We’ve all been hurt and angered by others. Usually we can shrug it off, but there are certain people or particular experiences that continue to impact us, even though the people may no longer be in our lives or that the experiences happened years–decades–ago.
Many times from numerous sources I’ve heard that forgiveness is NOT AT ALL about the other person but rather it’s all about me, my life, and staying on track with who I am and what my purpose in life is. But when the rubber meets the road, it’s really hard to put this into practice.
After years of working on this, here’s how I think about forgiveness, which makes it easier for me to put it into practice:
To me, the essential thing to keep in mind is to constantly be asking myself (being mindful of the question) “What kind of person do I want to be?”
Whether it was intentional or not on my part, do I want to be the person who doesn’t apologize, who doesn’t really care, that someone may have been hurt by what I said or did–or what I didn’t say or do? Do I want the other person to be sad or feel bad about themselves or be in emotional or mental or spiritual or physical pain because of me?
The answer is, no I don’t want to be that person.
So, whether or not I think they’re justified or being reasonable, if it is going to help them to hear me say that I’m sorry, then I want to do that.
It’s deeper than how my little piece may have impacted them. It’s probably that my piece is a small, small part of the huge iceberg they’re dealing with. I don’t know–and none of us can ever really know or understand–the internal struggles people are grappling with from day-to-day and even moment-to-moment. Just because I can’t see it when I look at them and their life, it doesn’t mean they have no struggles or battles. They–like all of us–are probably in the thick of an all-out war within–a war that they may feel they’re losing.
And this thinking goes hand-in-hand with forgiveness. Again, it isn’t about them, per say, but rather about what I need to have/be/do to be the kind of person I admire and want to become.
Do I want to be the person who holds onto memories, grudges, hurts, pains, disappointments from what people have/haven’t done to me in the past? Do I want to become embittered, sour, vengeful, grumpy, angry, and old before my time? Do I want to have a life that’s less than the one I’ve dreamed of?
The answer is, no I don’t want to be that person or to have my life so deeply affected.
So, whether the other person(s) deserve it or not, I am going to let it go. At some point in their life they may have a “Eureka!” moment and I want to have created enough elbow room through my letting go that they can fully embrace and step into their moment of profound change.
I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and presume that they are a good person and, if they weren’t so overwhelmed with their own cares and burdens, they would never ever ever have done or said those things that negatively impacted me.
I’m going to jettison the “stuff” that does not serve me–that does not make me feel excited and enthusiastic, feel capable and competent; that does not help me open my heart and soul to the fullness of Life.
Is this easy to do? No, of course not.
More frequently than I care to admit, I find my mind wandering back to the past and I have to take it in hand and refocus on the present, as well as the future I’m headed toward. I, too, have to remind myself of the person I want to be, and remind myself that it means letting go. And sometimes I have to pry my fingers off of the thing I’m grasping so tightly!
I can report that, like with anything, with practice it gets easier. I find the lag time is getting shorter between getting my feelings bruised, letting go, and then feeling better.
Practices that move us closer to living a soul-prospering life are a good thing!
Your Friend and Pep Pal,