There is one spiritual principle that I have hesitated to write about.
Not because it isn't an important concept. Actually, it's the most important thing that we must learn on our self-development path.
I've avoided writing about it because it's been the hardest quality for me to embody in my own life.
I'm talking about forgiveness.
I've wanted to write this blog for months, but I felt like it would be disingenuous. How can I coach you on a concept that I was not effectively practicing in my own life? Like most people, I have had people who betrayed me in a really intense way. And I've carried that resentment and negative energy with me for years (and in some cases, decades).
Why couldn't I let go?
For the same reason that we always struggle to let go of those huge, life-altering, levels of hurt. I felt that forgiveness would somehow let the other person "off the hook." By hanging onto the resentment and letting it hold me back from my most fully-expressed life, I had a sword that I could hang over their head.
"See what you did to me? My life would be so much different if it weren't for YOU!"
How many times have you sat around feeling anguish over the past and wishing it had unfolded differently? Those thoughts are a completely unproductive strategy for three reasons:
1) The past, no matter how traumatic, cannot be changed.
2) Living in the past is a super convenient way to keep yourself from growing and moving FORWARD.
3) Blaming others for our lack of progress takes away our power to make a new, empowering choice.
So this week, I made a new choice.
After doing some soul searching and working with my own coach, I sat down and wrote a long email to one of the people who betrayed me the most in my life. I called them out for their behavior and told them in no uncertain terms how badly their actions hurt me.
And at the end... I told them that I had forgiven them.
In doing so, I felt a weight lift that I had carried for far too long.
So how do we go from "eff you" to "forgiveness?"
The first step is in simply acknowledging what happened. Sometimes, a hurt can be so painful and damaging that we refuse to even acknowledge its existence.. Some clients of mine actually find that they repressed the original incident and feel confused when it starts to come up later in life in unexpected ways.
The second step is to fully and unapologetically FEEL the feelings associated with the betrayal, without trying to change them. There are times when the hurt that we endured was so great, that we actually feel hatred for the other person. We can even feel like we want revenge. While it's important to not act on those impulses, we need to know it's not only ok, but also perfectly normal to feel that emotion. I urge my clients to release themselves of the judgement over what they THINK they should feel and allow themselves to just be.
From there, you can move to the next step find and find an outlet to express the anger. It could be working with a therapist or life coach, it could be journaling, or perhaps a yoga or meditation practice. But what we need is an outlet to move through the anger and get to the sadness that is underneath.
Because this is where the transformation begins to happen. In our effort to hang onto anger and make the other person "wrong", we ultimately hurt ourselves. That negative energy is stored in our bodies at a cellular level. It will manifest itself as stress, panic attacks, depression, or even as disease in the body. When we move our focus from the external (anger directed at the other person) and get to the internal (creating space to feel our sadness over the hurt we experienced), we can address the deepest wound and begin to find that love for ourselves.
From there, the next step is to take that step forward into forgiveness. And here is the thing about forgiving.
We don't do it for the other person. We don't do as a way of justifying their negative action. We don't do it to make sure they are okay.
We do it for ourselves.
We do it to get out of the anger and sadness cycle. We do it so the other person no longer holds power over our life. We do it to take our power back and free ourselves. By choosing to release the low vibrational energy of anger, sadness, guilt, and shame, we clear space to bring in more loving energy into our life.
It doesn't necessarily have to be love for the other person who hurt us. At least not right away. But what it IS about is feeling the self-love that comes from standing in our power.
And as I pressed send on my email this week, that is what I felt for myself. Whether or not the other person reads the email or takes the time to respond is irrelevant. This isn't about them. It was about my own healing. This was about saying "no more" and taking a powerful step forward.
Hanging onto resentment is easy. Choosing forgiveness is hard. It takes an unbelievable amount of strength. So when you tap into that bold, courageous, part of yourself, you can't help but deeply love and respect yourself for how powerful you truly are.
So who do you need to forgive today? Is it a family member? An ex? Maybe the person you need to forgive is yourself!
Making the choice to forgive is the greatest gift that you can give to yourself. It allows you to step out of the shadows of the past and be fully present in the present moment.
And the present moment is always full of new beginnings and inspiration.