We live in an unfair world where plenty of unfair things happen to all of us. You, me and everyone we know isn’t just a great movie title– it is also the truth about who experiences disappointment, betrayal and heartbreak. The good news is we are not defined by what happens to us, we are defined by what we do with it. You have the choice to live in the past and carry that hurt with you for the rest of your life, or let it go and grow from it.
Oddly enough, this is not always an easy choice to see or make. Sometimes we are so enveloped in our pain that there doesn’t seem to be any other choice. But there is, and it is one you have to make. The only thing that holding a grudge does is hold you back. By being anchored in your past, you’re making it impossible to move forward. You’re halting growth, love, new opportunities and peace because you’re stuck in a storm of emotions. Pull up the anchor and let’s get the hell out of there! Sail the high seas to serenity!
Alright, now that I’ve collected my cheesiness, let’s get to the brass tacks. Forgiveness is a fundamental part of being a happy person. Here are the steps I took to transform my life from an angry, grudge holding, emo kid to the optimistic woman I am today.
Commit to letting go
You need to promise yourself that this is what you want to do and that you will work at it. Forgiveness does not come easily and it definitely doesn’t happen overnight. Recognize the journey you are about to embark on and pledge to be a part of the process. It is going to be tough but this is a change that needs to happen in your life. Commit to the change and commit to being a happier and healthier person. You can do it!
What Are The Benefits?
Let’s think about your problem. Ask yourself, what are the benefits of me holding onto this grudge? Your answers will probably be rooted in vengeance, anger and a sense of injustice. These emotions are easy to indulge in. It’s easy to be mad. But do you really want these negative emotions inside of you? Probably not considering they just fester and spread like cancer. Gross.
Now ask yourself, how will you benefit from forgiving this person? What aspects of your life will be easier by letting go? How will your relationships improve from forgiveness? Think of all the stress and anxiety that comes with this grudge. Wouldn’t you rather live without it?
Of course, you have to figure out your own benefits, but just so you know, there are a lot of them. Letting go of a grudge not only opens you to happiness, compassion and peace, but it also lessens symptoms of anxiety and depression, enables healthier relationships in other parts of your life and lowers your blood pressure.
Be Aware & Make The Choice
Let me say it again, this isn’t going to be easy. You may find yourself falling into patterns of bitterness. Be aware of your emotions and thoughts. When you find yourself feeling resentful, take a moment to breathe and remember you made a commitment to yourself to be a happier and healthier person.
If you do find yourself becoming upset, don’t bottle it up. Instead, acknowledge how you feel, express it and release it. Let it leave your body. Of course, when I say this, this is a personal thing you’re doing such as writing or singing or taking a walk. You are not interacting with whoever you’re pissed at. The point is to not act on these feelings and not to indulge in them, just recognize and release.
You cannot control what has happened or what will happen. All you can control is how you react and move forward from it. You have the power to move on but you have to make the choices every day to step in the right direction.
Look, no one is perfect. I know that I am a good person but I have also royally screwed up in my day. I’m not perfect, the person you’re pissed at isn’t perfect and as hard as it is to admit sometimes, you’re not perfect either. Try to understand how the situation came about and try to put yourself in their shoes. Think of what they went through and think of what they are going through now. What they did wasn’t right but being able to see a different perspective and empathize will make you a stronger person and make it easier for you to let go.
Learn from mistakes
Reflect upon the situation you are in. How did it happen? What were the warning signs? How could you have handled it better? Analyzing the situation and giving consideration to your own responsibility in it will give you a better idea as to not let it happen again. If you learn from this lesson then it was worth going through. Flip negatives into positives: this is an opportunity for you to be a wiser person.
Live in the now
I have good news for you! The things you are upset about have come and gone and are in the past! It isn’t happening anymore and now that you are no longer choosing to relive it, you can focus on the things that are happening right now. What is going on in your life to be happy about? I promise, there are many things to be grateful for if you think about it. Concentrate on the goodness of the present. Occasionally your past will come up but that’s okay. Regroup by accepting your past, remembering how you are stronger for it and turn your attention back to today and all that you are thankful for.
Let it Flow
By forgiving, you have let go of the blockage that was keeping you from peace. Let the peace run through you and your life. It is scary at first because many times we become so comfortable in our pain and stress that we don’t know what to do without it. Recognize the peace you are now allowing to flow in your life and embrace it. Love it. Be grateful for it. Where there was once hate, there is now room for love. And it sure as hell beats being angry and anxious all the time. You have come so far to reach this point, do not forget to love the result and love yourself for being so strong.
Live & Love
You did it. You forgave. Now that you have let go of that enormous weight and have allowed happiness into your life, wish happiness for those who you used to resent. Be empathetic and love them, for the more hate you replace with love, the more love with you will have in life. No, you don’t have to love them like they’re your best friend, but appreciate the part they have played in your life and love them for what they have brought into you: strength and wisdom.
And I’m not saying to go hang out with this person or that you need to go out of your way for them. You don’t have to get all buddy-buddy because you’ve forgiven them. The point of this is just to live and let live.
Never forget this is a process, one that may take weeks or months or years. Be patient with yourself and remember that freeing yourself of pain is worth the work. Life is too short to be continually caught up in our past when we could be enjoying and making the most of the present.
How has forgiveness improved your life? Share your stories and tips in the comments section to support those who are working hard to make a change in their life.
Photo Credit: Adam Greenfield