I always feel like a used car salesman when I bring up forgiveness because I am often trying to sell my clients something that they think they don’t want or need. In this case,0 though, freedom from pain, to stop thinking about ‘it’, to feel better, and to not be afraid of ‘it’ happening again is exactly what they want.
Can you relate? Does it feel like forgiveness is giving up something as opposed to gaining something? Even if you think you know what forgiveness is, humour me for a moment and come check out this vehicle of transformation that many people misunderstand.
THE IMPACT OF HOLDING ONTO OUR PAIN
At my high school graduation celebration, one of the activities that provided hours and hours of entertainment was something called horizontal bungee racing. Two participants were tethered to a bouncy castle racetrack by a bungy cord. At the sound of go, each racer would run as hard as they could to place their marker along the center before getting flung back by the bungee cord, tumbling in all their agile and nimble glory. Besides moderate whip lash, this was a great time. When you are working through a painful memory, relationship, or situation and, despite your best efforts, you find yourself whipped back to square one by a single thought, that is not fun. That, my friend, is frustrating.
As painful as this is, without forgiveness, this is exactly what we are vulnerable to. Forgiveness is not only a master tool at untangling our hearts from our past, but it allows us to be liberated to pursue who we want to be…untethered and free.
This is where my protective mama nature kicks in because your hurt is real, and even considering this can feel unsafe. Take a breath while we make sure we are on the same page. For some, this idea will plant seeds to consider, for others it will be time to make your big break from something that is holding you back. It will be in your timing, but first we will need to explore what forgiveness is NOT.
Myths of Forgiveness
- Forgiveness makes you more vulnerable to being hurt again
- Forgiveness is giving ‘them’ a second chance
- Forgiveness lets ‘them’ off the hook
- Forgiveness belittles your pain and what was done to you
- Forgiveness says that ‘it’ was ok
None of these are true but have often been lumped in with the idea of what it looks like to forgive and forget. What we are doing is untangling our hearts from the situation so that we can clearly see what the next step is to resolve what has caused the injustice and/or pain.
You aren’t bad if you don’t want to forgive, you are most likely scared and hurting. So, let me start with a story of how forgiveness evolved from a ‘be a good girl and forgive’ expectation to a power tool.
Superpower of Forgiveness
I was returning home from an incredible training, and I phoned a close friend to share my wins. When she picked up, I could hear that she was at an event that I had purposely not been invited to. When I recognized where she was at, pain flooded my system, and I felt rage and then sadness.
I had a long history of rejection with friends in elementary school. This incident brought me back to grade five, on the playground, and everyone boldly stating that they don’t want to play with me. Ouch! Except, I am not in grade five. I am a grown ass woman. I am a flippin’ therapist.
So, I got to work. What does true forgiveness look like? What does it look like when, technically, people don’t have to include ,me and aren’t necessarily doing something wrong, but it hurts anyway?
This is when I said my little prayer, “God, you have got to show me a different way.” Instantly, I saw a picture in my head of huge divine hands. Each woman who hadn’t included me in this event took a turn climbing into these divine hands, and one by one they came into contact with perfect love. I could see in my imagination what it would be like to just be surrounded by perfect love and have every hurt and every insecurity instantly melt away.
As each woman would stand up, transformed, I would simply whisper, “I forgive you.” It was easy, because in that moment I could see that they were just as human as me; full of hopes and dreams, as well as insecurities and hurts. When the line-up was complete, I knew it was my turn to climb into those hands. The funny thing about love is that it seems to make everything clearer. In that moment, I saw all of the times I had made selfish choices out of fear, insecurity, or blind desires.
What surprised me the most about this exercise was that I could see so clearly afterwards what I wanted for myself. I was able to see if each woman was one that I wanted to be close to or if that was happening out of historical obligation. I was clearly able to see who I needed to talk to and share my feelings with and who didn’t have that depth of relationship with me. I was also able to make peace with other people’s choice and the fact that I am not owed. I was able to see who I wanted to invest in, as far as friendship. This led to honest communication with some, loving disengagement with others, and all of it with a clean heart and not an ounce of resentment.
This, my friend, is pure gold because it is freedom. Freedom to not take on rejection, freedom to not carry hurt, and freedom to choose who is in our inner circle.
I have gone on to do this exercise with clients hundreds of times, and every time it yields the same results. They don’t forget, but it turns from a painful memory into a fact. From this place, it is far clearer to us what boundaries need to be in place or what needs to be done to rectify the situation.
Often, we think we need something to rectify a painful situation, but we first need to release something in order to get the next step of action.