Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Forgiving others takes work

A deep, authentic forgiveness takes work. It doesn’t just happen by wishing for it. It can often take years. One person from my life took me quite some years, the result of work and some cursing.

Others have come more easily. But they have all taken effort.

I like to write. Obviously. And I find writing a helpful tool when I am working on things. I’ve found it especially helpful in dealing with my emotions around the challenging people in my life. Here is how I wrote some forgiveness into my life.

To begin, I made a list of people I wanted to forgive. The list was fairly short but spanned decades of my life. I was ready to set old wounds to rest.

For each person I wrote a stream of consciousness account of how and when they had hurt me. For one of these people this was long and detailed. For the others, the accounting was more about the consequences of the hurt, the impact it had on my life.

This next part, I think, is the most important. I wrote how I failed myself in the moment with each person. What I found with this is that I often failed to set boundaries, to say no. I tended, in these moments, to allow the other person’s bad behavior into my life. Then I wrote a promise to myself with specific ways I plan to do better on my own behalf in the future. This is likely the most important part of this whole exercise and calls for some time given to reflecting. The power to not be a victim often lies within us.

After penning this account for each person, and assessing my part in it, I also asked a trusted friend to hear my act of forgiveness. I read over what I’d written and then I declared, in front of her, my intention to forgive. There was something powerful about having a witness hear my intent, like the power in a wave or gust of wind, like a force of nature. And I was purged.

Forgiveness brings freedom, a deep-seated shaking off of the old, a release of old resentments. Once these old ghosts are released, the internal newsreel somehow stops, and I found that I was no longer captive to the actions of others and became more empowered to embrace my own path.

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