I realize that may seem backwards, or merely convoluted, but it’s true. Forgiveness is you letting go of the things that are making you sick, tired, unhappy and stuck in your own stuff and your past. Yes, there are things that are enormously difficult to let go of that you may not be able to give (and I invite you to take a look at all that you carry and ask yourself if they are as large as you think they are), but you can still be free from their weight by accepting that they happened and that they cannot be changed.
Forgiveness also means understanding — really understanding — that people are imperfect and that they’re going to make mistakes. Just like you. Yes — just like you. You step on toes, too. Sometimes inadvertently, sometimes because you aren’t being mindful of where you are. Forgiveness is a choice — your choice — your choice — to continue to let something affect you.
I realize this is perhaps a tough concept to digest and accept, but it’s one worth trying on.
Especially if the other person has given a heartfelt apology. After that, you’re either making the choice to hoard that insult and thoughts of purposeful maltreatment, or realize the person fouled up, perhaps majorly, and allow them their humanity.I include myself in this, absolutely. And when I start to feel personally insulted over someone else’s comments or actions, there’s some things I’ve learned to ask myself.
Is it really worth the energy drain to let this person suck it out of me?
Do they deserve the gift of my giving them the reward of my energy?
Do I have this thing licked?
What is this mirroring back to me? (Meaning: Something that royally irritates you is often something you do as well, and all that person is doing is reflecting it back to you.)
What did I bring to this situation to perhaps trigger it? Or did this person just fully misinterpret my intentions and react in a way that’s them behaving from the triggers/beliefs in their own stuff? (If I do realize there was something I did, I have two choices: Apologize and work on it, or, if the moment has passed, mentally apologize to the person and work on it.)
If someone does give a heartfelt apology and you reject it — why do you make this choice? Why do you feel the need to continue to perhaps verbally, or through your actions, rub it in the person’s face? What’s the reward (yes, reward) you get for doing this? Why would you begrudge them the lesson they have admitted to learning?
How do you feel when someone does this to you — when someone doesn’t forgive you for your mistakes and humanity?
I should note here, I realize that there are some things that you may find unforgivable. And that’s all right. This is when it’s time to forgive yourself for not wanting to provide forgiveness. Only you can know when, and if, it’s something you’re ready to do.
So, for the sake of this post, I’m asking you to consider less-egregious trespasses. And maybe, if you want, ones that are egregious that are weighing you down.
It’s a choice to let things fester. It’s a choice to hang on to (perceived) insults and ruminate over them, to let yourself continue to feel that rush of superiority, perhaps, that rush of heated, hot insult.
In his book Urban Shaman, Dr. Serge Kahili King says, that “unnatural anger” — and I submit that sensation I describe above is that if it’s not something that’s really warranted (but it’s up to you to decide if it is or not) — is “primarily the result of unnatural standards.” He goes on to say:
All of us have standards of the way things should be and the way people, including ourselves, should act.
These standards allow us to keep aligning with our ideals and to keep making changes to improve our world.
An unnatural standard is one which says, “Things and people shouldn’t deviate from my expectation, because
if they do they are bad and should be punished.” That one causes a tremendous amount of anger and stress,
because people and things are going to deviate whether you want them to or not, simply out of creative
spontaneity if nothing else.” (Bolded text is mine.)
Sit with that for a moment. Now think of something recently where that might apply. Is what that person really that much of a mistake — or were they not landing within your (possibly narrowly-defined) set of parameters of right/wrong, good/bad, black/white? (Do you know that there’s value in having gray areas?)
Dr. King also says, “Forgiveness is basically a process of deciding that whatever happened is no longer important or doesn’t matter any more.” This doesn’t mean you’re discounting something. Rather, you’re allowing yourself to turn around and move forward, rather than jamming your back up against a wall, feeling like you’re at a dead end, because you’re facing your past.
Here is another very applicable passage:
Whenever we resist something, we generate stress. Mental resistance differs from emotional stress in the same
way that evaluation differs from analysis. Emotional resistance comes from thinking of something as bad; mental
resistance comes from thinking of it as wrong. By itself it doesn’t have the devastating power of fear and anger,
but it erodes confidence, self-esteem and the health of the body the way a tiny stream erodes a mountain.”
(Bolded text is mine.)
Yes, what someone did to you may be terrible, but consider that not letting it go isn’t saying what they did was right, and was, instead, allowing you to become free from the poison the event originally inflicted?