I have struggled with being able to let go. I would cringe when suddenly remembering something someone else, or even I, did or said that led to awkwardness, embarrassment, or hurt. I would lay awake for hours at night with the memories of these “incidents” spiraling out of control. I would use them as concrete evidence supporting my theories of unworthiness and social awkwardness.
The events I would recall that led to such distress varied from small conversational faux pas to bullying and worse. There was nothing too big or too small to escape the gravitational pull of some black hole I felt lurking just beneath the surface.
I would blame all these things that happened to me on the callous or hateful actions of friends and family. I was a victim of other people and even of God and the universe as a whole. I would send so many tearful prayers begging for some release or reprieve. “What have I done to deserve all of this?” I would frequently ask.
After over 26 years, a personal event happened that broke me. I felt as if my life had turned to dust and there was nothing left. The pain and suffering left me desperate for healing. Thus began my journey for true wellness.
There have been many wonderful concepts I have learned and come to accept as truth. The idea I would like to share specifically in this article is forgiveness.
I was always wary of forgiveness. There are some acts and people that you can’t forgive, I would think. By forgiving you are letting them off the hook for something they knowingly said or did that hurt you.
What I believe now is that those perceptions of forgiveness, the ones I think most of us have at one point or another, are very limiting. They limit our capacity to build and sustain relationships. More importantly, they limit our capacity to live a life of our own unburdened.
Forgiveness is a combination of acceptance and letting go.
Looking back on times I’ve embarrassed myself (such as spilling a drink in public or an awkward conversation), I first accept that it did happen and there is absolutely nothing I can do to change it. It is done. This leads me to embracing that the event is not happening in the present and exists only in my memory of it (this is extremely powerful). I then understand that it is in my own control of whether or not I decide to release the event. More times than not, I am able to let go and move on. This doesn’t mean the thought won’t ever slip in my head again. But it does mean I am able to refrain from giving the thought too much power.
This process is applicable to all scenarios, no matter how severe. Obviously my example was small and light compared to incidents of bullying, abuse, and trauma. However, it is with the more severe cases that the act of forgiveness becomes more powerful. Letting go of past abuses is extraordinarily freeing.
You are not necessarily forgiving others as much as you are forgiving yourself for the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. With that being said, it is important to be able to forgive the transgressors.
In the case of abuse, there might be acts of violence or words spoken that feel unforgivable. How can I forgive another human being for knowingly doing or saying those things to me?
A way I have approached this is by realizing that anything done in anger or rage actually stems from a place of deep insecurity or fear. For a human to hurt another human, in any way, means they are already hurt themselves.
Doing this can be difficult as you may feel like you are excusing their behavior. You are not. Instead, you are understanding them and realizing that what happened didn’t really have anything to do with you personally. They were more likely than not projecting their own issues onto you.
This realization is what begins the process of being able to forgive yourself. You then accept that this event, even if horrible, occurred sometime in the past. It is not happening in this moment. It does not exist anymore except for the reenactments you play in your own head. The only way that this, or any event, can continue to hurt you is if you allow it to by continuing to connect to it in such a personal way. Sever that tie and let go.
Forgiveness is not forgetting. By letting go, you are not attempting to release whatever happened from your memory. In many cases, it is prudent to remember so that you don’t find yourself in a similar situation. Forgiveness is dissociating yourself from the painful thoughts and memories. Instead of getting dragged down into the whirlpool, you are able to see it and safely navigate around it, carrying on with your journey.
By learning that forgiveness does not mean approving of, turning a blind eye to, or forgetting things that happened in the past, I have been able to utilize in more and more in my own life.
I have begun the process of letting go of hurtful words spoken to me, indignities, and more. I have learned that while I am far from perfect, there is nothing inherently wrong with me. I am not unworthy. I don’t deserve bad things to happen to me.
The most difficult person I’ve found it is to forgive is me. When something bad happens to you, it happens in a moment and it is done. Even if it is repeated abuse, the actual events only happen in the moment. But the amount of times you experience them because you keep replaying it all in your head can be astronomically high. You have become, in effect, a victim to yourself. It is learning to forgive events and others, letting go of past wrongs, that leads you to the absolute ultimate forgiveness; that which you gift to yourself.
I have felt my anxiety dissolve. I am beginning to appreciate and even love myself, flaws and all. I feel lighter, more grateful, and more positive.
It isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Forgiveness, mindfulness, gratitude, and self love are all conceptual and spiritual muscles that need to be constantly exercised. The more you practice, the better and stronger you get.
Remember that forgiveness is, more than anything else, for your own wellbeing.
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