Forgiveness helps us as much as it helps those we forgive

Importance of forgiveness

Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to suffer, so the saying goes.

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

Personally, I’m tired of paying the price for other people’s mistakes and bad behaviour. We’ve all been hurt in big and small ways by others, either intentionally or unintentionally. There’s no denying, horrible things happen in life.

This, 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. When working with forgiveness, it’s best to start with smaller hurts, not the big ones.

I believe hurt people, hurt people. This doesn’t excuse them, but we don’t have to perpetuate the suffering in our own lives.

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 ever seek out or reconcile with the person who has harmed us. It’s an internal process others don’t even need to know about it.

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 had to wait until someone apologized or felt sorry for us to forgive, we might be waiting a long time. Sometimes, they aren’t sorry, they don’t even know the pain they’ve cause, or they’re dead. Waiting for another to feel sorry would only keep us trapped and locked into our own pain.

Forgiveness is a process, 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. This can make us sick. Bottled up emotions often spill over into our lives in other ways. We can shut ourselves off from support, or avoid any situation or people who remind us of one that hurt us. In this, we lose out on life.

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 our emotions, pausing to ask ourselves what we need. Writing about it or sharing with a caring friend or counselor may be helpful so we can gain perspective and feel heard and supported.

It is helpful to name the feelings that arise. Naming the emotions helps to 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 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, stop having conversations with the offender within our own mind. This used to happen to me in the wee-small-hours, just when I was supposed to be sleeping. Each time I did this to myself, I felt a shot of stress chemicals in my body, causing me to be wide awake, and re-experiencing the hurt and I suffered.

The adage of holding a grudge is like letting someone live rent-free in our head applies here. I often consider how much air-time I give to people who’ve hurt me. They’ve likely not given it a second thought. How much power do I want to give others in my life?

I used to be the great pretender, and try to fake through it. Now, I take the time I need with myself until I can gain some clarity about what happened. Deep, slow, belly-breaths are helpful.

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

Forgiving and freeing ourselves from past hurts can be liberating and is the perfect way to start the new year.

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

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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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