Underneath all of the candy canes, wreaths, and Elf quotes, is a truly important gift that we need to remember this winter season. However, this gift is so easily forgotten amongst the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Just last week, I was sitting at my desk, feeling defeated by the pressures of school, finals, and getting over a dreadful cold that made my voice sound like Darth Vader (my friends got some awesome snapchats from me though). I just sat there with my head resting on my fists, feeling the weight of it all. That’s when my mother quietly walked by, and set a book on my desk. I glanced over, and the title glimmered back at me: “Do Yourself A Favor. . . Forgive.” It finally hit me: there was a certain somebody that I really needed to forgive. And I was putting it off–and doing a terrible job at it, too.
What does an awesome Christmas gift really mean, if we still hold onto grudges against the person we are giving it to? There’s no better time than the holidays to bundle up your heart and forgive. Forgive that person who dramatically cut you off on the freeway because you chose to actually abide by the speed limit. Forgive Uncle Ted for being a grumpy grinch at Thanksgiving dinner. Forgive the man who was supposed to be there for you, but failed miserably.
By holding a grudge, you are not doing justice to that beautiful soul of yours. You should forgive because, first and foremost, you deserve it (as the book title implies). And I’m not saying it’s easy, either. It’s not always as simple as belting out “Shake It Off” and dancing the anger off with every passing “shake, shake, shake.” As a wise friend once shared with me, “Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past could have been different.” I’m still slightly afraid to open that book my mom gave me. But I’m taking baby steps every day to get to that point.
Here are some things to try in your walk towards forgiveness (aka, my baby steps):
Take care of yourself.
Give yourself a hug. I mean it. Take yourself on a hot chocolate date. Write letters and say everything you wish you could say to that one person. You might be surprised at how freeing it is. Check in with yourself: journal by your favorite Marshmallow Fireside candle from B&BW, or simply confide in your dog (a human friend works too). Take a yoga class and find your zen. Start your mornings with a prayer full of well-wishes. Spend time alone, and do something creative and send good vibes to the universe. Whatever it takes to get you smiling again.
I totally get that it’s hard to have compassion for someone who’s wronged us. I mean, why should I be nice to someone who hurt me, and never even apologized for it? The illusion is that it feels better to loathe the person because they deserve nothing more—but in the long run, that anger hurts us more than the person we’re mad it. Try kindness and understanding, instead. Consider that a person’s hurtful actions could be a projection of something much more difficult going on in their life that often has nothing to do with us.
Think about all of the times that you’ve needed to ask for forgiveness and remember how you felt in that moment.
Simply put, this thought often gives us the “Aha!” moment we need.
Be a light for that person. Chances are, they desperately need more of that in their life if they are going around hurting people’s feelings. If you can, tell them that you forgive them. Talk it out on hot chocolate date #2 (the first one was for you). Bring a peace offering; even just a smile.
With all this being said, sometimes forgiveness takes more than just talking it out over hot cocoa (have you noticed that I’m craving some, BTW?) Sometimes, we can’t even handle seeing that person again and we need to send them our compassion from afar. And that’s totally okay too.
The honest truth is that forgiveness takes work—and that’s what I tried to avoid for the longest time. Doing the work. But is it worth it in the end? Absolutely. It’s the most freeing Christmas present in the whole wide world and you deserve it.