If you’re human (like me) there will have been rough times in the past. Times when people mistreated you, exploited you, took advantage of you, and basically did not treat you as a person.
And if you took the route that I did, (self examination coupled with changes in behaviour) hopefully your today is much better than the place you were in.
But every now and again I get emotional flashbacks of those times passed.
I will remember the people who mistreated me, and am filled with anger. Or, when I see how it could all have been better, I will feel the stupid, desolute waste of it all. Or when I think of those still trapped in those systems – both the agressors and those they target – I am filled with sadness for them.
My life has changed enough that it is unlikely that I will find myself ever dealing with these people or situations again. So I don’t think these emotions are protecting me from these situations.
So the question arises, what am I supposed to do with these emotions?
Are you the same? What do you do with them?
As difficult as it can be, forgiveness is imperative if we want to move our lives forward. The myth about forgiveness is that it’s something you do for the other person. it is, in fact, something you do for yourself.
So if forgiveness is such a good thing, why is it so hard to do ? For one thing, we may be holding out for vindication — for an apology that may never come — or for revenge. I find that when someone is willing to admit that they hurt me, forgiving is easy. But if they repeat the injury or refuse to acknowledge it, I want to hurt them back. We may enjoy the feeling of righteous anger, which can make us feel strong and powerful. Or we may want to punish the other person by withholding our forgiveness. But illogically, we often withhold forgiveness from someone we’re not even in communication with. So who are we really punishing?
Refusing to forgive keeps us connected to that person and anchored to the past. When you hold onto the anger, hurt or resentment, you tend to play out in your head either the scene where you were wronged, or more likely, a scene of revenge or vindication. And that takes some of your energy, every day. By forgiving, we can reclaim the energy that is going into playing out this scene over and over and release ourselves from that past.
So how do you forgive? Do you just say, “I forgive you”? Yes, sometimes that works. But more often, there are a few steps you need to take first. There are numerous processes available from books and teachers, and I will share with you what works for me.
~ Firstly realize and acknowledge what you’re doing.You’re holding onto old anger, hurt, resentment, and perhaps trying to punish someone, feel sorry for yourself or create an excuse not to move forward in your life. These are hard things to admit, but important to the process and to your growth.
~ Express your feelings. Often, we hold onto negative feelings because we don’t feel heard. If possible and appropriate, talk it out calmly with the other person. Let them know how you feel and why. If this doesn’t feel right or the person is not accessible, you can still have a conversation with them in meditation or your imagination; it will still have impact. Or express your feelings to a trusted friend or a counselor, so that you feel heard.
~ Be willing to let go. This step is important to all types of healing. We must actively choose to let go and put it behind us. Be honest about this one. If you’re not ready to truly let go, you may need to repeat the earlier steps (or the whole process) a few times first.
~ Forgive. This may be as simple as saying, “I forgive you,” or you may want to perform some sort of actual or meditative ritual of release. Perhaps light a candle, write “I forgive so-and-so for doing such-and-such” on a piece of paper, see yourself releasing them, then tear up the paper and burn it. Or literally or meditatively draw a line, step over it and say, “I forgive; I am done with this.” Or create a ritual of your own.
~ And finally, visualize taking back your energy from that person and situation. Feel released, renewed and revitalized.
Once you’ve done this process, if you later find yourself feeling angry or running the scene of revenge again, stop and change your thoughts. Or do the process again until you feel clear. You may have to go through it a few times to truly forgive and let it go. And whether you choose to continue a relationship with that person or not, the act of forgiving will free you both.
While forgiveness and guilt are matters that need to be faced by everyone, as creative people, we need to be especially conscious of how withholding forgiveness and hanging onto guilt rob us of energy that we could use more creatively elsewhere.
Good luck .