There can be a real resistance to forgiveness. And I get it. Why the hell should I forgive that butt hole that hurt me?! He did this to me, she did that to someone I love! They don’t deserve my forgiveness! I wish them nothing but misery!
Believe me, I get it. I’ve been hurt too. Who hasn’t? I’ve sat gleefully plotting all the devastating things I’d say to my abusive ex-boyfriend if I ever bumped into him. I’ve relived arguments and thought of a million amazing comebacks I wish I’d said. But how does that level of bitterness and resentment serve us? Really? What is the positive that comes from stewing on this pain and anger? Justifiable pain and anger, I have no doubt about that, but pain and anger nonetheless.
This next bit is going to seem a little disconnected from the topic, but humour me; I’m going somewhere with it, I promise….
Imagine that it’s a warm summer’s day. The balmy air gently caresses your skin as you sit under a huge lemon tree, filled with ripe, yellow fruits. The subtle scent of lemons is all around you. You stand up and pluck a juicy, ripe lemon from the tree. You draw the fruit to your nose and inhale its fresh, citrusy smell. You cut the lemon in half and its juice shoots out and the scent grows stronger. Your mouth starts to water as you raise the juicy, delicious, bitter lemon to your mouth and take a bite….
What happened as you prepared to take a bite of the fruit? What did you notice about your body? Did you start to salivate as you remembered how fresh and lovely lemons smell? Did the back of your mouth tingle as you saw yourself plunging your teeth into the fruit? I can tell you now, I drooled just writing that.
That visceral reaction that your body had, that was a response purely to a memory, nothing more. There was no witchcraft on my part, I didn’t do anything magical or sneaky; you have tasted a lemon before, your mind remembers how a lemon looks, smells and tastes, and your body remembers too. Your body responded to a memory.
Every time you sit in the past, reliving the thing that hurt you, you are dragging it back into your present. You get angry, your mind whirls with the things you wish you’d said or done, or what you’ll say or do the next time you see that SOB. Your body responds too. The memory is so real that your body enters fight or flight mode. Adrenaline courses through your body, cortisol rises, your heart pounds and your breath quickens. This is a stress response. You become physically and emotionally stressed.
Forgiveness is not about letting the person that hurt you off the hook. You are not saying that what they did is okay. You don’t even need to send them happy, positive thoughts or wish only good things for them. You just don’t have to send them anything. You don’t have to wish them anything. If you’re going to wish them something, it can simply be that they grow, that they don’t repeat their past mistakes, that they do better in the future.
Forgiveness isn’t about the person who wronged you, it’s about you. It’s about setting yourself free from the hurt, the anger, the bitterness that can rage inside us. The one thing that we all aspire to in our lives is happiness.
To be happy.
To be content.
To be at peace.
None of these are compatible with bitterness, anger or pain. By freeing yourself of the resentment that you’ve been harbouring, you’re allowing yourself to take a step closer to finding your happiness.
Now who wouldn’t want that?