Holding on to Grievances
A new year is a time of new beginnings, so what better time is there to let go of old grievances and bring some forgiveness into your life? Although you may not believe this, cultivating forgiveness is in your own best interest. Whatever the grievance, it is not worth hanging onto – especially those events that happened a long time ago. The person you believe that ‘wronged you’ may not even remember the event. As you wander round carrying this heavy load of hate and negativity, the other person, whom you may not have seen in years, is happily getting on with their life. Your own mind is being poisoned by your lack of forgiveness. You are holding onto the grievance as if it was important – but it is not.
Although your mind may consciously or unconsciously want to keep going over the incident and reinforce the perceived grievance, does it make you feel better? Do you want to hang onto what happened? Or, do you want to let the grievance disappear in a puff of smoke as you choose to allow yourself to move on and be happy? Remember, unless you choose to let go and forgive, you cannot move on. So, think carefully about what caused an initial hurt. Is it worth the feelings of misery you experience whenever you think about it? Or, do you want to let it go?
Letting Go Technique
Of course, letting go of an emotional hurt is a lot more difficult than letting go of an object. If letting go of an emotional hurt was as easy as letting go of a tennis-ball, people would be a lot happier. However, these negative emotions can indeed be dropped, just like the tennis-ball. All you have to do is decide that is what you want to do. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just choose to stop hanging onto the hurt and decide to bring forgiveness into your life. You don’t have to tell anyone what you are doing. ‘Just Do It’, as the great Nike advert says. And, when the mind sneakily tries to bring in the grievance, mentally say: “STOP, I let it go. It is no longer a part of my life”. Give it a go and see if it makes you feel better.
The Forgiveness Goal
Setting goals is always a good thing to do. In Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, goal setting is one of the most useful exercises in therapy. Bringing forgiveness into your life should be no different. Don’t set an impossible bench-mark when you first start with forgiveness. Instead, choose something small and work your way up to the bigger issues after you have had some practice. For example, if you felt slighted at work, practice the letting go technique for a week and see how successful you are and how much better you feel. Sometimes, with long term grievances, it may be difficult to do it on your own. So, don’t. Get some help and go to counselling. Also, there may be areas of pain and emotional turmoil that you are reluctant to address. In such situations, forgiveness can become a form of denial. Only you can make the choice whether to let the grievance go or to keep holding on to it. Engaging the help of a professional can help you with this decision-making process – and this particularly if the incident involved a lot of personal trauma. It may then seem easier just to try to forget about it and decide that you will never be able to forgive. However, it’s much better for you in the long run if you can choose to get on with your life by bringing forgiveness to the situation. Then, you are giving yourself the chance to be completely free of that trauma.
Forgiveness is not Condoning
It is also important to understand that forgiveness is not condoning the incident. If you forgive someone, it does not mean you are weak and risk being abused or traumatised by them again. Indeed, being able to forgive is the harder course and shows a level of courage and bravery that many people cannot access. If a person does something to you that requires your forgiveness, they need to know that, while you forgive what they have done, you will never let them do it to you again. No-one has to put up with abuse and stopping it is paramount in achieving true forgiveness.
If the incident is in the past and you are not likely to see the person again, set the goal to forgive in the knowledge that you are not condoning the incident but just choosing to move on from it. Of course, if you are immersed in a situation, it can be very difficult to forgive. You may have to delay any thought of forgiveness as, realistically, it is hard to think clearly when you are in the darkness of a trauma. Until you are out of the situation, you may not have a clear enough perspective to embrace forgiveness. But, always set the goal to forgive so you can move on and live a happier life. Holding onto any grudge is not worth the pain it will cause you. The other person probably won’t even care. They might even be pleased that what they did is still causing you pain. Forgiveness is the key to a happier life. Set it as a goal. Put the forgiveness key in the lock and move through the door into a better life.
Forgiveness a New Year Resolution
As the new year commences, it really is a great time to set ‘Forgiveness’ ((Link to the NEW ‘Forgiveness & New Beginnings” article) as one of your New Year resolutions. Whatever the injustice, grievance or hurt, choose to let it go. The load of carrying negative thoughts will cause you more pain than the initial action of the perpetrator. Why would you want to do that to yourself?
Be honest with yourself in the process. Yes, forgiveness is important but so too is honesty. Don’t deny your own anger and pain as that is indeed “denial”. Accept what you are feeling and be gentle with yourself. You may not be able to find forgiveness within you about a certain situation. In that case, just take your time. You have to choose to forgive, which is a lot harder than choosing to drop the tennis ball. So, give yourself a break. Take your time. If you keep setting the goal of forgiveness, eventually you will find that you do have the choice. The small spark of forgiveness will become a bright flame as you make the choice to set yourself free – from that situation, at least.
A Brighter New Year Ahead
Step into the New Year as you mean to continue. It is a great time to move forward with a new way of thinking and feeling. Some of your New Year resolutions may not be achievable right away. However, by setting the goal of forgiveness, to be a part of your life, you may find that the coming year will be better and brighter than ever before.