Life Lessons with Monica: Freedom Through Forgiveness
Let’s talk about a concept that sometimes gets misconstrued, forgiveness. Forgiveness tends to have its own definition, own personal meaning to each individual, yet, I have learned over the course of my life, that it is one of those ever present, powerful forces that bears the gift of freedom. There are many sayings about forgiveness, and the two most common it would see stand in stark opposition:
- Forgive and Forget
- Forgive but Never Forget
I am not entirely certain that the first saying is even truly possible. If Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has shown anything, it is that even when we actively take steps to wipe a painful memory out of our minds, despite the illusion of the lack of memory, when something or someone leaves an indelible mark upon us, there truly is no means of fully forgetting. The second saying seems laced with dark emotions and a ledger of wrongs someone may tend to hold onto. Essentially this action is akin to holding something over another’s head for all of eternity, therein negating the perception of forgiving. Don’t let yourself feel lost or hopeless, for I have discovered a method of true forgiveness.
Forgiveness in the moment, while one’s perception may lean toward monumental difficulty, every moment is backed by a myriad of moments to look back upon. Moments in which you may harness the understanding wrought for the purpose of letting go. I have yet to meet someone who is unaware of the idiom: Hindsight is 20/20. Hindsight has become my allied method of allowing true forgiveness. The result giving way to freeing my mind, body, and soul of life’s burdens. Seems easy, right? Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple.
The first step you must take is separating yourself, your emotions, and your perceptions from the situation completely. This is arguably the most difficult step.
*In order to do this, you must first be able to identify what you are feeling, whether your emotions are a direct result of the action/inaction taken by another, by yourself, or whether you are merely reacting to the environment in which you are in.
*Next you must look to the depths of your memories, look to your past, your childhood, your life lessons, the hardships and struggles, and the joyful, carefree moments.
*Once you have done your searching to the past, ask yourself, Is there something from the past that has occurred to influence the present emotions?
*If those emotions are being impacted by something prior, identification and understanding will help to eliminate that portion of influence (and don’t worry, feel free to put that back away until you are sure you are ready to deal with it).
Now, sit for a moment and let yourself feel. Try not to think. Thinking too often clouds and complicates emotions. Once you can identify how you truly feel outside of past influences, you are ready to move on to the next step.
Congratulations on the first step! That is the biggest hurdle you have overcome in the forgiveness process, and you certainly have earned yourself a moment to bask in the moment of achievement!
Let’s move into the next phase, purposeful intent. In order to fully and truly forgive another and yourself, you have to want it utilizing purposeful intent to support your decision. In other words, you have to want to give forgiveness with your whole being.
Reflect deeply, and be sure that this is what you want. Make a vow to yourself that you are going to stand firm and true. Your subconscious is likely to be riddled with little snippets of negativity, attempting to persuade you with memories, nudging of words, and even that nauseated feeling in the pit of your stomach to not allow for true forgiveness. No, that does not mean that you are a bad person, nor that you are broken in some way. This occurs for the sake that we are all walking around, a living breathing compendium of experiences that we take into ourselves and use to form our identity. This is known as the ego. The ego gets wounded, and does not permit forgiveness because the wounds are viewed as an attack on the Self.
Though that very well may seem to be the case, it is not always that black and white. Just like you are a walking compendium of your life, the people you interact with are too the same for their lives. People choose how to sort through and deal with the things that occur in their lives in many different ways, and unless another person is completely open about all that they carry with them to you, you cannot fathom what is going on within themselves, and therefore you may be interpreting an action as being taken against you when it may not have had anything to do with you. Breathe a sigh of relief and know that you could walk in either shoes, the one hurting another, and the one being hurt, and still the factors involved tend to be more intricate than surface level in all aspects. Allow forgiveness for yourself during this time, because without forgiving yourself you cannot forgive another.
You’ve made it to the final step! (If confetti could pop above you right now, it would!) You are moving forward in a positive way, and you only have one further thing to do.
Release the pain from yourself, and from the other person (if applicable), completely. In this step I have found that the “Cutting the Cord” visualization method works the best for me. In your mind’s eye picture the thing, the situation, the words, the action/inaction that you have chosen to forgive. Imagine that it is connected to your mind and to your heart by two cords (sometimes, when damage to your ego occurs, a third cord to your stomach may also be visualized). Now with a pair of scissors, or a knife, or even with a samurai sword (everyone has their own personal preference) sever the link between you and this “thing.” As you are doing it, say either to yourself or aloud, I thank you for coming into my life to teach me this lesson, to help me grow, and now I release you with gratitude.
Sit for a moment and breathe. When this is done with purposeful intent (Step Two, the Return!), you will feel the weight lifted off of you. It may not always be an instantaneous sensation, it may be a progressive notion until one day you are walking down the street and you realize there is more spring in your steps, more joy in your heart, and a lightness to your being. I have experienced both the immediate relief and the “long-time coming” lift.
Forgiveness is an important action to take in life because it allows for your own personal freedom. Everyone is human, we all err, we all make mistakes. Sometimes we hurt another person whether intentionally or unintentionally, yet oftentimes we also hurt ourselves in the process. Allowance for the understanding that everyone has their own burdens, their own compendium, their own pains that unfortunately, when repressed, ignored, or shoved aside, can be projected outward in behaviors that aren’t who we are, they aren’t how we should treat another, and they are hurtful in nature, helps to facilitate forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not mean you are giving someone else free reigns to continue hurting you either. It does not mean that you are excusing what happened, nor the damage caused. It means you are freeing yourself from the weight of the pain, and opening yourself to healing, becoming stronger from it, and moving forward without it being part of your compendium of burdens. It alleviates not only mental and emotional damage done, it also alleviates physical manifestations which can be incredibly painful.
All it takes is the first step to finding freedom through forgiveness. Take that step! Be free!