Recently we had a life-debacle which, though there were silver-linings to be found, left the Child and me struggling with the notion of forgiveness.
Sure we could distract ourselves for a day or three, we just hadn’t found our way to permanent forgiveness.
Finally we simultaneously discovered it was because neither of us knew how to to carve that particular path.
We needed to decide we wanted to forgive.
As simple a decision as this seems in hindsight it required hours of talking and debating to arrive at this feeling.
However when we did what she and I experienced backed up all the research.
- Forgiveness would make us happier. We were living the notion of not forgiving being like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. It was only harming us and there was the greatest of chances the other person was wholly unaware of our feelings.
- Forgiveness would help us physically. Studies suggest holding grudges compromises our immune systems and make us less resistant to illness. Whether that’s true or not, the Child had definitely experienced lack of sleep and stomachaches.
- Forgiveness would increase feelings of connection. Through clinging tightly to our grudge we’d metaphorically hardened our exteriors. When humans forgive we’re more likely to volunteer and help others (the Child & I liked to think we’d do this anyway, but for argument’s sake let’s go with the research).
We concluded we were ready to forgive.
As with many things in life we soon realized the act of forgiveness might be easier said than done.
1. Identify what happened.
We challenged ourselves to articulate precisely what transpired. You might talk with a friend, journal or even say the experience aloud to your reflection. Be detailed in the description. Step 1 may seem simplistic/obvious, yet I’ve experienced situations where I was at a loss with regards to what had happened. I was hurt and sad, yet lacked the ability to identify why. This inability didn’t mean I wasn’t wronged; it did mean I needed to invest more time in reflection. If you can’t explain something simply you don’t understand well enough…yet.
2. Name it. Choose to feel it.
Instead of only naming or feeling the Child and I chose to add an element of humor into step 2. We bestowed upon the scenario a silly nickname. As a result, each time we referred to the incident, we’d incorporated a needed layer of levity. It helped. A lot. Before humor would work, however, we needed to decide we wanted to feel. We needed to choose to embrace all the emotions so we could move past grudge-holding toward forgiveness. Sure there existed an inclination to cling to the sadness/disappointment and make it our new story. I chose to resist this pull. I’m grateful the Child did, too.
I’m a believer in needing to metaphorically ‘move through‘ feelings in order to process/overcome. This scenario and its unique mix of grief/anger/sadness/disappointment surprised me with its need for literal and metaphorical movement in order to release. I employed trial & error with step 3 until I discovered what worked (beginning with meditation and making my way from there). The Child, who’s apparently more body aware than I these days, nailed her movement on the first try: the trampoline. Not only did this step physically exhaust us; it facilitated our visualizing anger and disappointment exiting our bodies and in its place growing forgiveness.
In forgiveness, one seeks calm and understanding which emerges when we blame others less (no matter what transpired) and choose to take all interactions less ‘personally.’ When we forgive we learn (or relearn as was the case here) one of life’s most important lessons:
It’s rarely about us. The way others treat/react to us is a direct reflection of their experience.
When we finally arrived at step 5 we were more than ready for a reboot. We’d done the work. We’d processed. We were eager to channel our energies toward creating a way to get our needs met from a different place than the interaction which had disappointed (vague-blogging for privacy). We were prepared to shift away from viewing ourselves as victims/individuals life happened to. No matter what had occurred in the recent past we chose to release any ‘power’ the situation held in our (emotional) lives and commit to a fresh start.
Almost an eight week process.
Worth every moment of hard work and time invested on our end.
- Do you struggle to forgive others for perceived wrongs? Do you struggle to forgive yourself?