Forgiveness is about us letting go of our pain

Forgiveness starts with us

For too many years I lived locked inside a prison of other’s misdeeds and mistakes, and I suffered. Personally, I’m tired of paying the price for other people’s mistakes and bad behaviour.

It is said, not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

We’ve all been hurt in big and small ways by others, either intentionally or unintentionally. There’s no denying it, horrible things happen in life.

This column in no way denies the scarring and damage life’s atrocities, big and small, have created for people. It’s about ending our own suffering. I believe hurt people hurt people. This doesn’t excuse them, but we don’t have to perpetuate the suffering in our own lives.

The bigger question is, how can we stop our own suffering and paying the price for the actions, or inactions, of others? How do we free ourselves?

It’s important to be clear about what forgiveness is, and what it isn’t. Forgiveness is not saying what happened is OK. Forgiveness isn’t saying we must seek out or reconcile with the person who has harmed us. Others don’t even need to know about it. It’s an internal process.

Forgiveness isn’t “forgive and forget.” It’s letting go of our own pain. Forgiveness liberates us from the shadow of another’s mistake and we take our power back.

If we wait until someone apologizes or feels sorry for us in order to forgive him or her, we might be waiting a long time. Sometimes, they aren’t sorry, they don’t even know the pain they’ve caused, or they’re dead. Waiting for another to feel sorry only keeps us trapped and suffering.

Forgiveness is a process, it’s not an event. And it can take time. It’s often done in layers. We don’t over-ride or deny our own hurt and pretend we’re all happy-happy-joy-joy.

Bottling hurt feelings up doesn’t work and puts added stress on our minds and bodies. That can make us sick. Suppressed emotions often spill over into our lives in other ways. We can shut ourselves off from support or avoid any situation or person who even smells like the one that hurt us. In this, we lose out on life.

Self-forgiveness can be even more challenging than forgiving others. Learning to be compassionate with ourselves, knowing everyone makes mistakes or yearns for a do-over helps us to stop beating ourselves up. It’s from this perspective that we can make amends if needed and learn to move on and do better.

Be nice to the right person—yourself.

Many of us use a critical voice with ourselves. But when we’re hurt, it’s important to be kind with ourselves. Imagining we are our own best friend is helpful. What would we tell someone we really loved who’s hurting? How would we be with them?

It’s important to acknowledge and feel emotions and to pause to ask ourselves what we need. We may need to share and feel heard and supported. Writing about it, sharing with a caring friend or counsellor may be helpful.

It is helpful to name the feelings that arise. Naming the emotions helps turn the volume down on the emotional centre of the brain and invite the rational part of the brain into action, according to a study conducted at UCLA.

When working with forgiveness, it’s best to start with smaller hurts, not the big things. When we’ve been hurt, there’s often a tendency to go over-and-over what was said or done in our own minds, and rehearse what we’d love to say. As best we can, we need to stop having conversations with the offender in our minds.

Holding a grudge is like letting someone live rent-free in our head. I often consider how much air-time I’ve given people who’ve hurt me and how that increases my suffering. They’ve likely not given it a second thought. How much power do I want to give others over my life?

I’ve found power and liberation in pausing, taking a few deep breaths and turning toward my hurt feelings with self-compassion. I name what I’m feeling and I don’t pretend nothing happened. Sometimes, I just silently whisper “ouch” to myself.

Deepening our understanding about what forgiveness is and isn’t is just a starting point.

Understanding forgiveness is about ending my own suffering, and not about the other, was helpful for me.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Live life to the fullest — whatever that is for you

Living a full life

If I’d known how much fun life as an elder would be, I would have done it earlier.

The reality of aging is far removed from any misconceptions I held as a younger woman. I’m delighted to find my youthful view was sorely mistaken. It’s the best time of life.

I watched my parents as they aged and wondered, what was the purpose of it all. Each day was filled with the same activities, the same routine, the same, the same, ad nauseum. To my young mind, they seemed to be the living dead, just living out their days in a repetitive routine.

They’d spent their lives dedicated to supporting and raising a family, but they’d not spent any time discovering or following their own passions. I clearly remember my workaholic father sadly telling me in his senior years, “If I’d only known how little it (work) mattered, I’d never have lived my life the way I did.”

Sadly, in his later years, my Dad recognized the error of not finding and following his own passion and purpose, of not finding his own unique brand of creative expression. There were so many things he wished he’d tried, but he never found the time. I didn’t want to make the same mistake.

Henry Ford one said: “If you keep thinking what you’ve always thought, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.” A new experience of life requires a new idea.

I decided to follow my heart and returned to college when my children were young. I wanted to be a nurse. And, so I did. I thought my evolution would end there, moving from housewife and mother to a staff nurse in a hospital. But again, I was wrong. The adventure had only just begun.

One day, a colleague arrived at work filled with excitement. She was lit up. Her exuberance filled the room as she excitedly shared pictures and stories about her pottery classes. Her sense of aliveness and vitality were contagious.

Oddly, I felt panic rising in my body, I recognized my life had been so filled with work and doing what needed to be done, and I’d never found or cultivated my own passion. I was soon to turn 40, a big year. It was time for a change.

Memories of my father came flooding back and I knew it was time to wake up and find what would light up my world. This was a pivotal moment for me. There was so much I felt I had to do, but nothing I loved to do.

I started to check within, asking myself what I loved to do and who would I love to be. You can’t ask questions of your soul without receiving an answer—and then listen and take action.

Since that day more than 25 years ago, my life has become an epic journey of discovery of who I am and what exists inside of me. Breaking the mold I thought was cast for me, I started to take risks. I started to follow my own heart’s calling. In doing this, I have lived a life uncommon, and I’ve loved every minute of it.

My heart’s call has led me on an adventure of a lifetime. At times it maybe didn’t make sense to the world but it has made sense to me.

When I write about something making sense, I’m not referring to the logical mind. For something to make sense for me, it makes my senses tingle. It’s a knowing that transcends what the mind understands. It feels right. It makes sense.

Following the deep-knower within, I’ve never been led astray. I’ve travelled an unusual path, but it’s always been right for me. l feel more alive than I ever did in my youth. I remain amazed as I discover new abilities, talents, and passions as they emerge.

These are my harvest years; harvesting all of the wonderful fruits of the bounty of my life and, sharing them with the world, as only I can. You can’t learn this stuff in a text book. I believe a secret to a rich life is spending myself with passion. In the spending, in the giving, I am fed. And you don’t have to wait as long as I did.

This spending of my life’s harvest draws people into my life who seem eager to partake as I express myself through teaching, speaking, ministry, and writing.

Stretching myself outside of my own comfort zone has been essential. Comfort is over-rated and it’s been years since I’ve been comfortable. I’ve learned “perfect” is just a word in the dictionary, and often it is an imitation of what someone else has done.

Creativity is not doing what others have done. It’s not copying and coloring within the lines. It’s making something new, as only I can. Life isn’t one-size-fits-all.

Within each of us lies a seed of creativity that’s unique to each one of us. It’s the seed of who we’re here to be. The evolution of our creative capacity expands and changes through life as we open to new ideas.

What’s something you’d love to try? What’s stopping you? Maybe stretch yourself a little because life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Living a more conscious life

Dealing with emotion

How are you feeling today?

Often, we answer questions about feelings with a response from the head, or a thought. We’ve been so conditioned to value the brain and thinking over our feelings, that often we’re out of touch with the emotions we’re experiencing.

When we’re out of touch with our emotions, afraid of what we feel or in self-judgment about our emotions, they run or limit more of our lives than we may be aware of.

I know because I lived much of my early life unaware of my emotions. I was like a walking head, oblivious to what I was feeling inside. I was the queen of ignoring and suppressing emotions for many years and was confused or embarrassed when I’d suddenly explode or lose it in a situation.

The emotions I was unaware of became wrecking balls when the pressure of them became too great and I’d react and explode, often totally out of proportion to what had happened. I was suffering and didn’t know it.

This way of living created a lot of complexity and unnecessary damage for me and others in my life.

We’re seeing that all around us these days with the many events in the world—unconscious emotions resulting in violence and people acting out. Anger is often a cover emotion, protecting some of our more vulnerable feelings like fear, grief or shame.

While we may think we’re a very logical and head-centred society, those suppressed emotions are running or inhibiting more of our lives than we might recognize. Bringing what’s unconscious to consciousness is possible, and we can learn to make wise use of all of our emotions, even the difficult ones.

I remember the irritation, years ago, when a friend asked me where in my body was I feeling the anger I was expressing. Feeling? In my body? I had no idea. Following my initial irritation, curiosity grew about my emotions and what I was feeling.

Our emotions help us and our bodies move toward self-protective action if needed. They’re primal, unconscious body responses offering us information. The key word there is unconscious; they just happen as we experience the world and our thoughts.

We’ve all been taken out by our emotions at some point in our lives. Powerful emotions can knock out the thinking part of our brains; we may do or say things that are out of character for us.

It can leave us feeling ashamed or embarrassed and, over the long-term, affect our health, relationships, and happiness. Gaining insight into them, learning how to be with them is what’s essential to living a conscious life.

Emotions are energy in motion. The only problem for many of us is, we only let a couple of emotions surface and the rest we suppress, based on our history and what we learned was acceptable in childhood. It’s collective and individual at the same time.

We learn to suppress our emotions until they build and explode out, often looking quite unlike what they started as. I call it “packing the cannon.” And it can take one tiny thing to ignite the fuse of a loaded cannon.

This makes it hard for us to allow the energy of the initial emotion to simply pass through and let us know what’s going on inside. But the energy has to go somewhere.

So, what to do? I believe being human should come with an instruction manual.

Researchers reveal emotions will only last 60 to 90 second unless we suppress them or feed them with a thought. They may return but they’ll come back with less intensity if we learn to allow the energy of the emotion to move. Learning to soften and breathe when we’re experiencing a powerful emotion is much more helpful than locking-down on the feeling.

The goal is to be aware of and experience our emotions and feelings, but not be run by them, using our emotions for the information they give us to make wise, conscious decisions that incorporate the heart and the head. We do this by learning pause and breathe deeply and slowly at least three times, without judgment, becoming gently curious about what we’re feeling in our bodies.

This simple act helps dissipate the intensity of the emotion and invites the thinking part of our brains back on-line.

With practice, we can learn to no longer suppress our emotions, or paint them over the world when we explode. We can learn to curiously and compassionately turn toward what we’re experiencing and instead of suppressing or judging them, or simply reacting, allowing the feelings to lose their intensity and receive their wisdom.

When we do this, we learn to live a more conscious life.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Avoiding the 'cyber-toothed' tiger

Getting back out there

Beware the cyber-toothed tiger.

This is good advice to follow, because it may bite you in unexpected ways, as my friend Jeff used to caution.

I’ve fallen prey to this tiger in the past couple of years and I received that bite.

Technological advances have done much to offer us new ways to connect more widely with the world, especially since the pandemic. Information, entertainment and social connection are now at our fingertips.

Why, on earth, would I venture out to attend a local event when I can listen to world-leading-experts in my pajamas for free? Many people are opting to attend lectures and church services without ever leaving their homes. Convenient, for sure, but we’re robbing ourselves of an important basic need—human connection.

While at times it’s lovely to attend lectures and concerts virtually from the comfort of our homes, with the wider virtual connection comes the risk of reducing real connection with other human beings that’s vital to our health.

Instead of feeling more connected to one another, the number of people feeling lonely and isolated is on the rise globally. Our increased ability and habit of virtual connection has left us feeling more alone and lacking in close, caring relationships. This was true before the pandemic and is now even more prevalent now.

Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful to be connected virtually with family and friends when it was the only option. I used to chuckle at how we all looked like we were on Hollywood Squares, and grew used to being reminded I had to unmute if I wanted to speak.

But, all too quickly I came to rely on it. It became normal for me and, like many, I found it very convenient, too convenient.

I thought I was doing just fine being connected virtually, able to attend meetings, social gatherings and multiple spiritual services while wearing my jammies and sipping an extra cup of coffee, sometimes even puttering at housework. It felt efficient, and it was. I now realized I sacrificed connection, depth and meaning for the sake of efficiency and something vital was lost.

Compelling research reveals a correlation between use of social media and increased experiences of isolation, depression, anxiety, pain, and poor sleep quality. The more one partakes in use of social media, the higher the incidence. Research conducted at UCLA revealed social isolation also affects us physically.

Feelings of loneliness trigger cellular changes causing chronic inflammation, and predisposing lonely people to heart disease, Alzheimer’s, stroke and metastatic cancer. Mortality is increased by 26%.

We are social creatures, and benefit from being in close proximity to others and developing caring, supportive relationships. Making the effort to form social connections, to find or create a community is a powerful way to overcome or prevent loneliness.

I love the word community, as it reminds me we are coming together in a common unity, gathering for a common purpose. Community not only supports our common interest or purpose, it enlivens and supports us and our health.

Trading our devices for time spent with real people, gathering, and making connection promotes mental and physical well-being. Taking time to attend social gatherings and services matters, and is a way to build meaningful community that nourishes us.

Emojis have become the hieroglyphics of our age. Even a phone call, hearing a human voice and all of its inflections creates better connection and clarity than a series of emojis ever will. And there’s less room for misunderstanding

Mahatma Ghandi said: “Be the change you want to see in this world.” I’ve taken his words to heart and recognize the importance of not waiting for another to create what I am seeking. There are so many opportunities to create safe connection and community.

We can gather outdoors or in safe social settings, doing what we must do to feel comfortable, but remembering the importance of being together with people we enjoy and care about.

Remembering your presence matters and showing up for one another is important. So simple, so meaningful.

One person can start a chain of connection, drawing others in, turning what could be a lonely day into one where new relationships are made.

Where can you show up, extending the gift of your presence, creating community, and being the change, you’d love to see in this world?

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More New Thought articles

About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

An assistant minister at the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, she is a retired nurse with a master’s degree in health science and is a hospice volunteer.  She is also an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan and currently spends her time teaching smartUBC, a unique mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. 

She is a speaker and presenter and from her diverse experience and knowledge, both personally and professionally, she has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people gain a new perspective, awaken and recognize we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts, stress or to life. We are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 44 years and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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