Wow! Where did this come from? I had been giving everyone license to walk all over me. Where was my backbone? What happened to my power?
Artemis, the Greek Goddess of the Hunt, refused to follow the traditional female role of wife and mother. Instead she asked her father, Zeus, for a bow and arrow so she could roam free in the woods with her circle of nymphs. Artemis and the nymphs were self-sufficient, hunting and supporting each other. They created a circle of collaboration.
Has someone hurt you in the past? Maybe betrayed a trust? Offered unwelcomed criticism? Placed blame unfairly?
When someone hurt you, did you have you have a hard time letting it go? Did you harbor anger, resentment, or even thoughts of revenge?
Have you found it difficult to embrace forgiveness and move forward?
Nearly everyone has been hurt by the actions or words of another. Perhaps your mother criticized your parenting skills, your colleague sabotaged a project, or your partner had an affair. These wounds can leave you with lasting feelings of anger, bitterness, or even vengeance.
I’ve harbored bitter feelings towards a couple of ‘exes’ for a long time. During a recent illness that lingered for 6 weeks I was given way too much time to process these old hurts. I did a lot of reflection on forgiveness and compassion and why these too human characteristics are so important.
Wise elders from all traditions have told us that if we don’t practice forgiveness, we might be the ones who pay most dearly. By embracing forgiveness, we’re told that we can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy.
Generally, forgiveness is coming to terms with the wisdom of letting go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. Although you might always remember the act that hurt or offended, eventually there is realization that forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, more positive parts of your life. The process of forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you. Nor does it minimize or justify the wrong. It’s possible to forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness allows you to find a place of inner peace that helps you go on with life free from the feelings of resentment and bitterness.
Letting go of grudges and bitterness can help you create a life with more happiness, health and peace. The Mayo Clinic claims that forgiveness can lead to:
- Healthier relationships
- Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- Stronger immune system
- Improved heart health
- Higher self-esteem
When you’re hurt by someone you love and trust, you might become angry, sad or confused. Dwelling on these hurtful events or situations allows grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility to fester and take root. Our imagination is so powerful that rehashing these negative feelings can inflame the hurt and pain so that it crowds out positive feelings. Then you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.
If you hold onto these old grudges and resentments, the Mayo Clinic states that you might:
- Pollute other relationships and new experiences with anger and bitterness
- Allow the toxic memories of past wrongs to negatively impact the present
- Become depressed or anxious
- Feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or to cause you to feel disconnected from spirit or your spiritual beliefs
- Lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others
Forgiveness is decision to be honest with yourself and reflect on the situation with more compassion and a larger perspective of yourself and the other party or parties.
To begin, you might:
- Reflect on the particulars of the situation, how you’ve reacted, and how the resentment and bitterness has affected your life, health and well-being.
- Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance in your life at a given time.
- Actively choose to view the other person with compassion while trying to understand them and their situation, and allow forgiveness to emerge when you are ready.
- Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power that the offending person and situation has had on your life.
As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.
It’s not always easy to forgive. This is especially true if the other person doesn’t want to admit wrong and/or doesn’t speak of his or her own sorrow. If you find yourself stuck:
- Consider the situation from the other person’s point of view.
- Ask yourself why he or she would behave in such a way. Perhaps you would have reacted similarly if you faced the same situation.
- Reflect on times you’ve hurt others and on those who’ve forgiven you.
- Write in a journal, pray or use guided meditation – or talk with a person you’ve found to be wise and compassionate, such as a spiritual leader, a mental health provider, or an impartial loved one or friend.
- Be aware that forgiveness is a process and even small hurts may need to be revisited and forgiven over and over again.
It’s important to remember that forgiveness doesn’t always lead to reconciliation. If you’ve had a close relationship with the offending party prior to the hurt, then forgiveness might lead to reconciliation. This isn’t always the case, however. Sometimes there can be forgiveness yet the relationship never quite goes back to the way it was.
If the offender has died or is unwilling to communicate then it might not be possible to achieve reconciliation. Sometimes reconciliation might not be appropriate. Still, it’s important to remember that forgiveness is possible – even if reconciliation isn’t.
Forgiveness isn’t about getting another person to change his or her actions, behavior or words. Forgiveness is more about how it can change your life by helping you to find greater peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can also take away the power the other person continues to wield in your life.
Remember, forgiveness is a process. Your ability to forgive may not happen overnight. Nor can you force someone to forgive you if, in your process, you realize that you might have to take some responsibility for what happened.
People need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever the outcome, allow yourself to move to a state of forgiveness. Forgiveness is important for your own health and well-being. Then commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was YOU!
If you are harboring bitterness, anger, and/or resentment and are having a hard time letting it go, then give Joy Reichard a call to find out how she can help you move to a state of forgiveness so you can find more peace and happiness in your life. Email Joy today or contact Joy at 415-819-8769.
Adapted from words of wisdom obtained from a Mayo Clinic article on forgiveness.
- There is no perfection. Anyone who believes there is, or insists that you should attain that status, is not worth your time. You are enough!
- There is no goal that you could ever achieve that will convince you that you are enough. If you don’t already believe that before you get there, then you still won’t believe it once you do.
- You are an incredible person. I don’t even know you, but I can tell you without a doubt that there is something in you that sets you apart from everyone else. You need to find that thing and embrace it. Nurture it. You are special. You are enough!
- I know that other people’s opinions, external comparisons, and your own negative self-talk may have brought you to a place where you question your self-worth. Some days are worse than others, but realize that on every single day YOU ARE ENOUGH!
- As long as you know you are enough, no one can ever tell you that you’re not.
It’s impossible to think clearly when you’re flooded with fear or anxiety. The first thing to do is take time out so you can physically calm down.
If your heart beat starts to race, or your palms start to sweat, the best thing is not to fight it.
3. Face your fears
Avoiding fears only makes them scarier. Whatever your fear, if you face it, it should start to fade. For instance, if you panic one day getting into an elevator, it’s best to get back into an elevator the next day. This helps to desensitize you from your fear.
Try imagining the worst thing that can happen – perhaps it’s panicking and having a heart attack. Then try to think yourself into having a heart attack. It’s just not possible. The fear will run away the more you chase it.
It sometimes helps to challenge fearful thoughts. For example, if you’re scared of getting trapped in an elevator and suffocating, ask yourself if you have ever heard of this happening to someone. Ask yourself what you would say to a friend who had a similar fear.
Life is full of stresses, yet many of us feel that our lives must be perfect. Bad days and setbacks will always happen, and it’s important to remember that life is messy. Just do the best you can and accept that your best is “good enough!”
Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine a place of safety and calm. It could be a picture of you walking on a beautiful beach, or snuggled up in bed with the cat next to you, or a happy memory from childhood. Let the positive feelings soothe you until you feel more relaxed.
Sharing fears takes away a lot of their scariness. Call a partner, friend or family member and share your fears with them. Sometimes just hearing yourself talk can help you process and release the fear.
Lots of people turn to alcohol or drugs in an effort to self-medicate their anxiety. This, however, only make matters worse. Simple, everyday things like a good night’s sleep, a wholesome meal, hanging out with a friend or loved one, and/or a walk are often the best cures for anxiety.
Finally, give yourself a treat. When you have taken that first step or have made that call you’ve been dreading, for example, reinforce your success by treating yourself to a massage, a country walk, a meal out, a book, a DVD, or whatever little gift makes you happy.
- Take responsibility for your own experience.
- Be skeptical of fixed reactions, both yours and anyone else’s.
- Confront old conditioning. It leads to unconscious behavior.
- Be aware of your emotions and where they come from.
- Examine your core beliefs. Hold them up to the light, and discard beliefs that make you stuck.
- Ask yourself what part of reality you are rejecting. Freely consult the viewpoint of the people around you. Respect what they see in the situation.
- Practice empathy so that you can experience the world through someone else’s eyes.
So much is transpiring in the political arena that it is hard not to be swept up into the emotionally charged chaos. Personally I am finding it challenging to stay balanced with an open heart and open mind, to release anger and upset, and to stay centered. This is why I was so grateful to receive this email from my spiritual mentor, Terry Attwood. I felt her message was so helpful to me personally that I wanted to share it with all of you …
Terry’s Message: It is very important to realize when we are so upset about the current events going on in the country that we are in the ego. It’s a signal to move to higher ground and use that energy to stay centered and take action from a base of non-attachment to our personal beliefs, but to come from the place of what is right. So, what I have been doing is to keep in my mind that my protests are coming from a place that supports the truth of what this country is about… from the basic values that define America. I am attaching a great writing (Buddhist) about this. – Terry
The Wisdom of Anger
“The buddhas are not just the love-and-light people we like to think they are. Of course, their enlightened mind is grounded in total peace, but in that open space compassion spontaneously arises. It has many manifestations. One is the pure energy of anger.
Anger is the power to say ‘no’. This is our natural reaction whenever we see someone suffer – we want to stop it. The buddhas say ‘no’ to the three poisons (greed, hatred and delusion) that drive injustice. They are angry about our suffering and they will happily destroy its causes. They aren’t angry at us. They’re angry for us.
… There are times when the compassionate thing is to destroy. To say “Stop!” to suffering. To say “Wake up!” to the ways people deceive themselves. To use the energy of anger to say “No!” to all that is selfish, exploitative, and unjust.
In its pure, awakened form, when it is not driven by ego, anger brings good to the world. In our personal lives, it helps us be honest about our own foibles and have the courage to help others see how they are damaging themselves. On a bigger scale, anger is the energy that inspires great movements for freedom and social justice, which we need so badly now. It is a vital part of every spiritual path, for before we can say yes to enlightenment, we must say no to the three poisons (greed, hatred and delusion).
The energy of anger is an inherent part of our nature-we can no more have ‘yes’ without ‘no’ than light without dark. So we need a way to work with the energy of anger so it doesn’t manifest as aggression, as well as methods to tap its inherent wisdom. We need a profound understanding of where aggression comes from, how it differs from anger, and a practical path to work with it. That path begins where all healing begins.”