Forgiveness As The Ultimate Act Of Self-Love!

Ellyn Dye | In5d.com

Forgiveness can be a really sticky issue. Everyone knows it is “blessed” to forgive, yet most of us secretly—or not-so-secretly— harbor grudges, carry resentments, relive betrayals, and plot revenge, if only in our fantasies. After all, we “earned” those stripes through our own pain and anguish. If we let all that go, we lose part of ourselves, don’t we?? If we let it go, it means it doesn’t matter that we were hurt, doesn’t it?? Often people resist forgiving because they believe that in doing so they are condoning the bad behavior, invalidating their own experience and pain, pretending it never happened, and letting the person off “scot free.” That is simply not the case.

Forgiveness means acknowledging and accepting that something very painful happened or, yes, was done to you… and then letting it go and leaving it in the past where it belongs, so you can heal and move on in your own life. The other person probably moved on a long time ago!

And remember, it is totally up to you what, if any, future relationship you have with that person, and that will likely depend on whether he/she apologized, expressed true remorse, made amends, and worked to earn your trust again. Remember the adage: “Hurt me once, shame on YOU. Hurt me twice, shame on ME.” It’s true! “Turning the other cheek” may mean turning and walking away! We definitely don’t have to go back for a “second dose,” and it behooves us to learn from our experiences. We can only learn who people really are by observing, and sometimes experiencing, their actions. Every action is information about who a person is and whether we want him/her in our lives. And, as Maya Angelou said, “When a person shows you who they are, believe them!”

Holding on to past grievances is like permanently holding ourselves in the moment of the pain so we can relive it over and over again.When we are still stuck emotionally in a painful event, we are stuck firmly in the past, not moving forward with our lives, and we are giving our lives over to that single event. It becomes a defining moment for us. Many people actually define their entire existence in terms of what someone else did to them years, or even decades ago! Is it possible they want their entire life to become a shrine to one painful event? Why? What is the emotional payoff for that?

Think of it this way:  Someone walks up and hits you in the head with a baseball bat and walks away. Instead of going home to get first aid and heal your wound, you pick up the baseball bat and, over the next few years, periodically pick up the bat and hit yourself in the head again. By the end of five years, you’ve hit yourself in the head a few thousand times, with your built-up anger and resentment adding force to each blow. The person who originally hit you with the bat only did it once. So, at the end of the five years, who caused you the most pain and the most harm? That person or you?


Emotional pain, anger, resentment, and bitterness build up in our systems if we don’t vent them and let them go. Emotions are intended to be Energy in Motion, and emotional energies can cause all kinds of problems if they don’t move out of our systems. They are like toxic fumes that continually swirl around us. They make us sick and, worse, attract more toxic fumes… that will attract more painful events… that will emit more toxic fumes…

We create a continuing loop, and each time we relive the event in our minds, theneural networks that were created become deeper and stronger, so it is easier to “fall back” into that thought and feeling. It poisons our minds, our hearts, our bodies, and our lives, and often the lives of those around us. Before long, we view everything through that filter and our vision, our thoughts, and our emotional processes are so poisoned that the only thing we can see, think, or feel is pain, anger, resentment, and bitterness. We begin to believe that Life is defined by that, and we no longer allow anything else in, because our outer reality always proves that our beliefs are true!

It also traps us in victim mode. By holding on to past grievances and marinating ourselves in those toxic emotions, we give every ounce of our power away to the other person.We give up responsibility for ourselves and our emotional state of being, we wallow in our self-pity, and we give others power over our lives.

The truth is, no one can truly hurt us unless we let them.(OUCH!) Knowingly or unknowingly, we contribute to our own pain. We may not have control over what others do but, contrary to popular belief, we DO have control over how we respond. We can cling to the pain and relive it, or we can heal and walk away. In fact, it is never the experiences that create our lives and who we are, it is how we respond to them. Do we learn and grow and rise above, or do we fall and wallow and give up? It really is our choice.

As is so often the case, we can learn so much from the children. Kids know how to “shake it off,” unless the adults teach them to cling to their pain. A happy child falls, skins a knee, has mom “fix it,” and then runs out to play again. Kids accept that pain is just something that happens in life. They know all too well that sometimes people are mean and do things that hurt them, and they don’t let it stop them. We could use a lot more of that!

We owe it to ourselves to forgive. It is all for US, not for them. Forgiveness is truly a “selfish act,” and it really does set us free.

So how do we do that? When someone betrays us; abuses us; takes advantage of us; causes physical, mental, or emotional harm, how do we work our way to the point where we can forgive them and let it go? How do we, as Jiminy Cricket used to say, “Pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again”?

It isn’t always easy, and we generally have to go one step at a time, but it may be the most important part of our healing process. If we can reframe our understanding of the event, we can often change our perspective enough to forgive and make lemonade from those lemons. Here are some ways to reframe:

Recognize that everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have at the time. This includes ALL resources, such as emotional understanding and capacity, self-esteem, knowledge, wisdom, experience, energy, ability to empathize with others, and level of overwhelm. Most people are running on empty, especially in the last few years: they are stretched so thin, they don’t have enough time, energy, money, strength, or mental or emotional capacity to cope. People are running on auto-pilot, and when a complex situation presents itself that requires discernment, integrity, generosity, kindness, and love, often they only have the ability to react out of fear. They cannot think about the impact of their actions on other people, because they are struggling just to manage a situation and get through it.

Even when people do try to consider others, they still don’t really know the full impact of their actions; none of us can ever really know, because a person’s reaction to what we do is based not only on what we do, but also on their entire emotional history.

What other people do to us is not really about US. 
How we react to what other people do to us is not really about THEM.

What people do comes from their state of mind, emotional state, and emotional baggage. How we react to anything that happens to us comes from our state of mind, emotional state, and emotional baggage.

This is an important distinction: our reactions and sensitivities to what others do is our own, based on everything that has ever happened to us and how we have reacted. People can push our buttons without even knowing we have those buttons, and we can push theirs. Heck, I can push people’s buttons just by walking into a room!! What is perfectly fine for one person can be highly offensive, threatening, or pain-invoking for someone else. And we have absolutely no way of knowing that until we find out the hard way, when they react in a totally unexpected way. It’s the same for others and our reactions. The key for all of us is to identify the buttons we have and heal the underlying pain, so there is no longer a button to push!

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