By Jamie Kirk
Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, intentional decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you. Additionally, not factoring in if they deserve it or not. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean accepting or excusing past, current, or future offenses.
As we prepare for the oddest Holiday season ever, one of the things we can cross off the list (for most of us) is the obligatory Holiday parties. We are likely not invited to any, and if we are, due to the current situation with the coronavirus pandemic, the events will be on a much smaller scale. We don’t have to worry about taking the right kind of wine, buying the perfect little black dress, or digging in the closet for the ugliest sweater imaginable. This year we can refocus this energy on something else, like something for ourselves. Something that we need. Something we are certain not to have to return. A perfect gift that no one else can provide. How about we actually give ourselves the gift of forgiveness.
Typically when we hear this, we automatically go with how we have forgiven this or that person or how we caved into this relative or this ex-partner. We get defensive and say things like, “oh please, I let that go years.” Or maybe “I got over that situation and moved on, trust me.” But each of these statements is about the person or the situation, and not about us. Very few times do we consider that maybe we were the one that needed to be forgiven. And I don’t mean forgiven in the sense that we did someone wrong or actually caused pain to someone. Contrary, I mean just the opposite. Perhaps we are the person that we betrayed, or maybe even we have caused pain to ourselves.
The type of forgiveness I am talking about is the ultimate level of forgiveness that allows you to get back to the part of you that can relate to the human experience. We were not born to be unforgiving individuals. We were created to “feel” for others as we can “feel” for ourselves. Therefore, if we are able to be compassionate, kind, and loving to other folks, we absolutely have to have those same feelings for ourselves. Forgiveness is the initial step in acting compassionately, practicing kindness, or unconditionally loving others.
Just like with any gift, the gratification is not always immediate. Some gifts we ask for, some we don’t, but regardless, we sometimes may not see the benefit of its purpose or value—even something tangible like a car or a boat. If you get a boat in December, you may not see it’s value until the summer months. This is delayed satisfaction. The same is true with forgiveness for ourselves. Often, when we forgive ourselves, instant healing does not come immediately. Sometimes we have not even recognized that forgiveness was required from us. From us to us as the gift box would read. However, once that weird wonky feeling starts to surface, that is a sign that the healing process has kicked off. Hopefully, sooner than later.
Healing after forgiveness is so very essential. When we are trying to figure out why we are “stuck” or “can’t meet the right person” or “can’t get a promotion at work,” sometimes the reason is that we are stalled because we have not forgiven ourselves. When you choose not to forgive yourself, you stunt your growth. In the examples mentioned above, maybe you have not forgiven yourself for making a bad decision or falling for someone that was not deserving of your love. We have to get out of our heads and just literally say, “I forgive myself,” or if that is not your style, you can say, “oops, my bad, self.” Any type of affirmation that allows you to acknowledge and accept that forgiveness for yourself is the next deliberate step. Our relationship with ourselves or with others will never improve as long as we are in a state of unforgiveness.
During the holidays, it is so easy to be hard on ourselves. We beat ourselves up for not being in a place that we committed to being in last year this time. We don’t look at how far we have come but focus on how far we are from where we want to be. This is not healthy over time. We have to step back to move forward. And part of that stepping back is leaning into the area that requires forgiveness. Accepting that area, as we chose it. Not avoiding it, not making excuses for it, not regretting the activities, the person, or the situation; but just saying, “yup, my bad self, I forgive you.”
As this holiday season comes to a close, regardless of when you do it or how you do it, just take a few minutes and really think about the power of forgiving yourself. Not forgiving anyone else and not expecting someone else to forgive you. Keep the focus on what is most important, the gift of forgiveness for yourself. I leave you with one very important thought to ponder as you hopefully actualize this exercise’s importance. There is no fruit able to bear when you live a life filled with unforgiveness, just wiltedness overflowing to its slow and miserable death.