Chapter 16 – Freedom in Forgiveness

This post is a little long, I apologize. And it’s the first of two posts on forgiveness, because I’ve had a lot of people asking me about the subject lately. And I touched on it a bit yesterday, but decided to go with the long answer today, and that comes in the form of the first half of chapter 16 which is dedicated to the subject in my book. And here’s the post:

I think there is probably nothing that I have learned that has been as helpful as learning the importance of forgiveness. When I used to look back over my life, the list of people who had treated me unfairly was pretty long. I remembered everything, every conversation, every mean look. I knew who said what, who did what, even back to elementary school. I could go through them in my head, which I did somewhat often while I was in middle school and high school. I held on to the anger and the fear, and I would sit and remember why I was holding onto it.

These were people who were mean to me for no reason. I hadn’t done anything wrong. Or in the case of family incidents, I was right and they were wrong (I can’t help that this is ALWAYS the case – please note my sarcasm here). But there were people and times where our interactions made me feel like absolutely nothing at all. I felt so overlooked, and at times so betrayed, that forgiveness was nowhere on my radar. The things that happened to me were wrong. And I should be angry. I should hate them. But what holding onto that hurt and anger did was keep me right where I was.

Every time I thought about the things that had happened I was that girl, in that moment, feeling that hurt and scared. I never really snapped out of it. I let those things rule over me. I let my emotions get overrun, because I became too afraid to even want to be close to anyone. I felt unworthy, because all of those people on my list wouldn’t have treated me as they had if this weren’t the case. And it wasn’t until I was removed from the situation, I graduated and left for college, that I came to realize that the stuff that happened, for the most part, really did not need to continue to affect me.

As long as I let those thoughts and those actions rule over me I was letting the fear win. I allowed the treatment of kids who felt just as awkward and fearful (otherwise the interactions would have never taken place) to make me feel like I deserved to be treated that way. I had a small, but wonderful group of friends, all of whom I still try to keep in touch with today, but even with them, I didn’t really understand why they were my friends. I felt like they had so much more going for them than I did.

I was lost, because I was fearful. They all had plans, and I was absolutely certain they would fulfill them. I wasn’t the friend I could have been, because I knew they’d probably leave me behind. It’s not a good way to live your life, being that fearful. And the feelings I had were in large part due to my inability to forgive, because I couldn’t forget or overlook how I felt in those moments where I was hurt. Forgiveness is a continuous process. We have to forgive others and forgive ourselves. I used to think one was more difficult to do than the other, but I think they are fairly equal in their difficulty.

When Dr. Eger came and spoke to our Personality Theories class, she talked about forgiveness. She said that every night she prayed for the Nazi members who took her and her family captive, and who killed all but two of them. She and her sister were the only survivors. She told us that feeling guilty, because we didn’t have to go through what she went through was useless. And she was right, although this was very hard for me to comprehend. Comparing our lives to others does nothing but confuse us and give us excuses to stay where we are. She said we all have the option to be happy. But we cannot be happy if we don’t forgive.

I didn’t know how to imagine her forgiving those men for what they put her through. I didn’t know if she really had done so or not. But I believed that if anyone knew what they were talking it about when it came to forgiveness, it was quite likely to be her. That summer after I made the decision that I wanted to be happy, I decided that at 23, I wanted to start forgiving people for what had happened in my life and just try and see where it led me. I didn’t really know how to forgive, so I remember just sitting in my room praying and saying to the universe silently, that I forgive you. I am letting go of all of that fear and hurt. It doesn’t matter anymore, I thought. What good is it doing me to hold on?

About laurenc129

I'm a mom. Sometimes my hands turn orange. Other times I write. On twitter: @laurenc129

Posted on June 6, 2012, in family, June 2012, relationships and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. Hi Lauren, forgiveness is something I struggle with. I just can’t get past the concept of ‘if you forgive someone, it excuses their behaviour’. Now I know this is not the point but it really has me stuck! I am not religious, so praying, letting it go to a higher power etc is not something I can or would do. Interesting to read your blog, thanks so much. It as you know, it’s a journey, so it may well be part of my future!

    • Thanks for writing this. I honestly don’t believe that it forgives the behavior. That was what I thought for a long time. But the people and things I have forgiven it’s not about saying what they did was okay. In fact, it’s blatantly stating that it’s not. I always say, “what you did was not okay, but I’m not going to let it hurt me or take away any of my happiness or my sanity or control me in anyway any longer.” I don’t necessarily let it go to anyone or anything, I simply let go of the anger and the hurt and the frustration. Because holding onto it only holds me back. And I (work to) refuse to allow anyone who has hurt me in those ways to have any more control over me. It’s more about taking control of my life, my thoughts, and my happiness than anything to do with them. It takes time and we all have to find our own way to it. And sometimes it comes back. We just have to deal with it as we can and work to find a place we are comfortable with. I hope it is a part of your future! You are worth it 🙂 Thank you again for this comment. I really appreciate it!

      • Thanks for that, yes I do see that it is only hurting me, not the person who wronged me, and it is something I am working towards – all power to you and your wonderful blog!!!

  2. Good post. One thing I learned at my mother’s knee was to never hold a grudge – if not the same as forgiving it is at least letting go. Holding a grudge affects no one and hurts no one except the bearer of the grudge. I should think that everyone wants to be happy but that many do not know what their happiness looks like. Forgiveness is certainly a key ingredient.

    • I think it’s the same if not akin to forgiving and definitely letting go. And spectacular advice from your mother! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your insights!!

  3. captainpractical

    I recently read Viktor Frankl’s book and forgiveness and attitude in difficult times in life are so important.
    I think forgiveness allows us to let go also. (let it be) 🙂

  4. Argh! You can’t post something like this! I’m still reading your book and haven’t got to this chapter yet… It’s like knowing what you’re getting for Christmas the week before…

    *sticks fingers in ears* La-la-la-la-la… *covers eyes* I’m not reading, I’m not reading…

  5. I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Should you accept, please come check it out. http://bty14.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/versatile-blogger-award/

  6. For the most part I agree that if one is able to forgive those who have wronged them, then it does help that person. There is someone I know who was so horribly abused by someone in her family..sexually..over and over for years with no one defending or even noticing..and who cannot at this point in her life because of what she is going through as a result of long-time abuse….forgive the person(s) who perpetrated this abuse. She is a Christian and knows a great deal about forgiveness but is just not there yet….I believe God will bring her through and for herself at some point she may be able to do so….but not yet…..Diane

    • You’re right. We all have to do it in our own time. And it can take a long time when such things happen to us. We have to allow one another the space to find our way, while still being supportive and encouraging in the right direction. I think God will bring her through as well. I hope she finds it.

  7. I’ve also found that forgiveness happens in cycles. I will think I have forgiven a person, but it’s not all or nothing. Something happens in my life that has nothing to do with the person I’ve “forgiven,” but suddenly I feel bitter toward them too and have to forgive them for that as well (as well as anyone that was involved in the trigger in the first place). We should be as patient with forgiving others as we must be when others are having a hard time forgiving us.

    • I agree. I think there is an initial release that can happen if we let it, but there are always things around us that act as triggers. Even unrelated things can bring us back to those places. No places we’ve been in life ever disappear. We have to be able to release the feelings of bitterness and hurt whenever they come back around. Someone once told me that if the feelings came back I hadn’t really forgiven them. And it took me a long time to learn that wasn’t true. But I’m glad I did.

      • I can’t believe someone told you that. And after you put in so much thought, work, prayer into doing and thinking the right thing. Well, I just “met” you, but I’m glad that you know that that isn’t true at all.
        BTW, sometime this week I’d like to reblog your Dr. Seuss post I just saw. I used to teach it to my 11th graders. You cool with that?

  8. Great post Lauren! Forgiveness is often the first step in coming to terms with ourselves. There are a great number of “things” we can do to improve our lives, to overcome suffering, to become happy content people, and so on. But it is in forgiveness that we not only forgive the other person we are put in a position to expose ourselves to them. We are enabled to overcome the separation that hurt brings in spite of the pain we suffered.

    When we return an offense with love rather than unforgiveness we also experience self-forgiveness. I’ve always noticed that about 75% of the pain brought by someone else has occurred within my mind and heart. Dealing with that self-inflicted suffering begins within.

    Anyway, not trying to rewrite your post! 😛

    In One,
    HD

    • 🙂 That’s very true, about it occurring withing our own minds and hearts. Thank you very much for the thoughtful comment! I appreciate it! Forgiveness really is a necessity for living a fulfilled life in general.

  1. Pingback: If you have learned from the mistakes and wrongs that you have committed « Transcendent Vestige

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  3. Pingback: Part 2 of forgiveness continued from yesterday « betweenfearandlove

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