How does one know if she has forgiven? You tend to feel sorrow over the circumstance instead of rage, you tend to feel sorry for the person rather than angry with him. You tend to have nothing left to say about it all.
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Recently I had to re-experience a very painful incident in my life, one that caused me unbelievable pain and
shook me to my very core. My initial response to the incident was blinding rage, astonishment that someone could hurt me so deeply, and an enormous desire for revenge.
I was in a very dark place back then, and expending an awful lot of energy dealing with the “how could you…” thoughts and fantasized reactions.
<Cue the rapid flipping of calendar pages to the present time. >
Having to relive the memories was not pleasant but it had to be done. And, yes, the tears came again, though not the torrential sort. And then I noticed that my perspective had changed: I no longer held a grudge, felt the powerful anger, or the vehement need to strike back.
Wow! I took a moment and recognized how far I had come.
So, what had changed?
I now have a lot of distance from that period, during which I had done a tremendous amount of thinking. I began to recognize how much time and energy was being cannibalized by dwelling on this incident, which was keeping me from the things I wanted to pursue. I slowly recognized my role in the situation. Yes, I was guilty, too. (This was a hard one to accept.) I conceded that I had rather enjoyed picking at the scab because then I could feel “poor me” and seek sympathy and attention. And I shifted my focus from the swirling strong emotions I was feeling to the positives of the relationship, something I had conveniently “forgotten” in my pain.
I developed empathy, looking at what might have led the person to such actions. And most importantly, I learned to accept that I am not perfect —this was a really tough one, too—acknowledging the hurt I have caused others, as well. If I could recognize my imperfections, surely I could give others that same consideration.
What do I feel now about all of this? I have moved beyond the hurtful story. I feel sorrow for the person involved and for what happened. My anger has developed into compassion that they were driven to such hurtful actions and that I allowed myself to remain in the dark place for as long as I did. I have forgiven them (and me).
And, I am much more mindful that when I hurt someone, it is my responsibility to make amends to speed the healing process.
Your Call to Action
Who in your life do you need to forgive? What benefit are you getting from dwelling in the place of the injured party? If you let go of your hurt, what would become free within you? What’s your next step?