Forgiveness is difficult for many people. Not because the act of forgiving is so demanding or difficult, but because we may see it as giving permission for wrong doing. However, forgiveness is not about the other person, the one who hurt you, betrayed you, or wronged you; forgiveness is about you. Forgiveness is about choosing to be done, to put it down, and to move forward, rather than be held back by anger or resentment. Forgiveness has power because it allows us to let go and move on. I’ve aways appreciated the metaphor that holding resentment is liking taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. In reality, the other person is not the one living with the emotional discomfort, seething inside, or the person carrying the load. When we choose resentment, we are the one carrying the weight of the burden.
Choosing to forgive means opting to unload the burden. Forgiving does not equate to saying that what someone else did was alright, it just means that you are choosing to be done with it; allowing it to be part of your story, rather than a day to day experience that plagues you. Forgiving also means choosing to forgive yourself. It allows us to let go of the negative thoughts of self and the regrets that may become part of who we are, like barnacles glued to us. Those barnacles change us – they effect our happiness, our satisfaction, our relationships.
Forgiving oneself means to acknowledge the parts of the self that perhaps need further growth and development; those parts that we may hide from others for fear of rejection, judgement, or exclusion. Forgiving means being gentle with ourselves and practicing living an authentic life, vulnerable, yet fulfilling. When we recognize the impulse to self-criticize for reasons of expectation of perfection, we can give ourselves space to just be, and to live, being patient with ourselves in order to become our best selves. Just as practicing forgiveness can help us let go of the “yuck” towards others, it in turn will also allow us to move beyond our past transgressions, putting down the weight that keeps us stagnant. As human beings we are naturally ever-changing. Staying stuck in resentment or self-hatred goes against our natural inclination to evolve as individuals. Let yourself continue to move forward, becoming your truest and best self at this moment in your life; choose happiness – choose to be content today.
Written by Lauren Robbins, MS, LPCC, LADC