When we hold on to the hurt and anger of our past, we let it own us. We carry the weight of it on our sturdy shoulders and we allow it to hurt ourselves and no one else.
I don’t believe forgiveness just happens; I believe it’s a conscious process where we decide that the pain of holding onto our grievance is greater than the benefit of letting it go. We choose to release the self-imposed suffering that we are holding onto and decide that we value our happiness over the bitterness.
We choose freedom.
When I was a girl, I wanted to be a lawyer. I grew up watching Perry Mason and I was mesmerized. Perry always worked hard, analyzing a situation, talking with people, putting the puzzle pieces together to build his case and then delivered it with such panache. It was so impressive and I wanted to do that.
I grew up with a passion for building my case. If there was something I wanted, I put a plan in place to make it happen. I was determined to go to college even though I had to fund it entirely on my own, and with every roadblock, I found a way through and made it happen.
I also learned to build my case in arguments or troubled times in a relationship. It was always so important to me to be right, and to be sure that I was, I had to prove it. That’s what Perry would do. So I set about collecting all of the reasons why I was right and the other person was wrong. It has been only recently that I realized that I do this, and recognized that it doesn’t serve me.
Before my recent relationship ended, we had a rough few weeks. I was hurt, angry, scared and started doing what I do—I built my case of all the wrongs. I collected them and nursed them to determine if the sum was great enough to take action.
Then one night, I stepped back and took a look at what I was doing. I considered if it would help me get to where I wanted to be, and that made me step back to think about what I truly wanted. Through all the thinking it dawned on me: yes, I was angry, yes, I was hurt, yes I had every reason to feel that way, but did it really matter? I realized that I was in love with him and regardless of my “case,” each of the items on my list really didn’t matter.
So instead of focusing my energy on my case, I channeled my energy into being more clear about what I want, and how I was going to try to achieve it. Ultimately, I realized that I couldn’t get what I needed from the relationship and it ended shortly after.
“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.” Anne Lamott
Sometimes no amount of wanting something can make it happen, and while I’m sad about the outcome, I’m not disappointed by how I handled it. I learned a valuable lesson, that when I was clear about what I want and what I was willing to accept to get it, then it became much easier to handle the situation as a confident adult and not through the eyes of a child.
Enter the lesson of forgiveness.
We cannot control other people’s behavior, however, we can control our reaction and response to his/her behavior and actions. It’s not easy, but I realized that my being hurt and angry was giving my power away. I chose happiness, and by standing firm for what I wanted, I learned that the relationship couldn’t support my needs.
Instead of railing, yelling and suffering, I decided to grieve, forgive and let go. I don’t accept how things were handled, but I do release all of the negative feelings that invaded my space to open myself to fill it with wonderful new feelings that I deserve. Now I can smile and think of the wonderful memories we shared while working to move forward.
“Forgiveness is about pardoning behavior. It isn’t measured against what the violation was, or what the betrayal was. Forgiveness is a standalone choice. It shouldn’t be measured by what someone did. It also isn’t saying “I’m ok with it.” It’s not accepting it, it’s not agreeing with it. It’s not losing any power.. we think staying mad is powerful, but it’s consuming so much of our energy going to a dark place. Forgiveness is simply about saying that I don’t want anger to occupy any real estate in my body. I don’t want anger, or hate or hurt to live inside my temple. I love me too much for that.” ~Lisa Nichols