Forgiveness is perhaps one the most abstract, profound, and confusing concepts in the human experience. There are conflicting ideas about forgiveness that bombard us throughout our lifetimes. One tenant that is probably the one I have heard most is, “you need to forgive in order to be free and move on.” Other people told me to use my experiences and the latent anger, hurt, or resentment as a motivator to accomplish my goals and supersede the lowly existence those whom trespassed against me believed I constituted. These conflicting messages puzzled me and I simply decided, “Who needs forgiveness! Not me!”
Forgiveness Shall Set You Free
“You mean you want me to forgive all those people, who did all those horrible things to me, and just say it’s ok?!” This was my reaction as a teenager and through my early twenties. As a child, forgiveness was like breathing. I forgave everyone for everything, no matter how great or how small. Or at least I thought I did.
What confused me about this mantra, as well as many other people I have talked to, is it perpetuated a cycle of codependent and/or abusive relationships; these relationships could be romantic, familial, friendships, etc. It causes people to go beyond forgiveness and go directly into acceptance without regard for their own health and well-being. When you forgive and accept the behaviors or acts of others that cause you harm, even when you are aware those are unacceptable ways to be treated, you become an enabler, giving others permission, through tolerance, to treat you poorly. I do not mean this as a way of blaming the victim. Someone who decides to treat you poorly does not lose fault over their actions in any way, shape, or form; I simply want you to be able to see how the cycle perpetuates because it is not always the most obvious.
The worst part about this damaging loop is it erodes any sense of worth, self-esteem, and causes you to lose touch with the most authentic, brilliant part of yourself. Traumatic events, no matter how intense or how fleeting, take a serious toll on our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health on their own; by going through the cycle of saying, “everything is ok,” you inadvertently prolong the healing and growth that needs to take place.
“I will show them!” I think this might be the anthem for anyone who has ever been wronged at any point in their life, and definitely
during their teenage years. I know I felt that way. I used to say I had “watch-me-itis;” whenever someone would belittle, berate, or otherwise stand in my way of my personal awesomeness, my response was, “Watch me!” This method works for a period of time, but eventually breaks down.
Using your anger, pain, and other negative feelings to fuel your actions and behaviors only taints the results and clouds your judgment. Instead of maintaining control of your inner peace, which is key to listening to your intuition, you allow venomous feelings to motivate your conduct. This is detrimental to maintaining healthy success, healthy lifestyles, and your sense of inner strength. It’s similar to baking; you can always tell the difference between someone who bakes with love and someone who doesn’t, even if the recipes are identical.
In the moment when you are achieving things, because this does happen for a while, you will feel like, “Boy, I sure showed them!” Yet, you miss the most crucial part of the message; you have given up your personal power to those who have hurt you in some way. You’re no longer doing things because they nourish you and help you evolve; you are doing them because it proves to someone outside of yourself that you are worthy and they were wrong. This undermines your sense of importance and there is nothing more important than knowing you are worthy, you are beautiful, and you are everything that you need.
“So that’s it!!!!” That was my reaction the first time I experienced what forgiveness truly was; I probably would have cried if I wasn’t already laughing so hard. I was lying in bed and I was thinking about someone I hadn’t spoken to in years. Earlier that day I had a conversation with that person and it was the most amazing thing ever; I actually used to hate this person with a burning, fiery passion. It’s not very nice to say you hate people, but I truly despised this individual with all of my might. Fast-forward through a severe spiritual reawakening and growing into a blossoming adult and we come to my realization of forgiveness.
I had a completely honest, congenial conversation with this person, wishing them truly nothing but health, love, and happiness (which is the last thing I ever conceived I’d wish upon this individual), and I did all of this without giving away my personal power, without accepting the behaviors, and with the realization the relationship had served its purpose and now it was time to move on.
Forgiveness isn’t always an official exchange of, “I’m sorry,” followed by, “That’s ok.” It’s something much deeper that comes from your spirit; it is a testament of truly standing in your power saying, “I am worthy, I am a giver and receiver of positive energies, I will not be ruled by that which does not serve me, and I will not be entrenched by the past.” By being able to let go of relationships that no longer serve you, wishing the best for those who have caused you pain, and relinquishing the emotional chains which bound you to the other person, you will experience true forgiveness and true freedom. It doesn’t always come over night, but when it does, it is sweeter than the first fresh breeze of spring after a long cold winter.