Forgiveness As The Ultimate Act of Self-Love!
Forgiveness can be a really sticky issue. Everyone knows it is “blessed” to forgive, yet most of us secretly—or not-so-secretly— harbor grudges, carry resentments, relive betrayals, and plot revenge, if only in our fantasies. After all, we “earned” those stripes through our own pain and anguish. If we let all that go, we lose part of ourselves, don’t we?? If we let it go, it means it doesn’t matter that we were hurt, doesn’t it?? Often people resist forgiving because they believe that in doing so they are condoning the bad behavior, invalidating their own experience and pain, pretending it never happened, and letting the person off “scot free.”That is simply not the case.
Forgiveness means acknowledging and accepting that something very painful happened or, yes, was done to you… and then letting it go and leaving it in the past where it belongs, so you can heal and move on in your own life. The other person probably moved on a long time ago!
And remember, it is totally up to you what, if any, future relationship you have with that person, and that will likely depend on whether he/she apologized, expressed true remorse, made amends, and worked to earn your trust again. Remember the adage: “Hurt me once, shame on YOU. Hurt me twice, shame on ME.” It’s true! “Turning the other cheek” may mean turning and walking away! We definitely don’t have to go back for a “second dose,” and it behooves us to learn from our experiences. We can only learn who people really are by observing, and sometimes experiencing, their actions. Every action is information about who a person is and whether we want him/her in our lives. And, as Maya Angelou said, “When a person shows you who they are, believe them!”
Holding on to past grievances is like permanently holding ourselves in the moment of the pain so we can relive it over and over again.When we are still stuck emotionally in a painful event, we are stuck firmly in the past, not moving forward with our lives, and we are giving our lives over to that single event. It becomes a defining moment for us. Many people actually define their entire existence in terms of what someone else did to them years, or even decades ago! Is it possible they want their entire life to become a shrine to one painful event? Why? What is the emotional payoff for that?
Think of it this way: Someone walks up and hits you in the head with a baseball bat and walks away. Instead of going home to get first aid and heal your wound, you pick up the baseball bat and, over the next few years, periodically pick up the bat and hit yourself in the head again. By the end of five years, you’ve hit yourself in the head a few thousand times, with your built-up anger and resentment adding force to each blow. The person who originally hit you with the bat only did it once. So, at the end of the five years, who caused you the most pain and the most harm? That person or you?
Emotional pain, anger, resentment, and bitterness build up in our systems if we don’t vent them and let them go. Emotions are intended to be Energy in Motion, and emotional energies can cause all kinds of problems if they don’t move out of our systems. They are like toxic fumes that continually swirl around us. They make us sick and, worse, attract more toxic fumes… that will attract more painful events… that will emit more toxic fumes…
We create a continuing loop, and each time we relive the event in our minds, the neural networks that were created become deeper and stronger, so it is easier to “fall back” into that thought and feeling. It poisons our minds, our hearts, our bodies, and our lives, and often the lives of those around us. Before long, we view everything through that filter and our vision, our thoughts, and our emotional processes are so poisoned that the only thing we can see, think, or feel is pain, anger, resentment, and bitterness. We begin to believe that Life is defined by that, and we no longer allow anything else in, because our outer reality always proves that our beliefs are true!
It also traps us in victim mode. By holding on to past grievances and marinating ourselves in those toxic emotions, we give every ounce of our power away to the other person.We give up responsibility for ourselves and our emotional state of being, we wallow in our self-pity, and we give others power over our lives.
The truth is, no one can truly hurt us unless we let them.(OUCH!) Knowingly or unknowingly, we contribute to our own pain. We may not have control over what others do but, contrary to popular belief, we DO have control over how we respond. We can cling to the pain and relive it, or we can heal and walk away. In fact, it is never the experiences that create our lives and who we are, it is how we respond to them. Do we learn and grow and rise above, or do we fall and wallow and give up? It really is our choice.
As is so often the case, we can learn so much from the children. Kids know how to “shake it off,” unless the adults teach them to cling to their pain. A happy child falls, skins a knee, has mom “fix it,” and then runs out to play again. Kids accept that pain is just something that happens in life. They know all too well that sometimes people are mean and do things that hurt them, and they don’t let it stop them. We could use a lot more of that!
We owe it to ourselves to forgive. It is all for US, not for them. Forgiveness is truly a “selfish act,” and it really does set us free.
So how do we do that? When someone betrays us; abuses us; takes advantage of us; causes physical, mental, or emotional harm, how do we work our way to the point where we can forgive them and let it go? How do we, as Jiminy Cricket used to say, “Pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again”?
It isn’t always easy, and we generally have to go one step at a time, but it may be the most important part of our healing process. If we can reframe our understanding of the event, we can often change our perspective enough to forgive and make lemonade from those lemons. Here are some ways to reframe:
Recognize that everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have at the time.This includes ALL resources, such as emotional understanding and capacity, self-esteem, knowledge, wisdom, experience, energy, ability to empathize with others, and level of overwhelm. Most people are running on empty, especially in the last few years: they are stretched so thin, they don’t have enough time, energy, money, strength, or mental or emotional capacity to cope. People are running on auto-pilot, and when a complex situation presents itself that requires discernment, integrity, generosity, kindness, and love, often they only have the ability to react out of fear. They cannot think about the impact of their actions on other people, because they are struggling just to manage a situation and get through it.
Even when people do try to consider others, they still don’t really know the full impact of their actions; none of us can ever really know, because a person’s reaction to what we do is based not only on what we do, but also on their entire emotional history.
What other people do to us is not really about US. How we react to what other people do to us is not really about THEM.
What people do comes from their state of mind, emotional state, and emotional baggage. How we react to anything that happens to us comes from our state of mind, emotional state, and emotional baggage.
This is an important distinction: our reactions and sensitivities to what others do is our own, based on everything that has ever happened to us and how we have reacted. People can push our buttons without even knowing we have those buttons, and we can push theirs.Heck, I can push people’s buttons just by walking into a room!! What is perfectly fine for one person can be highly offensive, threatening, or pain-invoking for someone else. And we have absolutely no way of knowing that until we find out the hard way, when they react in a totally unexpected way. It’s the same for others and our reactions. The key for all of us is to identify the buttons we have and heal the underlying pain, so there is no longer a button to push!
Forgive them, for they know not what they do. To me, this request, attributed to Jesus on the cross, is one of the most important, and most difficult, lessons in the Bible. When we canrecognize that every action, by anyone, is either an act of love or a cry for love,and respond accordingly, we have truly released our attachment to control and pain and moved into love and compassion. When we can learn to be in that space of love and forgiveness, we have taken a giant step in our own healing and evolution.
Even when someone does something intentionally to be mean, inflicting damage or pain on purpose, they still do not know what they are doing or why. They are still only acting from the depths of their own fear, pain, and insecurity, doing the best they can. If bullies were not so terrified and self-loathing, themselves, they would not feel the need to inflict pain on others. Because of the abuse they have endured in their own lives, they can only feel powerful or good about themselves when they are putting others down or abusing them. They are getting through life the only way they know how, by treating others as they have been treated. Instead of healing their own pain, they inflict pain on others. Sadly, it appears that our culture has created a society of bullies. “The sins of the father,” passed down from generation to generation, are the dysfunctional, self-loathing ways of being in the world, based on the accumulated unhealed wounds and pain.
People who feel good about themselves, who are self-aware, and who have worked on their own healing, generally have no need to intentionally cause pain or create conflict; and if they do so by mistake, they usually can recognize it quickly and rectify it or make amends. People who indulge in desperate acts feel desperate inside. People who inflict pain are filled with pain, themselves. People who act badly simply are unable, in that moment, to act any better, for whatever reason. They cannot be focused on you and your pain, because they can only focus on their own. Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Recognizing how we often participate in causing ourselves pain is a humbling experience, and an important step toward forgiveness of ourselves and others, as well as toward our own self-awareness.
We must understand that no one can hurt us emotionally unless we “let” them. Nothing anyone else does is deeply painful unless there is something inside us that resonates with it. That unhealed emotional pain inside us—or our attachment to control of external events and others—sets up a resonance and attracts more pain into our lives. It’s those “buttons” again, that keep getting pushed. Used consciously, an emotional response can alert us to our deep, unhealed pain so we can heal it and eliminate the buttons. Unfortunately, we usually just cling more to each painful incident, thus increasing the resonance in an escalating cycle.
When we blame others for how we feel, regardless of what they have done; when we give others the power to hurt us and “ruin” our lives, we keep ourselves trapped in that resonance-pain-resonance-pain feedback loop. And if we feel, deep inside, that we deserve pain—or if we have been betraying ourselves by allowing abuse—then pain and betrayal will become the pattern of our lives until we break the cycle. And it is up to us, not someone else, to do the work to heal and break the cycle. If we allow ourselves to be doormats, we cannot really hold it against someone who wipes his feet on us, because we invited the action, consciously or unconsciously.
As Doctor Phil says, it’s up to us to teach people how to treat us, and we do that every day in every interaction, consciously or unconsciously. We do it by what we allow and what we don’t allow. Our relationships show us what we are teaching people about how we believe we deserve to be treated—and sometimes, that’s not pretty! We often stay in abusive situations, hoping the other person will change, because we are too afraid to empower ourselves to leave and create our own change. Or, deep down, we believe that we deserve it. (We don’t—EVER! And sometimes that’s our biggest lesson!)
We can also sometimes unconsciously “invite” or set ourselves up for disappointment and pain by harboring unrealistic expectations of others and/or by not clearly conveying our expectations to others. That is a trap, and no one wins. Often, we feel that others should somehow “know” what we need, want, or expect (possibly because we are afraid to express our needs clearly, or don’t believe we deserve to have them met). When others do not fulfill those needs or expectations, we take it personally, feel hurt, and hold it against them. But our needs are our responsibility.
We also may expect others to act in the same ways that we would in a given situation; we expect someone to act fairly because we would, or we expect someone to consider our needs and feelings because we would do that for them. We expect others to share our values and integrity and, perhaps to even act in our interests instead of their own. But again, these are unrealistic expectations, and unrealistic expectations only set us up for disappointment and pain.We can only realistically expect other people to act the way they act, in their self-interest as they perceive it. It is the only thing they can do—and often, it is incomprehensible to us.
We often have to forgive ourselves, too, and that can be even harder than forgiving someone else, because we judge ourselves so harshly. We often feel angrier, longer, about a painful situation when we believe part of it was our fault, or that we set ourselves up, when our internal dialogue says: “I should have known better,” “I never should have trusted that person,” “I should have asked more questions,” “I should not have deferred to such an extent to that person, and let her take advantage,” etc., etc. In those cases, it’s easier to hold on to the grudge against the other person, because otherwise we must look at our own anger and judgment of ourselves, and sit with the shame of our perceived failure. But blame and shame always keep us from healing and moving on, no matter who we are blaming.
We all have 20/20 hindsight, we all make mistakes and sometimes overlook what appears in retrospect like something that should have been obvious, forgetting that it wasn’t obvious at the time (and often, there’s no reason it would be). We are not perfect and we are not all-knowing. We cannot know how everything will turn out (not even those of us who are “psychic”!). We cannot possibly know how other people will act overreact. Like everyone else, we can only do the best we can. We can only guess, based on our experience, and hope we’re right; and if we are wrong, it is not really a failure on our part. Those thoughts really only reflect our deep desire for control and our fear of the unknown and of making mistakes. And that comes from our cultural mandate to mask our deep self-loathing, self-doubt, and fear with a veneer of perfectionism. Perhaps it stems from a deep-seated fear of a mean,judgmental God, who expects us to be perfect. But God does not expect us to be perfect, and God does not judge us. Those are singularly human traits.
When we can allow ourselves to make mistakes, giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt and knowing that we did the best we could at the time—even if we can later think of ways we could have done better—we can begin to allow others to make mistakes and give them the benefit of the doubt, too, even when those mistakes hurt us. We are all, in fact, human! And making mistakes is the only way we really learn.
We break the blame-and-shame cycle by letting go of old hurts, forgiving ourselves and others, and loving and healing ourselves. When we can feel compassion for those who cause us pain, when we understand that they are doing the best they can and really don’t know any better, or may not even know they are hurting us, we set ourselves free. When we take responsibility for our own feelings and reactions, rather than placing that responsibility on others, we empower ourselves.
Related: How to Heal Past Life Programming
Even better, when we treat ourselves with love, kindness, and compassion, others begin to treat us the same way. When we love and heal ourselves, we release the resonance for pain and drama and, stop attracting that into our lives. When we detach from judgment, grudges, and pain, we can set new intentions for ease and grace, and fuel those intentions with all the energy that has been freed up. That’s when we begin to attract love, joy, peace, and abundance.
Why not leave all those old, festering wounds, and all that pain and emotional baggage in the past where it belongs? Close the door on it all and start fresh. Begin again, and treat yourself and others the way you have always wanted to be treated, with love and respect, kindness and consideration, and, yes, forgiveness when you make a mistake, do something “stupid,” or unintentionally hurt yourself or others.
When we start loving ourselves more, treating ourselves better, and forgiving our faults, foibles, and mistakes, those around us can only follow suit… or fall away. And, if there is a falling out or a falling away in these transformational times, we can do our best to allow that, and send the other person off with love and forgiveness, knowing that when we allow change, rather than resist it, everything really does work out for our Highest Good.
About the author:
Ellyn Dye is an Author, Intuitive Coach, Metaphysical Teacher, and Public Speaker. A near-death experience in 1985 expanded her psychic abilities and created a link with some very loving—and humorous—Guardians of humanity and the ancient wisdom, the Lion People. They provided her with a vast array of information about life on earth and the evolution of mankind, and they opened an ongoing dialogue with her that has grown stronger over time. She publishes a monthly free newsletter, Tunnel Vision, and you can find her articles in the December 2012 and 2013 “Predictions Issues” of The Sedona Journal of Emergence. She is author of the metaphysical fantasy novel , The Search For The Crystal Key, and is working on a new book, Creating Heaven on Earth. . . One Soul at a Time; A How-To Manual for Ushering In the Golden Age, from the Perspective of a Near-Death Experience. Find out more about Ellyn, her NDE, her coaching, and her books, and calendars at www.LionMagic.com.
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