Forgiveness: The Gift I Give Myself
If you’re human, then you get angry with your friends and family. They disappoint you, they don’t get you, or they are simply rude to you. Unfortunately, anger and resentment leads to broken relationships. It is only in retrospect, after they have gone, that you regret letting silly fights separate you.
Michael’s post got me thinking about the true value of forgiveness. I know that we can all think of a person or a situation where we felt wronged, hurt or betrayed. More often than not, it can be challenging to move past these feelings, because we feel stuck in our feelings of betrayal and hurt, and we are unsure of how to move forward.
The only way to truly move forward is through forgiveness. Unfortunately, there is no how-to manual for getting past betrayals, disappointments and hurts. Forgiveness, in theory, is simple; it’s the execution that’s difficult.
The kabbalists teach that when a person goes through a process where somebody really hurts them and does something that their ego doesn’t like, the ego wants to lash back, hold a grudge, or be angry about it. It’s a natural reaction for most people. Ultimately, what we want is to be able to come to a place where we know that the occurrence was necessary for our overall spiritual growth. We might not know why. We might not know how, or the details surrounding it, but we know it’s necessary.
In fact, there are two levels to this. The first is, “I’m not happy about what happened, but I know that I need it, and ultimately it’s for my greater good.” And the second, deeper level is we actually come to love these opportunities.
The Baal Shem Tov, one of the great kabbalists says, “The way that I behave towards the world and others is how the Light of the Creator behaves towards me.” Every time we do something negative, we create negative energy. If we do something to harm somebody, we create negative energy around ourselves. If we hold on to negative thoughts and feelings, we create that same energy. And eventually, somewhere down the line—maybe not instantly—it will manifest itself like a little grey cloud, it follows us around wherever we go.
When a situation or person leaves us feeling hurt or betrayed, the way we usually deal with it is to ruminate on it. We replay it in our heads over and over and over again.
Imagine for a moment that space in your thoughts is something that you rent out. Your mind is a house, and you are the landlord. You decide who your tenants are, the conditions of their lease, and what kind of accommodations you want to give your tenants. The tenants are all your thoughts and feelings, including your wounds and grievances.
We need to ask ourselves if our grievances are going to get the master bedroom? Are we going to build them a hot tub in the back? Are they given terms that never expire, or are they given a day-to-day lease?
We can be the master of our domain. We can decide on how much space to rent to our wounds. Just because bad things happened doesn’t mean we need to dwell on them. Dwelling on our wounds gives them power. Why invite the person or situation to maintain power over us in the present?
The decision that needs to be made to take back your power is to forgive.
When we blame another person for how we feel, we grant them power over our emotions, and we choose to remain connected to the bad experiences of our lives.
Feelings of anger, hurt and betrayal affect our self-esteem, personal worth, the worth of the person who hurt us, and our relationship with that person. Forgiveness allows us to reclaim our power from the people who’ve hurt us.
To forgive is not to condone the bad things that have happened to us or have been done to us. Forgiveness isn’t something you give to someone who’s wronged you. Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. And while you can’t change the past, you are the only who can make your future, because “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that that prisoner was you.” ~ Lewis B. Smedes
Thoughts into Action:
Put your thoughts and feelings into action, and share your experiences in the comments section.
Think of at least one person in your life with whom you’ve become alienated and recall what it is you loved about that person. Reach out to them, first in your heart and then by phone, letter, or email.