Have you ever noticed how life seems to work in waves? You have a smooth period, where your everyday life moves onward without major wins or setbacks. You just wake up, go to work and come home like always. And then there are periods when everything, the good and the bad, seems to happen at once.
I sure have been living the latter period this past month. It has been crystal clear that when you win some, you also lose some. And as human beings we are very prone to concentrating on the negative feelings surrounding whatever we have lost rather than putting all our efforts to enjoying the wins at those moments.
Recent happenings have forced me to think about forgiveness. And before I knew it, I was writing down all the thoughts swirling in my head and drawing conclusions. I thought I’d share my findings with you here as well, in case there are others struggling with similar issues.
What is forgiveness?
You know that process where you accept the damage and hurt done to you and allow them to do it to you again.
That is what a lot of people think of when talking about forgiveness. But it couldn’t be more incorrect.
I know from personal experience, though, that at first forgiving can feel like you’d be giving up or accepting the wrong that was done to you. Forgiving someone sort of “let’s them get away with it“. Sounds familiar?
Alas no, that is not the purpose, or the end result of forgiveness. By forgiving you do not allow the bad behaviour, and it doesn’t mean you should tolerate such in the future either. What it does instead, is to allow you to move forward.
The aforementioned mindset makes it impossible for you to ever learn to forgive anyone. Forgiving can be really hard and draining anyway, but learning to do so can save your life. Why?
Because forgiveness allows you to move past the wrongdoing, instead of hanging on to it and carrying it with you every single day, from one relationship to another. Bitterness is a feeling that makes forgiving really difficult, but at the same time all that bitterness is eating you from the inside, making you feel like shit.
So, you choose: do you want to feel like shit, or do you want to live your life to the fullest?
My journey to learning to forgive
I’ll be honest, I was a bitter fuck as a young adult. I believed that the whole world was against me, and that everyone wanted me to fail.
Looking back at it now, having lived abroad for the past 10 years, I might actually have had a tiny point considering the overly individualistic and selfish culture up in the North. But focusing my thoughts on all the wrong that was supposedly done to me, blinded me to all the opportunities that life was at the same time providing me.
Moving away and getting to know new people and their culture taught me that things can be much better. My eyes were opened to the kindness of people, the consideration shown to your fellow man, and the incredible amount of love that was openly expressed between families and friends.
Basically I found out that the grass indeed is greener on the other side. In fact, there was no grass growing where I left from. Learning to forgive was probably the most gentle learning experience I’ve been through, and also the life lesson that has benefited me the most.
When I got the gist of it I literally felt like I went through a list of people and lifted a bag of shit off my shoulders every time I forgave one of them. Here’s a little list of some of the people I’ve had to forgive along the way:
- a boss who verbally abused me for years
- a friend who insulted me when I was at my lowest point in life
- a random bouncer who violently attacked and strangled me for no reason
- an ex boyfriend who spread terrible lies about me and turned friends against me
- a job interviewer insulting my gender.
Obviously, these are just few examples from a very long list, but these are probably the most important. If I hadn’t learned to forgive these people I would not be the person I am today. Instead I would be miserable, perhaps depressed young woman blaming everyone else for her own mistakes.
How can you learn to forgive?
Okay, let’s not kid a kiddo, forgiveness does take a bit of mental stability, and ability to make decisions and stick to them. Not everyone is capable of changing their mindsets so drastically, but thankfully most of us are. Forgiveness requires such mental capabilities as compassion and patience.
The trick is, you must stop blaming people!
You can’t do any favours for yourself as long as all your efforts go on laying the blame on everyone around you, perhaps with the purpose of “protecting” yourself from the feeling of blame.
At the end of the day it is relatively easy a thing to do, ending the blame-game; you just stop the blaming.
Every time something happens and you notice yourself jumping on the blame wagon, stop! Just stop for a minute and consider, does it matter whose fault it is? Is fault going to make it better? How does it benefit you if you can put the blame on someone else?
Even if it may sound like blaming someone else does benefit you by making you feel better, it is a fleeting feeling that is almost immediately replaced by bitterness and resentment. Because you’re focusing on the fact that you have been wronged rather than trying to move on.
This is where you need to do the change in mindset! When you’re about to start laying blame, stop for a minute and redirect your thoughts. Remember that there is a silver lining to every person and event in life, and find it.
Ignore the overwhelming bitter feelings and force yourself to think of even one thing that’s positive about the situation.
Don’t tell me there’s nothing good about someone/thing! If I could find the positive in an abusive boss, and a bouncer whose purpose was to kill the wrong woman, so can you!
I’ll give you an example of how I turned all aforementioned situations around, forgave them and moved on:
- I admitted that the abusive boss was abusive because she had serious mental health problems. And that’s a reason to feel compassion rather than bitterness. Also, I had enjoyed the work itself and my colleagues had become a family to me. I focused my thoughts on them and allowed the boss to boil in her own bitter juices.
- I realized that friends do not behave like that. Friends do not put you down or insult you. As much as it hurt I had to admit that I did not need to listen to that “friend”. Her opinions were of no consequence to me and I owed her nothing. I forgave her and let go.
- I survived. Even though that bouncer is an evil creature to his core, I survived with not much more damage than a bump on my forehead. And the fact that I survived is a thing to be thankful for and a good enough reason to move on.
- Love. I loved him and no matter how messed up he might have been after the break-up, there’s no ignoring the awesome times we had together and all those moments when he was the sweetest person I knew. I focus on and remember all the good times we had, and it’s so easy to forgive him. It’s obvious he’s not well for doing what he did.
- If someone in the company is that narrow-minded and simply awful, I do not want to get involved with that company. The message that I took away from that job interview was the inflamed and negative atmosphere. And I count my blessings for not getting that job!
You see the pattern? I choose to turn it all into positive, and if not positive at least to something that allows me to continue from that point onwards.
I truly believe that being able to forgive will extend my lifespan for years in comparison to how it would be if I lived my life in resentment, feeling anger at the world and people around me.
Forgiveness makes you happier, because it truly “empties the hard disk” in your brain and allows more space for positive thoughts and feelings.
No matter what it is that you’d like to move on from, an abusive relationship or an accident of any sort, always remember that YOU got through it all and are able to move on! If you don’t, you carry the burden of bitterness with you every day and to every relationship that you enter.
Deep thoughts, I know, but I hope these ponderings have given you a light-bulb moment or two, or maybe even helped you in some way.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject; do you struggle with forgiveness or have you also noticed how much easier it makes living a life? ♥