Wikipedia defines forgiveness as the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.
I experienced feeling heart wrenching pain from those I thought were supposed to love me the most. I felt hate for the first time in my life at what I perceived as unimaginable cruelty. The negative feelings racing through my veins caused me mental and physical distress.
I voraciously read and listened to experts talk about forgiveness, but I couldn’t do it. I understood my bitterness hurt me, but I felt those who caused my pain were evil low forms of life. I couldn’t just let it all go.
I never wanted revenge, although I thought about how easily I could intentionally do things that would hurt my attackers. I never once wished the pain I endured on anybody. I wanted the words to make things better, but nothing I said made a difference.
My reaction to abuse was to focus on being a perfectionist because I thought it would prove to others and myself what a wonderful person I am. This caused me anxiety and others to feel uncomfortable around me. I advanced in a career I didn’t love and at times detested. I continued on this emotional treadmill until I had so much loss in my life I cracked.
I was fired from a job for being righteous and quit two jobs because I didn’t want to deal with underhanded politics anymore. I became apathetic, reclusive, and depressed. My sense of well-being and any peace or joy vanished.
The action plan I created to improve my life included seeking professional help for anything I couldn’t fix on my own. I doubted counseling could help me forgive my worst offenders, but I was wrong. Talking with an objective educated person about overcoming negative feelings facilitated melting my pain and unshackling my heart.
After looking at how pain affected me, I imagined what kinds of experiences might cause anybody to act unloving. I stopped believing people suffering should want to help others and thought people might be stuck, just like I had been.
Quit “Should” Thoughts
• They should be ashamed.
• They should be punished.
• They should know how I feel.
• They should want to be more loving.
• They should want to help me.
Focus on “Might” Thoughts
• They might have experienced unimaginable pain.
• They might think nothing can improve.
• They might not be able to imagine a better life.
• Their heart might be closed.
• They might not know how to help me.
Thinking about what might cause someone to treat me negatively doesn’t excuse the behavior. It allows my heart to be in a peaceful place of empathy and compassion. I can move away from those who hurt me and move forward with forgiveness allowing my heart to dwell in love for myself and others. I can let go of perfectionism and focus on what brings me the greatest joy.