I struggled with forgiveness for a long time. It was this elusive thing to me. I would say it, but I didn’t know how to feel it. In my heart, I still felt betrayed and I wanted someone to hurt as much as I did. I always thought that it was letting the person off for what they did to me. I was walking around cursing the person out in my mind and I couldn’t move past it. I always thought that forgiveness was something that would shower down on me one day. I didn’t understand that it was a choice.
Eventually, I sought forgiveness because I realized that my health was being affected by my inability to forgive. I was holding all this stress in my body and it was slowly breaking down. I was going to the doctor with panic attacks and they would tell me that I need to reduce my stress. It sounded so foreign to me that I would laugh. As I received more and more prescriptions, I realized that I had to take control of my health. As I started to meditate to relieve my stress, I started paying attention to all these conversations that were going in my mind with the people that “wronged” me. There were all these things I never said that were playing through my mind like a tape.
“What we don’t recognize is that holding onto resentment is like holding your breath. You’ll soon start to suffocate.”- Deepak Chopra
I decided to write the things down. I wrote letters to get the feelings out, but I didn’t send them. I just wanted them out of my mind. It’s not easy to find forgiveness and each person has to figure out which way works for them. The way that I found that worked for me was to remove myself from the equation of the incident. It’s easy to think that the things that happens to us are personal, but the majority of the time it has absolutely nothing to do with you. You are an innocent bystander in the pain of another human being. You are a convenient target. For me, I borrowed from Miss Celie in The Color Purple. “What you done to me already done to you.” I realized that if someone can hurt me that they have to already be hurting. It helps me to forgive. What I am suffering from in that moment is nothing compared to what that person must be suffering with everyday of their life. I’ve progressed so far in my compassion that I can pray for them, but I understand that it’s not something that everyone can do.
There is lesson that you are meant to learn, even from betrayal. It may be to be careful who you trust. It might be to take more control of a situation. You may learn that you can trust yourself no matter what people choose to do. It may teach you to value yourself. There is a lesson in every interaction that we have with another human being. You should never beat yourself for being stupid. Nothing you do is stupid. It’s a lesson. As with any student, you might not get the answer the first time so you keep going until you learn it. The one lesson I encourage you not to repeat over and over is the one that will put you in the grave, so forgive to save yourself. It’s less about the other person and more about you. As long as you are unforgiving, you are locking yourself in a jail and you will be forever stuck in that moment while that person has moved past it. Free yourself.