To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner was you. -Lewis B. Smedes
I was having a great day. I mean, a really great day. Then it hit me. The memory of what “that person” did to me and suddenly, out of nowhere I was angry. I thought that I had “moved on” from that part of my life, but I realize now that I moved ahead while carrying the resentment and bitterness of the things that had happened with me.
When an injustice happens, we want to be vindicated. We carry the burden of the hurt because on the surface, forgiving can feel like letting the other person off the hook or excusing their behavior and actions. So we wrap the pain and the anger associated with the events around us like a blanket.
If I forgave, I wouldn’t have anything to hold on to–and we all want the things we’ve done in our lives to count, to not be a waste. Then I came across something I wrote in an old blog post: “If you want to change, change.” I read that forgiveness is a choice; it’s a gift you give yourself. It does not come naturally like the process of grief, it’s one that you have to actively commit to see through.
Forgiveness calls for a change of heart and thinking. It is not a feeling–it’s a decision you make to do the right thing. Forgiveness is hard because it means letting go of the emotional attachments we’ve made to parts of our past. It is a practice that requires you to let go and learn . Dr Wayne W. Dyer writes “When you give up interfering, and opt instead to stream like water–gently, softly and unobtrusively–you become forgiveness itself.”
Andrea Brandt, Ph.D. describes forgiveness as “the capping off of your emotional turmoil. [It] puts the final seal on what happened that hurt you. You will still remember what happened, but you will no longer be bound by it. Having worked through the feelings and learned what you need to do to strengthen your boundaries or get your needs met, you are better able to take care of yourself in the future.”
Forgiveness is not about forgetting, it’s about moving on. Forgiveness is not about giving it, it’s about choosing happiness over anger and learning that anger and resentment are a choice as is choosing not to indulge in them. Forgiveness is not about pretending that nothing happened, it’s about the commitment to stop playing the pain over and over again in your mind. Forgiveness is about forgiving yourself for putting you in a bad situation in the first place. Forgiveness is freedom.