Welcome back pilgrims! Whew this time has flown by! I can’t believe it’s the last Sunday in August. When I started this run of Self-care Sundays, I was challenging myself to write more consistently. I am so glad that I did. I hadn’t known these Self-care Sundays would be so cathartic.
We have covered a lot of topics on Self-care. Each of my previous posts has been a step to finally get to here. This is one of the hardest acts of self-care I have had to practice: Forgiveness. Though it has been difficult for me, it is the act of self-care that I am the biggest advocate for.
Remember that part about self-reflection and asking questions to get to the root? This last year I have done a lot of self-searching, planning and evaluating my goals and dreams. I realized that a lot my inner conflicts and insecurities were symptoms of deeper issues. I realized how I had let what someone did to me in the past change my behavior, my reasoning and worst of all, how I felt about myself.
Once I saw how destructive my grudge was, I made the decision to get over it. That night, I decided to forgive that person. When I woke up, I had forgiven them. Just kidding. I wish it was that simple. The truth is: once I realized that I had to forgive them, I was mad.
Firstly, I had thought that I was ‘over it’ already. I had removed myself from the bad situation (reached my boundary) and said ‘let bygones be bygones’. I wasn’t malicious and vindictive toward the person. That’s forgiveness, right? Not seeking vengeance?
Secondly, I thought the person was undeserving of my forgiveness. I didn’t see remorse, a change of behavior nor did I receive an apology. Why do I always have to be the bigger person? I don’t like the high road, I get altitude sickness.
I had heard the advice over the years that resentment is more of a burden you than it is to the offender. I knew that, but the offense was too great, the hurt was too deep. I dug my heels in about being right. I couldn’t absolve them. Especially when the offender hadn’t done anything that I thought would warrant my forgiveness.
I believed that my withholding forgiveness put me in a position of power. I was innocent and they wronged me. They are morally reprehensible and should bare the consequences of their action (me not forgiving them). The cold realization set in when I realized that me unwillingness to forgiveness did the exact opposite. I was sitting on anger and hurt (two emotions I don’t like) because I was waiting on them to do one of the following:
2) Change their behavior
3) Admit that they were wrong (and I was right)
I realized my cognitive dissonance between my expectations and my actions. I was ‘forgiving’ in namesake only. I was saying ‘it didn’t bother me’, yet I was always waiting for an apology. Every time I had to deal with this person or a similar situation, things that shouldn’t affect me had me bleeding through my emotional bandages. I found myself tripping over all the stuff that I had swept under the rug. My old emotions compounded my current emotions. I don’t like others having that much control over me. It was time to Marie Kondo my emotional baggage.
After I got everything off my chest, I did feel lighter but I still couldn’t move past the hurt. At least now, I was no longer in denial about the root of my pain. I was slowly finding clarity, yet I still wasn’t ready to forgive. By my reasoning, every emotion I was feeling was validated because I was wronged. Someone did these acts against me. I was the one who was hurt. It wasn’t right; but at the time I had this sense of righteousness. I finally felt myself moving past some of the hurt when I tried to look at my situation without my emotional filter.
I was not expecting to ugly-cry, but I did.
Finding out what Forgiveness means to me.
Now, that I had admitted to myself that I was not ‘past it’ I started to evaluate all the emotions that I had unpacked. Not only the transgression, but the pain that it had caused me. I thought about why I hadn’t forgiven the transgression. How would I benefit if I were to forgive this person.
I leaned in to all the emotions that were hidden behind my grudge.
Surprise, surprise I one of the negative emotions that I found was anger. It’s easier to be angry at someone than it is to admit that you have been hurt. I wasn’t just angry at the person, I was angry it happened to me, I was angry at myself for letting it happen. I was angry at I couldn’t let go of my resentment.
I leaned in to the anger but I knew that I had to eventually let it go. Anger is destructive; it cannot build. As I evaluated my circumstances, I realized my anger is not destroying my ‘enemy’. It was destroying my happiness. I started to see my grudge as a white elephant. The negative emotions that come with an unwillingness to forgive take up room that could be filled with joy or at least peace.
Forgiveness comes from a place of understanding.
When I first started my journey of forgiveness, I didn’t even know what forgiveness was. My understanding of forgiveness were: absolution, condonation, and compassion. Only after my journey began did I realize what forgiveness really meant.
A part of the hurt is because of my expectations. Someone treated me in a way that I would never have treated them. But they are not me. They are a completely different person, with a different background, life and mindset. In my resentment, I stopped looking at them as a person and saw them only as a villain in my story. I began to wonder what my role was in their story. I’m not perfect, I have done things that I regret. I had to acknowledge that at one point, I may have been the toxic person in someone’s life.
I believe in Karma. The energy that we carry is a magnet. If I can’t forgive someone, I’m just carrying the energy of someone who can’t be forgiven. I’m not a malicious person, yet I acknowledge that my actions may not have aligned with my intentions. I would hope now that people wouldn’t hold me to the person that I was 5/10/15 years ago. I’d be hypocritical if I didn’t extend that courtesy to others. On my journey to forgiveness I have a greater understanding of empathy. I am not perfect, neither are they. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone is on a journey.
My unwillingness to forgive kept me stuck in a place that I wasn’t meant to stay because I was waiting for someone else to come back for me while they are on their own journey.
I realized that forgiveness similar to having boundaries. I finally get all the aphorisms about forgiveness not being for the other person; forgiveness is for myself.
Freedom in Forgiveness
Waiting or an apology from someone else assumes that they are in emotionally and morally in a position to grant me closure. The apology that I wanted can only be given from a person on stable moral ground. Does that mean that I have to wait for that person to get to that leg of their journey before I can continue mine? I don’t think so. I didn’t want an insincere apology, given simply to placate me. That just reignites the aforementioned anger.
Back to square one...
Waiting for someone else to come to give me what I thought I deserved was preventing me from getting to where I really needed to be. I realized that even if I got the apology, it wouldn’t undo the hurt that had happened; I wouldn’t get back the time I spent resenting them.
Forgiveness means that you ‘cease to feel resentment against the offender’. Forgiveness means that you no longer believe they ‘owe you’ anything. They don’t owe you an apology, blood nor sweat. To forgive is to let it go…to the universe, to God, from your heart. Forgive the person who never gave you an apology or who gave you a piss-poor apology. Forgive the person who doesn’t even realize what they have done. Forgive the person who deliberately caused you pain.
Let it go.
When I was able to let go of my expectations, I was able to find my own closure. Forgiveness is empowering. Once you have found peace about a situation, that person no longer had the power to hurt, anger me.
Forgiveness is empowering. By waiting for an apology or remorse from someone else, I was ceding my control. I had made myself the victim in the situation. I had allowed someone else to disturb my peace and to steal my joy. Once I am truly come to a place of forgiveness, I have the power to preserve both of those things.
I had thought that forgiveness was the first step, but it’s really the last step in a path of healing. Once you can let go of the tethers of resentment, you are free to start a new journey. You may reach several places of forgiveness, but it’s all apart of the journey.
Whew! I hadn’t expected this blog to be so lengthy, yet here we are. Forgive me.
Until Next Time,
If you are one of those amazing people who has never held a grudge and can't relate to any of the concepts in the blog, here is my favorite version of the song (aptly named) Resentment. It's a great example of someone who is struggling to forgive.