Holding on to anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles, a headache and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth. Forgiveness gives you back the laughter and the lightness in your life. ~ Joan Lunden.
Many people have difficulty forgiving others (or themselves) because they believe that, in forgiving, they are condoning or pardoning a particular act or behavior. In fact, the primary definition found for “forgiveness” in the dictionary is “to excuse for a fault or an offense; to pardon.”
A Core Energy Leadership definition of forgiveness, though, involves releasing the catabolic energy of judgment and blame and moving forward. In this definition, the concepts of “wrong” or “right” fade as we recognize that whatever we are forgiving is holding ourselves back in some way.
In fact, one of the biggest shifts that people can make to remove some of the catabolic energy from their lives is to forgive themselves and others. When you begin to move out of living in the catabolic world (one of blame, hate, hurt, pity, victim, fight, flight, etc.) and into living in the anabolic world (one of happiness, collaboration, opportunities, synergy), one of the first behaviors to shift is forgiveness. You forgive people that hold you back, you forgive people that you feel you’ve hurt and who have hurt you in some way.
At first glance, forgiving someone else sometimes seems like an impossible task. After all, when you believe that the other person did something wrong, didn’t show you respect, hurt you, or did something that seemed to go against something you value, your first reaction (if you’re like most people in the world!), is to be hurt, upset, angry, and resentful. You blame them, and perhaps crave revenge. Think of a situation in your life, current or past, where someone did something for which you haven’t forgiven them. How does it make you feel? Sit with those feelings for a moment, then read on.
Most likely, you didn’t feel love, peace, and calm. That’s because holding onto anger and resentment hurts you much more than it can possibly hurt the other person. If you lash out at the offender, it may “feel good” temporarily, but the catabolic energy inside you is there, eating away at you, hurting you physically, and blocking you from having or doing the things you really want. One of my favorite forgiveness quotes comes from St. Augustine – “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” By not forgiving, you are hurting only yourself. If your energy is spent in blame and anger, it can’t be spent in constructive ways. So by not forgiving, the hurt – to yourself – goes on and on.
How can you release those feelings? Recognize that you can take responsibility for what you are feeling and thinking and acknowledge that you can make things better for yourself. As Bruce D Schneider, founder of the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching says, “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” Make the choice to forgive – for you. Realize that in order for you to win, someone else doesn’t have to lose. Acknowledge that the other person was, most likely, doing the best that they could do under the specific circumstances that he or she was in.
Finally, realize the gift and opportunity in whatever happened. Change your perspective. Think of forgiving in a different way, and thank the other person for giving you an experience that helped you grow.
Next week, we’ll explore self-forgiveness, which is more difficult and even more important.
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