How do we forgive the unforgivable?
The question of how to forgive has haunted humankind from Day 1. As seekers of Love, one of the most challenging things we are called to do is to meet hurtfulness, intentional or accidental, with kindness and love. It feels counter-intuitive when what we really want is to see this hurtful person punished.
The stories of people who forgave the unthinkable may inspire us, but I’ll be the first to admit that my default mode when hurt happens may be anger, anxiety, self-righteousness, or depression. My head knows how important it is to release the past, but sometimes my heart or pride is in shreds.
Forgiveness and gratitude are the twin secrets for a healthy, happy life. They are by far the greatest habits we can develop in ourselves and the only way to free ourselves from pain and suffering.
Betrayal, Hurt, and Anger
When we are still little children, we discover that others have the power to hurt us. Those hurts can cut unbearably deep, especially if they come from parents or others we intuitively trust. At a tender age, we begin developing a keen sense of what is just and unjust. And as children, we naturally expect the adults in our lives to make things right, so when bad things happen we wait for that magical someone else to fix this horrible hurt for us.
If it happens often enough, we begin to feel betrayed in addition to feeling hurt and angry. If it is the adults in our lives who are causing the hurt, we begin to feel unsafe. We yearn for this person to know what they have done and why it hurts. And more than anything, we want them to make it right. After all, we are just children.
The risk is great of getting stuck in this child perspective of believing the other person should right the wrong. It becomes a prison of our own making, giving anyone who hurts us accidentally or on purpose the power to keep us chained to our own anger and hurt.
Left unchecked, this unforgiveness will fester, smothering anything positive trying to take root in our hearts. It will pop up in bitter habits of complaining and criticizing and unworthiness. And it will block the love that is seeking us.
But worst of all, unforgiveness keeps us in bondage with the person we haven’t forgiven. We have chained ourselves to them and to whatever they did by our own negative habits and outlook. The original unforgiveness and all the feelings and habits that have sprung up as a result consume us and there is literally no room for the love we so deeply desire.
It’s time to clean house and make space for the desires of your heart.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” ~ Lewis B. Smedes
Did you know that the Aramaic word for “forgive” means “to untie”? The first time I read that, I was blown away. It literally sent chills through me. My unforgiveness was what was keeping me tied, in total bondage, to the people who had caused me the pain in the first place. Instead of getting over it, I was tying them tighter and tighter, dragging them around like the proverbial ball and chain. And that unforgiveness went two ways – in some cases I hadn’t forgiven them and in others I hadn’t forgiven myself. Sometimes, it was a little of both. Regardless, I had created a heavy emotional and physical burden. No wonder unforgiveness is so exhausting!
The way to be free of the bitter feelings that go along with being hurt is to forgive. It’s not just the fastest way, it’s the only way. Forgiveness allows you to start disentangling yourself from the messy physical and emotional knot you created as you have hung on to the hurt.
How to Forgive in 3 Steps:
1. Cut the cords that ensnare you. Release the other person from they did and yourself from the feelings you have carried as a result.
True confession – One night, I did battle with god. I had come seeking punishment for someone who had hurt me badly. God kept insisting that I forgive this person anyway. We argued for hours. God finally won – imagine that! And here’s the miracle. In that moment when I reluctantly first said “I forgive” it felt as if a physical burden was lifted from my shoulders. My heart wasn’t yet fully engaged in forgiveness for this person, yet god honored my baby step profoundly. That was a life-changing moment.
2. Allow yourself to feel completely neutral about what happened. It happened and it’s over, in the past, and it’s OK for it to stay there. Stop dredging it up. When it bubbles to surface in thought or conversation, acknowledge it and gently but firmly change the subject.
3. Find something, anything from the experience to be grateful about.
Sounds easier said than done? Then you will be happy to hear that once you understand a few things, forgiveness gets easier and easier.
More about forgiveness HERE
Anne Wade is Teacher, Writer, Mentor, and Coach for courageous women in midlife and beyond who want to disrupt their own status quo and design life on their own terms, even in turbulent times. She has developed the Becoming Found process of going within to find and address the inner barriers we have all inadvertently built up against love, happiness, health, wealth and any other desires of our hearts. Teaching women to unapologetically shine like a superstar and live their legacy is Anne’s mission.
You can follow her on her Facebook page “Anne Wade – Becoming found” or join her “Becoming Found” Facebook group.