Monday, 26 May 2014

Set yourself free by learning to forgive

"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." ~Buddha

Do you feel angry at yourself? Or someone else? Do you feel uncomfortable with something that has happened, something you think was not fair, such that you may feel angry and resentful at the world/fate that it actually happened? Do you blame yourself or the other person?

It is time for acceptance and forgiveness. What was done has been done, and what was said has been said. You need to accept that some things happened for a reason, whether it was fair or not. Maybe you or the other person was emotional at the time, maybe you/he/she thought it was the logical thing to do then. In any case, it happened. And there really is no benefit, psychologically or health-wise, for you to be holding on to the past and being bitter about it. You also cannot escape from the problem (as so many of us often do) by sweeping things under the rug, thinking it will pass, while knowing very well that, somewhere at the back of your mind, the anger is festering, prowling like a tiger waiting to pounce upon the slightest provocation. And you know it will, because it will subconsciously affect your behavior and your reactions to that person, or situations that remind you of that very event.

Being unable to forgive will only increase your discomfort, sense of guilt, and resentment. 
Being able to forgive demonstrates strength in character, and lifts the burden off your shoulders. How much mental baggage can one person carry?


“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
Someone wronged you. Maybe they treated you thoughtlessly without your feelings or best interests in mind. Or maybe they hurt you with full awareness in a moment of anger or frustration.
Your pride’s bruised, and your expectations destroyed. Why should you extend compassion to them when they didn’t offer you the same? Why should you reach out to them when you’re not the one who was wrong?
You could easily come up with a laundry list of excuses to stay righteous and unyielding. Unfortunately, no one benefits when we fester in anger, bitterness, or negativity—least of all, ourselves.
It takes tremendous fortitude to acknowledge we all make mistakes and let go of our pain. The alternative is to hold it close to our hearts, where we can feel right and hurt over and over again.
The Buddha said that, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
Put this way, it makes a lot of sense. We can’t possibly feel better if we choose to hurt ourselves. And yet it can still be so hard to forgive and move on.
Psychologists suggest we don’t do anything unless there’s a payoff in doing it. We’re wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain; we’d only cling to a hot coal if we feared a worse pain in dropping it.
But that’s the thing: We can’t possibly know how it will feel to let go until we muster the strength to do it. We can’t even fathom the transformative and healing power of forgiveness until we challenge ourselves to embrace it.
Many times, it will be a challenge—perhaps the greatest we’ve ever known. It might take time, and it might require a sense of compassion we don’t feel someone deserves. Regardless, we deserve that relief.
In giving it to ourselves, we may finally feel the peace to consider that someone else does, as well.
Not all relationships can be healed, but all pain can transform into healing. That means it’s up to us to decide whether it’s time to let go of the person, or let go of the story that keeps us in anger.
It’s only in doing what we need to do to forgive that we’re able to set ourselves free.


Forgiving is accepting what happened. Though it does not mean that you force yourself to acknowledge that what happened was right (it probably was not), it means that you give yourself/the other person a second chance. It means that you acknowledge that we all make mistakes, but we can all learn from them and improve. 

In the words of Reverend Bruce Goettsche, in his sermon on “Forgiveness – Letting Go of the Hurt”:
“Forgiveness has taken place when we can honestly seek good for the other person. It is when we make an effort to restore a relationship rather than avoid the relationship. Forgiveness has taken place when past actions no longer hold a present bearing. Forgiveness is real when hate is replaced by love.” 

And replacing hate with love is, according to Matthews 5:44 in the Holy Bible,
"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."

How do we start to forgive? 
It may help to stand in the other person's shoes to understand their point of view. 
You can also write down what you feel angry about on a piece of paper, and reread what you wrote. Sometimes this simple act helps you realize that what seemed like a big deal, actually was exaggerated in your mind. 
After writing it all down, close your eyes and focus your intention on the act of forgiveness. Re-experience each item in your list, feeling forgiveness in your heart rather than reliving the anger. Imagine how good it will feel to allow each item to slip away and no longer affect your life. Imagine what it will be like when you’ve finally forgiven each event that made you angry, and that anger drops away from you like a weight you’ve been carrying too long. Imagine that a healing light is flowing from the center of your being and flooding that scene with a rosy, golden glow. Imagine the healing light wrapping around the memory and bathing it with the cool sweetness of forgiveness.
Spend as much time with this step as necessary, until you can look on that memory with compassion and acceptance rather than anger or other strong feelings. 

Now, set yourself free and move forward in your life.

Additional thoughts:
If you are angry with someone else, ask yourself this: Are you sure you had absolutely no part to play in the conflict? Are you sure that you did not have prior assumptions about the behavior of the other person, which affected your attitude toward him/her/the matter at hand? (Are you also under some victimized mindset?) As the saying goes, "It takes two hands to clap", both parties often contribute to conflict; our reactions to each other's words, body language, etc. can create a chain reaction leading to displeasure. Sometimes the other party did not have the intention to hurt, but if you come from the standpoint that they do, this can really lead to a negative outcome. Understanding this, and coming to terms with it, as well as re-evaluating your assumptions, is key to the path to forgiveness. Blame not yourself nor the other party, just accept that it happened, and make an effort to prevent future incidences.

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