To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. ~ Lewis B. Smedes
My whole life unraveled in a day.
At least that’s what I thought, what my intellectual brain told me and how it felt. I no longer had an identity, a place, a purpose and a partner.
In 72 hours, I left my partner, quit my jobs, left a world-class resort town, terminated my energetic routine of multiple daily snow-based activities, packed my epic pass into a box and departed back to “home” which was four states away, 70 degrees and where I would have to live in my RV on my parents’ driveway until the lease on my property expired in six months.
I experienced a litany of feelings during this transition time but my prevalent coping skill became the one that felt the most powerful: anger. David R. Hawkins says (as it relates to his theories about ascending the “scale of consciousness”):
“Anger…is accompanied by a large amount of energy. If the angry person knows how to utilize that anger constructively instead of destructively, the energy of anger can then lead to progress.”
While anger can be a catalyst to moving on and letting go, I often find discomfort and lack of alignment with who I want to be when I act from a place of unleashed or unconscious anger.
According to the seven deadly sins, anger is known as wrath. Among the seven graces, the antidote to wrath is patience (mercy and forgiveness). In Caroline Myss’ teaching “Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can,” she suggests that we don’t like to forgive because it changes our life and that when we forgive, we naturally let go of the pain of the injury and that then changes the story of how we know ourselves.
Change scares us because we don’t know who we will become if we are not what we are. This fear of not knowing who we will become causes us to retain our identity as a victim. We subconsciously wonder: if we aren’t a victim, what will we talk about? How will we get our desires for attention and nurturing met if we are not wounded? Fortunately for me, my desire to be a positive force in the world was greater than my fear of change.
I made a powerful choice to forgive.
What is forgiveness? The dictionary defines it as intentional and voluntary.
Forgiveness is a choice.
Forgiveness causes a change in the feelings and attitudes toward the offense. It helps one let go of negative emotions like resentment and affords increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgive is a verb…it requires action.
In order to shift forgiveness from an idea to an experience, I had to take action.
Five action steps that I took to change forgiveness from an idea to an empowering experience:
1. Choose to forgive: I became willing to change my story.
Forgiveness required that I make a choice to let go of resentment and to have compassion for the person who hurt me. The freedom I experience is dependent upon choosing to change my perspective and let go of the desire to punish the other or to hold them in low esteem. It didn’t require that I pardon or excuse them, that I forget, or that I allow the same thing to happen again…oh hell no! It doesn’t mean that this person has to stay active in my life…nope. I felt like I had a choice that was in my control. I felt empowered!
2. Journal about the consequences if I don’t forgive: The best exercise I did was to write about how I would feel if I didn’t forgive.
I got at the depth of anger and resentment I would feel toward my ex and how I might act as a result. I faced the victimization and pity I could feel for myself. I looked hard at how being a victim drains my power. While tender compassion and love are healing, pity does little to tend to our soul or support us in feeling empowered.
3. Find gratitude in the situation: I acknowledged the growth I experienced.
I wrote as if it was the best thing that ever happened to me! This was the fun part of the process. Invariably, life’s’ challenges are opportunities for us to grow and to live more aligned with our authentic selves. I became a student who looks at each challenge and inquires, “What can I learn?” instead of a fool who doesn’t learn and repeats the same mistake. I chose to learn and feel empowered!
4. Stop talking about the hurt: Tell the story, then stop re-telling it.
Create a way to honor your pain. I asked a few of my closest confidantes to simply listen, to acknowledge my pain, to empathize. Healing occurred when I felt heard and understood. Then…I stopped telling it. Telling our story over and over is living in the past and not serving our energy and power to be present now or to move forward toward what I want. Letting go of the story and being present to now is empowering.
5. Move forward: Take an action that you couldn’t take before you forgave.
This step took courage and a little nudging from my friends. I felt unseen in my creative writing and photography—I wrote again! I hung pictures at yoga studios. I felt un-chosen, dishonored and lacked the love I desired. I chose to be vulnerable and open myself to be chosen again. I carried on and live in response to my inner voice.
Forgiveness in action moved me from idea to experience, taking positive steps toward what I want. I am empowered and free!
Author: Carin Aichele
Editor: Catherine Monkman