In this issue ~~
In this issue, we're going to look at a couple of significant, although perhaps uncomfortable issues. While forgiveness and guilt are matters that need to be faced by everyone, as creative people, we need to be especially conscious of how withholding forgiveness and hanging onto guilt rob us of energy that we could use more creatively elsewhere.
As difficult as it can be, forgiveness is imperative if we want to move our lives forward. The myth about forgiveness is that it's something you do for the other person. By the end of this article you will see that it is, in fact, something you do for yourself.
So if forgiveness is such a good thing, why is it so hard to do? Why would we refuse to forgive? For one thing, we may be holding out for vindication -- for an apology that may never come -- or for revenge. I find that when someone is willing to admit that they hurt me, forgiving is easy. But if they repeat the injury or refuse to acknowledge it, I want to hurt them back. We may enjoy the feeling of righteous anger, which can make us feel strong and powerful. Or we may want to punish the other person by withholding our forgiveness. But illogically, we often withhold forgiveness from someone we're not even in communication with. So who are we really punishing?
Refusing to forgive keeps us connected to that person and anchored to the past. When you hold onto the anger, hurt or resentment, you tend to play out in your head either the scene where you were wronged, or more likely, a scene of revenge or vindication. And that takes some of your energy, every day. By forgiving, we can reclaim the energy that is going into playing out this scene over and over and release ourselves from that past. Also, we tend to be least forgiving about qualities we find hard to forgive in ourselves. We can use forgiveness of another as an opportunity to see where we might be doing the same thing to other people and change that behavior in ourselves.
So how do you forgive? Do you just say, "I forgive you"? Yes, sometimes that works. But more often, there are a few steps you need to take first. There are numerous processes available from books and teachers, and I will share with you the process that works for me.
Once you've done this process, if you later find yourself feeling angry or running the scene of revenge again, stop and change your thoughts. Or do the process again until you feel clear. You may have to go through it a few times to truly forgive and let it go. And whether you choose to continue a relationship with that person or not, the act of forgiving will free you both.
What if you're the person who has committed the wrong? There are times when you don't mean to hurt someone, but you do. And there are times when, in the heat of anger or hurt, you deliberately lash out. It happens. Or as you become more conscious, you may look back regretfully on past behavior that seemed all right at the time but no longer does. And you feel bad. You feel guilty.
Understand that guilt is often a "substitute" for a feeling you don't think you should have or that feels too uncomfortable or painful. You may be angry at someone who died, or an aging parent or small child, and don't feel you have a right to feel that way. Or you may have deliberately hurt someone you love, and that's too painful or shameful to admit. But like withholding forgiveness, holding onto guilt keeps you imprisoned in the past. As painful as it may be, there's value in dealing with feelings of guilt.
Some ways you can handle guilt:
So take a few moments today to see where you need to forgive and where you need to release guilt. And remember, nothing is unforgivable. If you can't forgive the "what," you can always forgive "why." And that goes for yourself, too. The past is over, and the best thing you can do for yourself and those you interact with is to let it go, reclaim the energy that kept the anger and guilt in place, and redirect that energy into a more positive future.
Identify one person who you need to forgive and start the process above. It doesn't have to be the hardest one; you can start with the easiest and build your forgiveness "muscle."
"Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it forgoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury."
"Once you become detached from things, they don't own you any longer."
(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)
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