Saturday, March 2, 2013

Forgive But Don't Forget

If there was something simple that you could do to remove negativity in your life, would you do it? 

What could that something be? It is forgiving those who have transgressed against you. You need to forgive, but not forget, because once you forgive, you can start to heal and the negativity in your life will melt away. 

I am not talking about forgiving the other driver on the road because they cut you off.  I am talking about a traumatic event or repeated events over a period of time that left you feeling hurt, angry and bitter. 

Don't allow yourself to be consumed by these negative emotions because you are robbing yourself of happiness and inner peace. As long as you hold onto these feelings you cannot let happiness in.

Life Doesn't Have to be Perfect to be WonderfulForgive

The only way you can let go of negative feelings and live your life to your fullness is to forgive.

Forgiveness does not mean:
  • forgetting
  • you approve of the unacceptable behavior
  • you want that person to be in your life (or maybe you do - that is your choice)
  • they can repeat the behavior
  • your life will change immediately

Forgiveness does mean:
  • you know your happiness is your choice
  • you decided that you want to be happy
  • you are taking responsibility for your emotions and reactions
  • you do not want revenge
  • you are leaving the past in the past
  • releasing all the negativity and allowing good things to come into your life
  • you are free to live your life in a positive way.

How do you forgive?
  1. First you must decide that you want to make a change in your life. 
  2. You decide you want to be happy.
  3. You know you deserve to be happy.
  4. You see your past as over, knowing that holding onto anger only keeps it alive. 
  5. You accept others and yourself as you are.
  6. You are determined to get what you want in life and focus on those possibilities rather than thinking about the past. 
  7. You know that no one can make you feel happy or feel sad or angry. 
  8. You are able to express you feelings about the grievance (without hurting yourself or anyone else) 
  9. You do not need or want to take revenge or ask for an apology. 
  10. You notice you are spending less time and energy on the past transgression and eventually there will be little to no emotion tied to those memories

My Story

For some of you, it will be easy to forgive and move on while others will hold onto grudges forever. I have seen how negative feelings can poison the person who will not forgive. And to be honest my life was also affected by events in my past that I was not ready to release.

I was angry, hurt, depressed. I felt guilty. Then I decided I had to make a change. I had to forgive.

At first I had a difficult time wrapping my brain around the concept that I am responsible for my own happiness and that no one person could make me feel happy or sad. I cannot control someone's actions but I can control my reactions. I can just let myself respond in the same ole way or I can make a conscience decision to take control of my life. Happiness was my choice.

Fortunately, I was able to confront a person who hurt me in the past. At first she was angry, then she began to cry. I realized she was not the same woman who whipped me with the vacuum cord (among other things). She was older. She was . . . different. She had regret. It was then that I was able to forgive her. I was lucky that I could spend many good years with her before she passed away. I miss her.

Now it would have been nice to be able to confront my father but I couldn't do this because he passed away when I was ten years old. (That was when my Aunt moved into our home)

It took some time before I could actually forgive my dad. In the end, I rationalized that he was an ill man. His illness consumed him. I honestly believe he did not have complete control over his actions and I could not hold him responsible. 

I also held the belief that my father loved me and he wouldn't intentionally hurt me. If he understood the kind of damage he was inflicting, he would have stopped himself.

I found it helpful to use visualization. I imagined his soul drifting away from his physical body. As he moved out of this world, he was released from the illness that had consumed him and he could look at me with love and kindness. His spirit - his soul was no longer bound to a physical form that was racked with illness, distorted perceptions, or personal baggage. As a result he would feel bad about his actions and he'd wish he could protect me from further pain.

Eventually I felt the negative feelings - all that pain and anger fade away. And I was free. It is true. Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. 

A Dream

If you have the time, I would like to share a dream I had many, many moons ago. I was about twenty years old at the time. 

I was sound asleep. In my dream I woke up. I lay there looking around the dark room. I couldn't get back to sleep so instead of waking my boyfriend with my tossing and turning, I decided to leave our bed and go into the living room.

It was snowing outside. The light from the parking lot bounced off the snow on the ground and poured in through the curtains.

I wasn't sure what to do with myself. I didn't want to turn on the television in fear of waking my boyfriend and I didn't feel like reading because the brightness would hurt my eyes.

Out of habit I walked over to the electric heater and leaned against it to warm up.

There was a knock at the door.

I didn't find it peculiar to have someone at my door in the middle of the night. It wasn't that I was accustom to late night guests. I was just curious.

I opened the door just enough to see outside. The screen door screeched and hit the side of the building. A gust of wind blew the swirling snowflakes into my apartment.

There standing in the snow was my dad. Smiling. He was wearing his work clothes and work boots. Snow landed on everything but him. There were no footsteps in the snow.

I asked him what he was doing here. I knew he was dead so it just didn't make sense for him to be standing there.

I don't remember his lips moving but I heard him say that he was there to see how I was doing and to let me know that he loved me. This being said he told me that I should close the door and get out of the cold - to get back to sleep. I didn't say anything but I felt grateful to him for stopping by. I think he sensed it as he smiled at me.

Being the obedient child, I closed my apartment door and returned to bed. I lay back down and pondered my ghostly visitation. I wiggled in bed, feeling something was not quite right. I sat up and looked back at my pillow. To my horror I saw myself sleeping on the bed. 

I was not in my body. I lay back down trying to force myself back inside. I sat up again only to realize I was still outside. Panic was about to set it just as my spirit regained control of my body. I opened my eyes and looked at my hand just to be sure. I rolled over and fell back to sleep.

I had this dream shortly after I forgave my dad for the abuse. I knew I did the right thing. 

Can You Forgive?

At some point in your life you may have someone do something to hurt or harm you. You must remember that you are not responsible for their actions and they are not responsible for yours. 

Forgiving is a process which will free you to travel the road into the future without emotional and mental baggage weighing you down - travel the road to inner peace and happiness. 

Start now. You deserve it.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. 
Lewis B. Smedes (1921-2002)

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