Written by Kristin Barton Cuthriell M.Ed, MSW, LCSW
Are you holding on to a past hurt? Over time has your anger turned into a deep resentment that haunts you and steals the joy from your life? Are you consumed with the harmful act of another. Has it turned you into a bitter shell of who you used to be?
Visualize your body filled with poison that makes you bitter, takes away your energy, crushes your enthusiasm, and prevents you from experiencing joy in life. Wouldn’t you want to rid yourself of that poison? The poison is the rage and resentment inside your body. Giving it up and releasing it, can improve your mental health, your physical health, your spiritual health, and may even save your life. As long as you are focused on how the other person harmed you, you hold onto that poison which prevents you from moving on with your life and being the best that you can be.
To forgive is to liberate yourself from the resentment and bitterness that has held you captive for so long. It is coming to terms with your past so that you do not allow it to ruin your present and your future. It is releasing the grudge so toxic, poisoning only you. It is accepting that you can’t alter the past, but that you can build on today. It is letting go, thoughts of retaliation and revenge so that you can use that energy to move forward in a new direction. Forgiveness is realizing that the one who hurt you may have once been wounded in the same way. Forgiveness is refusing to allow the harmful act of another to occupy a permanent place in your mind. Forgiveness is ridding yourself of venomous negativity that travels through your blood stream and seeps from your pours preventing a place for peace, love, and happiness to dwell. It is removing the chains that bind you. Forgiveness is a precious gift to the self.
Below I have listed old beliefs that will keep you stuck and new healthy ways to view forgiveness.
Old belief Forgiveness is about letting the offender off the hook
Correction Forgiveness is not about them, it is for me. I am letting myself off the hook.
Old belief If I forgive, I am saying that the offense was acceptable.
Correction I can forgive and still know that it was an unacceptable offense.
Old belief If I forgive, I am saying that the offense should be tolerated.
Correction Letting go is for my mental health, it does not mean that I have tolerated anything.
Old belief Forgiving will make me weak.
Correction It takes strength to forgive and not allow another to take over my mind and take my power away.
Old belief I have to be friends with my offender.
Correction The offender does not have to be part of my life if that is what I choose.
Old belief I can only forgive if my offender apologizes.
Correction I can spend the rest of my life waiting for an apology, and it may never happen. Forgiveness is for me, so that I can move on with my life, with or without an apology.
Old belief If I forgive, my offender wins and I lose.
Correction If I do not forgive and move on with my life, I lose. The true winner is the one who learns how to forgive.
Old belief They have ruined my life.
Correction I will not allow another person’s actions to destroy my life.
Old belief Forgiveness means that the offender goes unpunished for the offense.
Correction I will leave the judgment and the final analysis to God, it is not up to me!
Forgiveness is a process. It is not accomplished overnight. But the more that you remind yourself that forgiving is a gift to yourself the more that you may be able to move forward with your life. Live! Living a life filled with hate, is not really living at all. If you are filled with anger, you will not experience peace. At some point you have to stop blaming others for your unhappiness and begin making changes yourself. Remember: Practice letting life in!