Confession time: forgiveness has been one of my toughest lessons to learn. In fact, I still haven’t exactly forgiven everyone in my life. (But I’ve found a way to let go of the pain when forgiveness feels unattainable. And I’m sharing because it just might help you too.)
For decades, the inability to forgive left me feeling angry and stuck. I couldn’t move forward because I couldn’t get over my past.
I knew something had to change, and I knew it had to be me. But I didn’t know how.
I studied forgiveness. I talked about it. I prayed about it. I even begged God to show me the way.
I eventually learned to forgive myself. Instrumental in this shift around my own forgiveness, were the words of Maya:
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
~ Maya Angelou
But forgiving others was still a struggle.
How do you forgive when it’s not okay?
My sticking point continually came back to feeling like forgiveness was saying, “What you did to me was okay.”
It definitely wasn’t okay! I had a couple of childhood situations that were absolutely, positively not okay with me. So, I remained stuck in anger.
For me, it felt like the act of forgiving would be a betrayal of myself. Does that sound familiar?
One day the answer began to come to me. It started with the following quote:
“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different, it’s accepting the past for what it was, and using this moment and this time to help yourself move forward.”
~ Oprah Winfrey
I can tell you, this new definition of forgiveness was music to my ears. Armed with Oprah’s wise words, I set out trying to finally forgive those childhood incidents.
But once again, I couldn’t do it.
Forgiveness felt fake
“OMG, why can’t you do this?” I asked myself, angrily.
Instantly, the answer came right back to me.
“It’s the word. You still can’t get past that word. It sticks in your throat so badly, it almost chokes you.”
As I discussed this idea with clients and friends, I found I wasn’t alone. It appears many women have a negative reaction to this word.
I wondered why.
I thought back to numerous times in my childhood when my mom would make my sister and me apologize and “forgive” each other. It was completely forced. There was never a true resolution. It was a fake exchange of niceties to avoid punishment. And in my mind, that became my definition of forgiveness.
No wonder I struggled with it. Maybe you have similar memories?
I had two choices. I could do the work to try to make peace with a word that (for me) had tons of baggage attached. Or, I could simply find a new way to think about this process.
The latter seemed infinitely more do-able at the time.
I looked at it as if I had to describe forgiveness to someone without using that word. What was the goal for each party?
Forgiveness: determining its true intention
Hmmmm…. Not forgiving involved being bound to the person for rest of time. It meant:
- Carrying the burden of a grudge
- Lugging this pain around forever
- Holding someone else responsible for my pain
So, the opposite of all of that was release. Release them from being responsible for anything I was currently feeling. Release myself from the anger and resentment.
I could release myself and others. There was no need to struggle with the uncomfortable “forgiveness” word. At its core, it was always about release.
To me, releasing felt more simple and clean. It wasn’t a triggering word. It opened up possibilities.
It’s a shift in thinking that can set you free
Since the day of my discovery, I’ve successfully released others and myself from the pain and burden of holding on to past hurts.
I’ve finally set myself free, even when traditional forgiveness feels impossible.
And that was my true intention all along.
It’s a small shift that just might help you make peace with your past.
Forgiveness, or release, is a gift you can give to yourself and those around you. It will allow you to step into your true power. You deserve the freedom it can give you.