When I was a child, I was an easy target for bullies. I was shy and lacked social skills, plus I had curly hair and wore glasses. My differences made me an outcast in the great wisdom of the third graders at my school. Unable to make decent friendships, I spent many recess periods on a bench with a book, trying to avoid a barrage of name calling and spitwads.
Of course, I moved on and later made friends and developed a decent set of social skills. But somehow those snooty little kids followed me into my adult life, bringing my thoughts back to them any time I felt inadequate. Even into my thirties, I could hear their voices taunting me, and felt the anger and resentment creeping back. I’m sure those kids have grown up into adults with lives of their own and no thoughts of the things the said or did to me. I needed a solution- How could I move forward and leave them behind?
The answer for me was forgiveness. I knew that I needed to forgive those kids for things they said and thirty-plus years ago, but why was it so difficult? Why do we wrestle so much with the concept of forgiveness?
I believe that when we are wounded, our gut reaction is to protect ourselves. Our sense of justice gets in the way. Something was done wrong to us, and it doesn’t sit well. It can even feel powerful to be angry about a situation where we may have felt powerless. I felt justified in my anger toward those ghosts of my past, because they were causing me pain and anxiety.
What Forgiveness Is Not
Forgiveness is not forgetting what happened or having a childlike naïveté toward a situation. It is not allowing someone to treat us poorly or remaining in an abusive situation. It is not putting someone else’s worth above your own, having poor boundaries or neglecting self-care. And if you have experienced trauma, you may need the help of a professional to move forward.
Forgiveness is an act of self-love. It is allowing yourself to move on in a positive way toward something better. It is letting go of the demons of your past that hold onto you and cause you anger or resentment. Forgiving someone can set you free to live your best life. Not only that, but I believe it can heal our world. There is so much division today, and I strongly believe that love and forgiveness is the only way to bridge the great spaces between us.
A Way To Let Go
Being the deeply internal person that I am, I can appear serene and calm on the outside, while the hampsters in my brain are spinning on their wheels at a thousand miles a second. Harnessing my thoughts is not an easy or natural thing for me to do. It takes time, practice, and patience- otherwise, I could spend my days chasing brain-hampsters down trails. Having a mantra helps me to center my thoughts back to a happy place.
“I choose love.” That is my mantra. So, any time my brain takes me back to the third-grade lunchroom and the mean kids and unhelpful teachers, I take a breath and bring my thoughts back to “I choose love.” This doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen every time. It takes practice, repetition, and intention.
Notice I didn’t say that my mantra is “I forgive Sally” or whoever the focus of my thought was at the time. That can be a more difficult place for me to go and doesn’t always quiet the thoughts. I find it can bring up more turmoil, as the ego in me might start to argue or stomp its feet. For me, choosing love is what brings me back to the calm place where I can be at peace with my past. Over time, it starts to replace the feelings of anger and resentment with forgiveness.
You could choose “I’m at peace” or whatever feels right for you. The point is to choose to forgive by bringing your thoughts to a place where they can rest side-by-side with the fear and resentment. This is difficult work and not something we can’t do on our own. Calling upon love or God or whatever higher power you believe in may be necessary. It is a choice we can make every moment of our day, over and again, choosing love every time.
Can you imagine a world where we could be connected through love and forgiveness, rather than separated by anger and resentment? It sounds like a beautiful place.