The delay in my writing another post has come from the immense amount of thought I have put into this post. I read a book lately that talked about the topic I am about to touch on, and found real inspiration in what I read to make some changes in my life. The topic thus far has been forgiveness. I know this is a common topic that we are taught as kindergartners but I feel the further we get in life, the more complex of a topic it really becomes. Questions have gone through my head lately such as:
Why should I forgive?
Do I even have to apologize directly to someone to forgive them?
How do I know I’ve forgiven someone?
I as well as many of you I am sure have fallen victim to the trap that is unforgiving. It’s hard. Really hard. I get it. When someone hurts me my first instinct is to put a wall up between that person and myself that is a mile high and then sit behind that wall and remind myself what this person has done to me and why I should hate them forever. I have been guilty of just this many times for reasons of varying degree, and I am certain there are people who have felt this way towards me. Yet, the more I have thought about it recently, the more I have realized why not being forgiving is such an awful burden to place on ourselves.
Forgiveness is freeing.
I have never realized until recent the amount of ropes tying me down from grudges I didn’t even know I still held. The second I felt myself cut those ropes and forgive the ones who have hurt me, I felt free.
Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying to go back to every person who has wronged you and to be their best friend, to give them another chance, or to even contact them in any way. I didn’t do any of these things actually. I have come to the conclusion that these things are not required in the process of actual forgiveness, but only to an individual in a situation where they see it fit. I have only come to the conclusion that to truly forgive, you have to forgive yourself first. Only then can you truly forgive those who have wronged you.
I will be the first to admit I am a terrible victim of this habit. I have realized that I looked for in others what I should have looked for in myself, and when they didn’t give it to me I felt towards these people the resentment I felt for myself. Self degradation is a term I have become very familiar with over the years as I am sure many of you have also. Unfortunately, this is a very common phenomenon. But trust me, until you break this habit, you won’t be able to forgive. I thought to myself numerous times:
This wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t so stubborn.
Maybe if I were better things would have worked out.
Only when I was able to tell myself in actual confidence that these things weren’t true did I feel relief. Only when I was able to say to myself, “I am flawed, I will make mistakes, and that is okay” was I able to look at the people I have held grudges against and been able to finally say to myself, “They are flawed, they will make mistakes, and that too is okay”.
Finally forgiving takes all of the hate, disappointment, and anger you have held onto for so long and makes room for peace and love. Letting trivial emotions such as hate and general disdain hold room in our hearts is such a waste of the lives we’ve been gifted. We are flawed beings and are programmed to fail. When others wrong us, let me tell you, it is okay. We will all wrong each other, and ourselves, and we must forgive. Forgiving does not mean that things will be the same as they were before, but certain peace is associated with forgiveness. In my case, I have noticed my mood has lifted. I do not feel anger anymore when thinking of certain situations I have experienced, I instead think with a more mature understanding of the situation and the other person/people involved. I am able to reflect on better times and instead of thinking “Oh no, it’s them” when I see people I held hard feelings against before, I can just go about my day. I don’t give those people or the situations a second thought anymore. I don’t feel resentment or any emotion in particular in these situations, just a general peace.
I do not allow myself to hold hate and unforgiving in my heart anymore. Obviously sometimes I mess up. We all mess up. It’s okay. This is why we forgive. Another quote that has resonated with me lately is the following:
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. -Matthew 5:44”
Hold love in your heart instead of hate and the changes that will immediately happen in your life are remarkable.