The Bittersweet Road to Forgiveness

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

We all have stories of regret, anger and betrayal in our past. It’s simply a fact of life that these adverse events happen, sometimes we are even be the protagonists.

Overcoming your anger and sadness, whether by time or self-effort, is no easy task and can take many, many years. Learning empathy and seeing situations from another’s perspective without bias emotions to cloud your judgement comes with maturity. Admitting your own faults takes a lot of courage to do, and often comes after some monumental fall in your personal life. You start to think about why these events happened; slowly you can start to apply these to yourself, and see why somebody may have treated you the way they did and ways you have treated others that have hurt them. You start to see why they and you behaved that way, what their and your personal situations were.

It’s a beautiful, bittersweet moment where you understand so much more about people and the world than you did back then.

This hindsight is a key piece to self-forgiveness.

We all are on journeys whether we realise it or not. Everything we do and every experience we have has formed the person we are today, and with our knowledge of the past we have the power to decide who we want to be in the future.

Forgiveness leaves you vulnerable, and self-forgiveness leaves you empowered. Both are essential - it's never too late
Forgiveness leaves you vulnerable, and self-forgiveness leaves you empowered. Both are essential – it’s never too late to start

You’ve heard it time and time again that forgiving others and yourself make you happier. I know. I’m sorry. However, if this prompts you reading to make a positive change for you, then I’d happily say it over and over until the timing is right. It can unfortunately be a matter of timing, but I promise that the lingering guilt or anger will subside and a wonderful, gentle sense of liberation will emerge – like a weight has been taken off of your shoulders.

If this is you, you’ve been plagued by many emotions. They surface from time to time, leaving you feeling uneasy for a little while. It may be months before they make another guest appearance, but even so, they’re still there lingering in the background. It may be sadness about the past, anger, frustration, defiance, a sense of unfairness and mistreatment, arrogance, disappointment, guilt and many, many other emotions. These emotions were brought on by the various negative situations, each party’s background and their own flaws and naivety. Time has passed now and you have grown, hopefully the other person has too. 

Yes they have wronged you. Yes it sucks, and it hurts.
However, you need to ask yourself “who are these pent-up feelings actually hurting?”
Chances are, it’s you and not the other person. The same cliché applies – letting go of these feelings will help you in the long run. Here are some suggestions that may help you move on and let go:

  • Write a letter – let it out, scribble, bite it, I don’t care. Get it out in a form that doesn’t harm any body.
  • Imagine yourself face to face with them. What would you say? How do they react?
  • Actually meet up with this person, on the condition that enough time has passed for them to think things over also. We don’t want to cause an argument here. Say what you need to say – no more, no less. You’ve said it, leave it at that. It is their choice whether to accept it or not and vice versa.

Sometimes it’s not other’s you need to forgive, but yourself. 

And that can be harder, because it involves admitting mistakes, making yourself vulnerable, and having the courage to rise up after the self-reflection.

Which brings me to my next point – apologies.

Being a non-perfect human and mistreating people at times, I have been very aware of this over the last few years and have felt rather guilty about things that happened in the past. It seems trivial at times to get caught thinking about these instances. Okay, so we were young and dumb, and people change, why bother feeling guilty about this? I suppose it is different for everyone, but I decided to write some letters to say sorry. It was important to me to know that I had done everything in my power to apologise for even something minor. From the recipients, positive responses and friendships reemerged. People change, and differences back then are now shared visions and philosophies, as these people too were self-reflective on the past. Now I have truly let go of the guilt and feel that gentle freedom I talked of. I am determined to be a better person by acknowledgement of my own flaws, empathy towards others, and knowing I have the power to self-forgive.

To overcome yourself takes a lot of self-awareness and courage to admit these shortcomings publicly. Writing these apologies allowed me to reconnect with old friends, overcome guilt and negative feelings between both parties, and perhaps most importantly – forgive myself.

You deserve to be a happy person, you deserve to forgive and be forgiven.

Have you got any forgiveness strategies that have worked for you? Share below in the comments and they’ll be posted.

Penny x


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