When I inquire about forgiveness I have heard many different definitions. Some say that forgiveness is letting go of something and accepting it. I have also heard that forgiveness is an emotion that feels like understanding a tragic or unforgettable moment in such a way that the moment transforms into a lighter space. There is one definition, or reference, of forgiveness, however, that I tend to refer to most often when it comes up in coaching sessions or conversations with loved ones:
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison” -Nelson Mandela said these words after being wrongfully imprisoned for 27 years. Despite the reasons for him to be angry, he made the decision to release those feelings of anger, pain, injustice, hate, and bitterness. Instead, he reminded us that “forgiveness liberates the soul.”
When you hear those words, what do they speak to you? What do they mean? What does he mean when he suggests that forgiveness is a key to freeing ourselves from prison?
Imagine this. Imagine you are angry. You have been wronged. Someone in your life took something from you and it wasn’t there’s to take in the first place. Maybe they took your love for granted; they broke your trust. You carry this anger everyday; everywhere you go in fact. When you talk to others, express yourself, handle your emotions, you keep this anger at the forefront of your mind.
You will not be taken advantage of again.
New relationships take a turn for the worse, old ones fall apart. That bitterness that you have held onto is now released through your words and actions. It was never your intention to push people away. In fact, you really felt that you needed them. You still need them. They were important to you.
Now, you feel so alone. You feel so hurt. You feel...broken.
If this is you, if this was you, that is okay. I was there too, once or thrice before. I have been wronged.
The difference between you then and you now, is that you are becoming aware that your ‘victim’ attitude is wearing off. It is getting in the way of your opportunities to establish relationships that are built on foundations of trust, love, and genuine reciprocity. You are becoming aware that you have created a brick wall between yourself and the world unintentionally, and now it is time to tear it down.
Forgiveness is not an easy process. It is not something that you wake up and say, “today I forgive all that have hurt me, taken from me, and injured me.” But it is something that you can work towards.
Below I have offered some of the tried, true, and tested practices that you can start today to begin to lead your life in a more positive direction, so that when you do launch into new relationships or are ready to reconcile old ones, you step into them aware of those patterns. It is not everyone’s fault you were wronged, and it is not yours either. It is what you DO with that experience that makes a difference.
Before you go today, let’s affirm together that by forgiving those who have wronged you, you are choosing to live a life of joy, peace, and freedom.
-I choose to release any resentment.
-I choose to leave my pain behind, at that moment, because I am not living it anymore.
-I choose forgiveness.
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