We all want to move forward. We want to feel good about ourselves, and experience success, right? And although everyone’s journey is different, there are certain things we all need to do, in order to get to the next level. One of those things is to let go of what no longer serves us. One aspect of letting go, and the part that I’m going to focus on today, is forgiveness.
The ability to practice forgiveness is crucial to our happiness, yet many of us find forgiveness to be difficult, and for a variety of different reasons.
The first and most obvious reason we may not want to forgive someone else, is because we feel that they simply don’t deserve it. And do you know what? Perhaps that’s true. Perhaps they don’t deserve it. We were wronged. We were hurt. We may even be angry. And there are few things in this world that feel better than being angry, especially when that anger is justified.
Another reason that we might push back against the idea forgiveness, may not be quite so obvious. In fact, we may not even be aware of it. What if forgiving someone else is uncomfortable for us, because on some level, we feel or believe that we deserved the poor way in which we were treated? If that’s true, if we believe that it’s our fault, then there’s nothing to forgive. As an outside observer, this concept can be hard to believe or understand, but I assure you that this is a very real thing. It is also a shining example of why a healthy self-esteem is so important.
There is one more forgiveness scenario that deeply affects us, and that is the ability to forgive ourselves. For many of us, extending ourselves a bit of grace can be a nearly impossible task. Sometimes, we expect so much of ourselves, or feel that so much is expected of us, falling short can seem catastrophic. We may even make our shortcoming a part of our identity. Instead of realizing that we suffered a setback, or experienced a teachable moment, we may believe that we are simply not good enough, or that we are a terrible person. And when we become aware that we’ve failed; that we’ve hurt or disappointed someone, it can feel absolutely devastating. And if you’re anything like me, you try to fix it (I’m a compulsive people pleaser and chronic “fixer” who is an admitted work in progress). All I can do is accept that I did my best, even when my best has been less than perfect.
Here’s the deal. The art of forgiveness is hard, because it’s easy to forget what and who it’s actually for. Forgiveness is for us. It’s not to make others feel good about themselves (though it’s wonderful if it does). Ultimately, the purpose of forgiveness is to provide us a sense of well-being. We can never truly move forward while being burdened with all of that weight. No matter how big, strong, tough, or resilient we may be, it will inevitably prove to be too heavy. Believe me, I know.
This holiday season, I’m giving myself the gift of peace.
I hope you do the same.