, and I know isn’t easy for you either. The thing is, we can’t and shouldn’t remove moments that molded us into who we are today, and the idea that we can is why so many continually struggle with the alleviating act of forgiveness. As shitty as it is, there is no way we will ever be able to wipe our slates clean of memories -at least not in a healthy way. So, when something that has caused us pain in the past enters our minds, in a split second, you’re faced with the decision on how to react to this memory. It’s our responsibility because we have the power to let it haunt us or merely acknowledge it then let it go.
A lot of the time it’s hard just to let it go because we feel that our most profound pain needs validation. If someone hurt you, often you want that person to recognize the pain because you believe that’s how you’ll be able to move past it. When those emotions are left unvalidated by others, for whatever the reason, and then bottled up inside, you’re left replaying events, wishing that things could be different or even wanting to change the past. This desperate and often impractical wishing can reinforce this idea that we’re always going to be unhappy, dissatisfied, guilty, ashamed, a victim, or even ruined by past events without the chance to heal -but that’s not true. The truth is the only validation you need is your own. You don’t need anyone other than yourself to acknowledge your past and how you feel -yes other’s validation can be helpful- but we all know it’s not always possible. Thankfully, all it takes is you. Maybe you think having revenge or being scornful will help you feel better and move past your pain? When someone hurts you, it’s normal to feel like you need to retaliate because you want justice for your pain but I promise vengeance won’t bring you peace even if it does give you some temporary satisfaction.
Let’s not forget that we need to forgive ourselves as well. We all have guilt and can often be discouraged because of something we did. A lot of my pain and guilt comes from my youth. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I discovered not only was I highly emotional, sensitive, and desperately needing validation that I was unable to explain, but I was also suffering from severe anxiety and Seasonal Affective Disorder for years. When it finally started coming together, and I moved away from the anger, the drug and alcohol abuse, the unhealthy relationships, and the self-destructive behavior and I began facing one painful experience after the next. If you’re like me, I’ve never been harder on anyone other than myself, and that makes self-forgiveness hard, but not impossible. The healing process has been a long and arduous road, but I’m happy to say that not only am I in an incredibly healthy, satisfying, and honest environment now but that I love myself more than I ever did before. Forgiveness of others and ourselves can be the most mentally challenging thing we can do in our lives, but it lets us reach a place where we can appreciate every present moment.
WHAT FORGIVENESS ISN’T
Forgiveness isn’t reconciling with those who have hurt us beyond repair. Yes, we burn bridges, and it’s your right to cut ties with those you know are toxic or have hurt you -don’t feel like forgiveness means that you have to rebuild those said bridges. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you forget other’s painful actions and welcome them back with open arms. Remember that forgiving is not letting an offender off the hook either. Forgiveness doesn’t make you a victim; it gives power back to you. Forgiveness isn’t pretending that something painful didn’t happen to you -most of us are who we are because of those painful life moments, and even though it’s shitty, it’s a fact of life. Remind yourself that forgiveness isn’t a weakness, it’s not a betrayal of yourself, it’s not taking the easy way out, it’s not ignoring your feelings that require validation, and it’s not telling yourself that you don’t have the right to feel.
WHAT FORGIVENESS IS
Forgiveness is beautiful. Forgiveness is releasing the power that events or others have over you and returning it to yourself. It’s when you acknowledge all of the pain that you’ve been through then make the conscious decision to release its life sucking grip over time. You struggle, and you fight, and you remind yourself that you’re the one who gets to be in control and that you are no longer a victim. Forgiveness is deciding to take charge of your life and your emotions and then removing the negativity, bitterness, and resentment from it. It’s not an action or a single moment in time where you give your pain up; forgiveness is a process. A process where you work to dissolve the pain and suffering that has often controlled the quietest moments in your life -the most private areas of your mind- by removing the chains of guilt and despair. Forgiveness is letting the Divine take up your pain and making it your responsibility is to enjoy life once again. Forgiveness is recognizing that you have more strength and grace than you give yourself credit.
WHY YOU SHOULD FORGIVE & HOW IT BENEFITS YOU
You should forgive yourself and others for your growth and development -because your happiness, peace of mind, and self-love are worth it. When you forgive you regain your power, and that is such, well, a powerful feeling! When you make the decision that you’re in control you can readily recognize and be thankful for the present moment for what it is -no more searching for underlying meaning, second-guessing the intentions of the innocent, or holding yourself back from living life to the fullest. Forgiveness gives you hope that may have seemed impossible before. Working on forgiving others lets you move on without the anger, contempt, or the desire for revenge -feelings that can cause anxiety, depression, heart risks, weaken your immune system or even shorten your life. Feelings that lead you to make unhealthy choices like substance abuse and self-harm. Forgive for the sake of your mental and physical health -don’t let the past steal your future! Forgive for your children. What a great way to be an example for your children right? It honestly brings tears to my eyes thinking about how we as mothers can teach our babies how not to harbor resentment, live in the present, and maintain their personal power. After I had my daughter, I also began to experience an entirely different type of guilt, MOM GUILT, that I continuously work through as soon as my inner dialogue starts to go south. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive, Momma. If you don’t forgive yourself, you’ll be less likely to make positive changes. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to practice forgiveness daily. Not only will it teach them to move past their own mistakes but they’ll admire you every step of the way, and you’ll admire yourself, as well.