Often times we find ourselves forgiving everyone around us except ourselves. This Rosh Hashanah let us find a way to forgive ourselves.
Forgiving someone who wronged us can be difficult, especially when we fear getting hurt again. How can we forgive others while still protecting ourselves from future hurt?
It’s The Time of Year to Forgive:
A new year means a new beginning and a season full of possibilities and excitement. It’s a time to let go of the old and let in the new. An occasion to stop holding onto things that no longer serve us, and to judge everything and everyone on their own merits.
As the seasons change and the trees shed their leaves, we too have a chance to enter the new year with less baggage and a fresh perspective. What happened to us in the past should have no bearing on what occurs in the future. We try to open ourselves up to receiving abundance by creating a vessel that is able and ready to receive blessing.
As we approach the Day of Atonement, we seek a pardon from G-d for all the wrongdoings we’ve committed in the past year. We ask to be judged on the merit of what we’ve done right and all the good we will do in the future. We request a clean slate, a do-over, of sorts.
Most of us try to lead a life where we don’t intentionally hurt someone or allow someone to hurt us. But life happens, and sometimes we’re not so lucky. Sometimes something happens that is too hard to let go of just like that. Sometimes we do something to someone else that is too difficult for them to look past. And sometimes we do something that’s too hard for us to forgive ourselves for.
What’s the purpose of holding onto hurt?
We hold onto pain and resentment because this fixation gives us an illusion of control. And sometimes we hold onto it to ensure that if the situation comes up again, it goes differently.
We gain a sense of power from holding onto anger, hurt, and resentment. It’s a commitment to the feeling that we’re right and someone else is wrong. By letting go, it means that we may forget and lose this sense of power, or worse, we’ll get hurt again. So to forgive and forget may not always come naturally.
Additionally, playing the victim role can feel nice because we receive attention, love, and support from others. And maybe, if we can admit it, we even enjoy the pity party that’s happening inside our own head.
Finally, staying in an uncomfortable feeling is familiar and safe, and allows us to avoid venturing into unknown territory.
While all of these reasons justify holding on to anger, they actually hold us back from reaching our ideal goal: moving forward in our lives.
How can we forgive?
Like we said, although it may be counterintuitive, holding onto pain and resentment usually serves a purpose for us. We often wear hurt like a shield, but it poisons us in the process. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize that forgiving does not mean forgetting, and forgiving doesn’t mean it will be like the wrong never happened!
It is helpful too to realize that the others involved probably are not thinking about what occurred anymore. Because I was hurt, regardless of whether or not I remember and nurse this pain, doesn’t make the person/s who wronged me feel any better or worse. The holding onto the pain and anger only hurts me more.
Forgiveness is not for the good of the person who wronged you, it’s for your own benefit!
The journey to forgiveness:
The process of forgiving and letting things go starts by getting rid of frustrations with yourself and things that happened to you. Talking things out can be very cathartic and healing. Processing why you’re holding onto something can help you gain the insight you need to stop this issue from defining you. Once you’ve figure out why something stung so much, you can disallow it to dictate who you are and how you react in similar situations.
Channeling your pain into a positive productive action is also helpful in getting rid of a frustration. Whether you decide to help others, or you just take care of something personal for yourself that you’ve been putting off for a while, this is an effective way to prevent anger from holding you back, and utilizing it to propel you forward. By doing this you’re focusing your frustration on something that you can control rather than allowing it to control you.
Expressing frustration through whatever creative outlet you have available to you is helpful too. Whether you journal, paint, draw, or write music, this visual manifestation of your feelings can serve as physical reminder that you’ve officially off-loaded the frustration and it no longer needs to live rent-free in your head.
Forgiveness isn’t just internal, it requires reaching out to others:
Letting go of anger at yourself and others is another step in whittling away unresolved hurt. Take the time to understand where the anger is coming from. Are you really angry, or are you sad about something else? You can do this with the help of a journal, a friend, a mentor, or a therapist.
If you feel up to it, try having a non-confrontational conversation with the offender about your feelings, or have a third party get involved (assuming it won’t make things worse!). Try to understand the other person’s perspective. We all make mistakes and appreciate others’ understanding, compassion, and forgiveness. It’s important to take responsibility for your part of the situation, and be honest about the roles your actions played.
Recognize that holding onto anger hurts you more than it hurts the person you are upset with. Make a conscious choice to let things go because you are seeking peace of mind.
Can you forgive & still learn from your experience?
Once you are able to let go of anger, anxiety, and stress, you open yourself up to receive more blessing and abundance. In essence, you’re wiping the grime off the lens through which you view the world and all future possibilities. Forgiving someone truly holds more benefit for you than it does for the individual you are forgiving.
We often hold onto things and blame ourselves for them much longer than necessary. This manifests as us not trusting our own judgement, not trusting others, and thinking that life has irrevocably damaged us.
Now, I understand that you want to learn from every experience, and don’t want to make the same mistakes again and again. You don’t want to trust someone who will continue to hurt you. But where do you draw this line? When can you set down past experiences and start trusting yourself and others again? Is there such a thing as starting over?
Starting over, I believe, is about replacing bad experiences with good ones, as well as adding good experiences to bad ones. This way you can recognize that both possibilities exist. People may not be trustworthy, but they also may be. Adding +1 to -1 lands you back at zero. At the same time, when a relationship with an individual keeps you adding negative interactions to the tally, you’re still in the red, and you learn to trust yourself with the fact that they can’t be trusted.
To forgive and to forget are two distinct things. Forgiveness is done for yourself, less so for the person who it’s directed at. Forgiving isn’t giving anyone a free pass. You can forgive while still protecting yourself. Forgiving means letting go of resentment and hurt, ridding yourself of the anger you have towards yourself or another for allowing something to happen. It doesn’t mean that you forget and allow yourself to be hurt again. So yes, it’s ok to forgive and not forget.
Deciding to let things go:
You have to allow yourself to let go of baggage, perhaps forgive yourself for “allowing” something hurtful to happen.
Are you really letting things go, or are you just “stuffing it” only to access it, subconsciously, later on?
Recognize that rumination is an exercise in futility; it doesn’t change the outcome, but it sure takes up a lot of head-space.
Forgiving and letting things go is a choice. You can hold onto whatever you’d like forever, but at least take the time to decipher why you’re doing it. Getting rid of old resentments has unlimited benefits, and it doesn’t have to come at the price of getting hurt again.
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