Tag Archives: forgiveness

Finding Freedom in Forgiveness

It was not until recently that I noticed I have been holding onto a lot of pain, anger, guilt, and resentment from past relationships. Going back as far as high school, I’ve been storing all of these emotions in their respective boxes on shelves in my brain and tucked away in my heart.

 

Relationships, I am FINALLY beginning to understand, have a much bigger impact on our hearts and psyches than I ever gave them credit for. When we enter into relationships, we open our hearts, make ourselves vulnerable, and hope for the best. And it is impossible to avoid uncomfortable feelings if we want to have honest and authentic relationships.

 

I see old patterns play out in my current relationship, in dynamics with friends, and even in work. It’s the quintessential definition of “living in the past.” I hold onto limiting beliefs about myself and the way others perceive me based on stories from my past.

 

I never gave (most of) these relationships – their start, middle, and end – the attention they deserved. Especially the end. I have always had a lot of pride in my ability to recover quickly from a breakup – as if moving on to the next person (a new boyfriend) or thing (a triathlon) were the ultimate example of resilience.

 

What I’m coming to terms with is this: My pattern of brushing unexpressed emotions under the rug is not resilient and it certainly is not forgiveness.

 

It is a relief to finally understand the importance of forgiveness – to not only forgive the men I have been in relationship with (or friends I have let drift out of my life) but to also forgive myself for behaviors I am not proud of because I now KNOW these behaviors do not define me.

 

Forgiveness, it turns out, has almost nothing to do with the person you are forgiving and almost everything to do with you. When I forgive someone, I allow myself to acknowledge how I feel AND release myself from that feeling. And often the forgiveness, I’m noticing, is not about something someone did maliciously. Often I need to forgive someone for making a simple choice that had nothing to do with me.

 

This practice of forgiveness is not limited to romantic relationships – I recognize it’s going to be a lifelong practice and commitment. For now though, the light shines on the relationships that have shaped so much of the last 15 years of my life – since I was 17 I have been in and out of relationships. And I don’t regret it for a second but I have been on cruise-control. I let things slip through the cracks and did not do the full work of building my emotional resilience and allowing myself to really go deep. To be uncomfortable and really feel the pain, anger, and sorrow and to release myself from the grasp of guilt, or worse, of shame.

 

The thing is, if I don’t go through this process and forgive and forgive and let go and release, then I am not being true to myself and I am not making space for any current or new relationship in my life – romantic or otherwise – to really take flight and reach new heights. Sweeping old pain under the rug is limiting and emotionally paralyzing. It is living in a fear state.

 

My boyfriend drew the connection between what I’m going through and the movie High Fidelity. It’s the one where John Cusack plays an adorable curmudgeon of a record store owner who revisits his top 5 breakups. I can’t even tell you how many times I have seen this movie and it’s not until we watched it a few weeks ago that I finally understood why on earth someone would do this!

 

It’s to find freedom.

 

I’ve never been in prison, but I’ve been behind emotional bars and it’s time to start knocking them down one at a time.

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Forgive and Let Live

“Forgiveness clears out the old weeds and lets the sunlight in.”
– from friend and soul teacher, Josh Kane

My friend was sharing with me about his recent reconnection with an ex-girlfriend, or in his words a “past love.” I prefer his term past love as it holds more reverence and respect.

His experience was such that he felt a genuine joy from talking to this woman who I am sure at one point or another hurt him in some way. But he expressed that because of his ability to forgive her, he was finally able to derive joy and learning from the simple experience of reconnecting and hearing that she was on a much better path. He felt happy not only for his past love, but also for himself.

There was no filter, no ulterior motive, no agenda. What existed in its most pure and powerful form was forgiveness.

It got me thinking about my own experience with past loves. About how I can’t reach out with an open heart until all has been forgiven. And it’s not that I feel compelled to remain best buds with my exes (believe me, I have tried and failed), but should the occasion occur where we are prompted to engage in casual conversation, or perhaps call upon one another for a family tragedy, it’s nice to know you can interact with integrity and respect. No agenda. No ulterior motives.

I want you to think about how it feels to hold a grudge. Come on – we’ve all been there, I know you’ve done it. I have! When we hold a grudge, when we hold onto the way someone hurt us, when we hold onto the OLD STORY, we perpetuate and live in the old patterns and habits. Even if we have found a new partner, new friends, or a new career. When we hold a grudge we are doing ourselves the greatest disservice: we are depleting our own energy (and time!) by festering on what might have been instead of relishing in what is.

How can we appreciate the person, the love, the compassion that is presented right in front of us when we are stuck churning over past pain?

I don’t want to discount experiencing feelings to their fullest. In fact, I realize the necessity to feel our full spectrum of feelings in order to be able to forgive. When we suffocate the hurt and pretend we are hunky dory, that’s when forgiveness can seem to be eons away. We build ourselves the proverbial “wall.”

Every forgiveness will not lead to a restored friendship or even an amicable relationship between past loves. Sometimes all it means is that you forgive someone in your heart and let live. You let them live their life and you go on living yours.

The big difference however is that when you live your life you no longer carry the old story, the resentment, the anger, or perhaps even the fear that a wrong-doing will happen to you again.

You are OK with the fact, with the plain and simple truth, that it’s highly probable someone in your life will hurt you again. And again, and again, and again.

Forgiveness benefits the other person, absolutely. But when we forgive we are actually giving ourselves a beautiful gift. We are giving ourselves permission to proceed forward. It is not that we forget those who have crossed our paths, loved us and hurt us – no, they stay with us like a dear old shoe. But we can move forward with grace, so that we can approach that person with respect and truth. And so that we can treat ourselves with utmost respect and truth.

It is in this way that when we enter into new relationships and friendships we recognize what our values are. So that we can surround ourselves with the best possible people.

For some reason I keep thinking back to a particular past love. Let’s call him Tyler.

Tyler and I had what you would call a whirlwind romance. We fell in love hard and quickly. The relationship lasted about two years and seemed to crumble just as fast as it was built. Of course in retrospect, I see that it was built on very dissimilar values and a lack of truthful communication.

In the end there was so much hurt. This was the first time I really felt that sensation of my heart being ripped out of my chest. Torn into shreds. And then stomped on by angry elephants.

Tyler and I reconnected about a year after our break up and of course we hurt each other again. Or really, I hurt him. Why? Because I had never forgiven him. What followed was a slew of who could hurt the other person more, with him finally coming out “on top” with a mean email to beat all mean emails in life. An email that made me feel like a worthless piece of shit. The communication stopped there. Right in its tracks. I realized that responding to him in a similar manner would do me no good. Would only perpetuate the hurt. But then what? What was next?

It has taken me nearly three years to realize that what is next is the process of forgiveness. Forgiveness that can happen even though Tyler is no longer in my life. We no longer communicate in any form or function. We haven’t in three years.

I will sometimes sit at my computer, compelled to write him an email letting him know “I forgive you.” But I realize that’s not what is important. I am not looking for a response. I am not looking for an explanation. I am looking for a sense of relief, of letting go of the hurt that has rested and made a home in my heart.

As the hurt is let go and as I continue my process of forgiving Tyler, I start to open new opportunities, new doors for love in so many different ways. I also realize how I can start to forgive in other relationships and friendships. I notice the price we pay when we hold onto our hurt.

If it happens to be a past love – or present – allow yourself to feel the hurt. To get angry. Maybe even write it all down – as if you would present this in a letter to that person. But find your way to release it and to enter the process of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is power. Forgiveness is freedom. Forgiveness is a gesture of absolute love.

It is the magic potion that clears out the weeds and lets the sun shine in.

Check out Josh Kane and incredible yoga teacher Jennifer Buckman at Pop Up Yoga CT this summer – Yoga + Live Music = LOVE! 

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