“I’ve been tryin’ to get down /To the heart of the matter/ But my will gets weak/ And my thoughts seem to scatter/ But I think it’s about forgiveness/ Forgiveness/ Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore.”
I started playing guitar when I was sixteen years old. The Heart of the Matter, by Don Henley, was the first song I ever learned. The lyrics struck a chord in my heart (no pun intended). Forgiveness, such an innocuous word, isn’t it? The word sounds so simple, graceful, and has a religious ring to it. However, in my opinion, forgiveness is one of the most challenging states to achieve when a person (or persons) breaks your heart, does you wrong, hurts you, or practically destroys you. However difficult it may be, it is a necessity. Let me make something very clear: forgiveness is not about the other person; it is about you and your well-being.
In 1975 my mother (age 27) died of kidney cancer. She died because the doctor dropped an encased cancerous tumor back into her body while removing it. The tumor exploded, and the cancer cells spread everywhere. My mother was dead nine months after the doctor’s tragic mistake. I was 7, my little brother was 5, and my older brother was 9. This single event changed the entire trajectory of our lives. Our father, a drunk heroin addict with a penchant for beating us with a leather belt, loved disappearing for months at a time without a single word regarding his whereabouts. When he was around, he was violent and exposed us to child predators, who took full advantage of the situation — My young life’s foundation was riddled with cavernous cracks and traps that could have lead to a sad story of misfortune. Without getting into too much detail, I believe my faith in God saved my life. However, we can keep my preaching about faith for another post. I had to learn to forgive my father, my mother for dying, and the doctor for killing her by the time I was seven years old.
Forgiveness did not come easily or for a very long time
In the late ’90s, I was married to my ex and trying to get pregnant. No matter how hard we tried, I could not get pregnant; I was only 29 years old. Finally, I found out I was pregnant, only to lose the baby four months later. The lizard part of my brain was very in tune with my body, and I realized that holding on to so much pain could be the reason why I could not carry a baby. I decided to lock myself in a room for three days and force myself to relive all of the horrendous, painful, loss-filled experiences I thought I had survived. I cried so hard the first day I was locked away, that I threw-up. On the second day, I cried, but not as hard, and not as long. On the third day, I shed no tears at all; I still felt sadness, but the impact of my past had no power. I emerged lighter and honestly happier. I learned that my anger only covered up my grief. Forgiveness meant I could be free from offensive acts and from tragic mistakes that changed my life forever.
I tried to view the doctor’s medical error through the eyes of the doctor, who probably agonized over a simple, yet life-altering, slip of the hands.
My father was my giant caveat when it came to the journey to forgiveness. I never wanted him in my life; he was toxic and dangerous. But here’s the thing ladies, forgiveness never means you have to expose yourself to a vortex, it just means you can free yourself from their grip and move forward with your life.
I’m happy to say I did end up getting pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful (giant) baby boy names Matthew (he is now 18 and 6’3″).
Forgiveness is not easy, and it will not come without work, but it is cathartic and possible. We Ladies are always a work in progress, no matter how old we get.
The first step to forgiveness is to try to wrap your brain around the notion that the action, whatever it was, was not entirely about you. There is a possibility that the offending act had nothing to do with you at all. The abuse or event may have everything to do with someone’s demons. Please, do not take offense to this notion. I am not trying to minimize what happened to you. However, you must try to remove yourself for a second and see other sides of the prism. Remember, this is for your healing, no one else. Empathy is a powerful weapon in our survival tool kit.
Start With The Small Stuff
Learning forgiveness is like learning any other skill; practice makes perfect. Start by not saying anything negative about your offender when discussing them in conversation . Try to keep to the topic and not veer off the road into a tirade of emotion. By allowing yourself to get upset every time your offender’s name is mentioned, you are giving your power away. Read that sentence again…..
Save yourself a surge of adrenaline and internal arguments by not allowing a reaction. Save the locked and loaded response for a mugging, and practice the art of silence. You will be amazed at how that name starts to decrease its impact on your emotions.
Try to remember a good time, a kind word, a kind act, or a time before the offending action. You are probably cursing me right now because that last thing you want is to smile when it comes to that person. Trust me; I was there with my father and my ex-husband. But, remember it is not about them; it is about you getting healthy.
Write it Down
Did you ever go for a long drive and start having fictitious arguments with people? Or maybe you lost a night’s sleep because you were so mad that your mind refused to power down? Welcome to my world, ladies! I have had way too many practice arguments (that never happened) that disrupted my life, my sleep, and my peace. If you are upset, write it down, and then write it down again. Stop the circle argument in your head and put pen to paper all of your feelings, and everything you need to vent . There is power in writing down thoughts. In college, I read a book about organizational skills: the book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. Newport referred to writing thoughts down as closing loops. Closing the circle on the intrusive thoughts stops the cycle from continuing to do damage.
Write a Letter. Writing letters to people that have hurt you is a psychology technique used for healing. Writing a letter does not mean you have to send the letter. You can send the letter if you like, but remember this exercise is for you, not for the offender. Pour your soul into this letter, and when you can’t write anymore, burn the dam thing. Take your letter to Burning Man and cleanse yourself of your burden. If you have never heard of Burning Man you owe it to yourself to check it out, https://burningman.org/culture/philosophical-center/10-principles/
Put the letter you wrote into a box and store it so you can gauge how much you have grown in the future. I have saved many letters that I have written over the years. When I read those letters today, I am floored at the level of anger I felt. I am incredibly grateful that I am no longer holding on to that pain. I have a theory that holding on to that kind of pain causes illness, disease, and over-all malaise. If someone handed you a cup of gasoline, you would not drink it, right? By not changing your pattern of anger, you are drinking the gasoline. Please do not allow toxic emotions to ruin your life.
Be a Victim No More
Do you ever consider yourself a victim of someone else act? Well, guess what, at the time you were, but now you are not. Holding on to a victim’s identity only allows injustice to define who you are. Sit down and consider why you are maintaining that role. Why do you nurture something that is so incredibly harmful to your soul? There are many reasons why holding on to anger is so common. Anger is addicting, gives us energy, allows us to feel superior, and provides a platform to stand on while we stoke the flames of our pain. Maybe you do not want to lose your connection with that person, or you are afraid you will allow yourself to re-connect .
Accept What Has Happened
No one is being fooled by denying an offense happened. Own whatever happened, really happened, but do NOT let it define you. Every single human has had something happen to them that was painful. If we all define ourselves by our painful experiences, we would be a pathetic lot. Remember that forgiveness is for your well-being.
Flawed We All Are
I am a woman, but I have to admit that women can be tough when it comes to expecting near perfection (especially from our partners). Stop, please stop, we are all incredibly flawed and at times hurtful. We do not always mean to be hurtful or have unrealistic expectations, but sometimes we do. Do you know what that makes us all? Human.
Your offender is human, and since we all operate off of personal perspective and past experiences, you can bet your bottom dollar that the offense had little to do with you at all.
Maybe your offender is a sociopath, who knows, who cares?
All I know is that holding on to pain is lethal to only one person, you. Check out this article in Psychology Today regarding forgiveness. There are some excellent tools for managing the road to forgiveness in this article.
Talk to Your Besties
We turn to our friends for an alliance in troubled times. Try turning to your friends for a different set of eyes. Our friends love us, but they are not blind to our faults. If you trust a friend, a sister, or a loved one and want to some honest feedback, ask for it. Be prepared, however, to hear the truth and do not get mad if they disagree with you. Knowing more about ourselves only helps us to grow. Put your ego on a shelf for your betterment.
Self Help It
If you do not have time to read, get Audible by Amazon. I do not have the time to sit and read a million books. Audible is an app that reads the books to you while you get to keep moving. I have it on my phone, and I listen while I am in the shower, driving, cooking, doing my make-up, working out at the gym, and any time I do not need to concentrate on something else. Audible is a game-changer for me. I was even able to find books I needed to read for my Master’s degree on Audible; it made life so much easier! Audible is $14.99/month, plus you get a free book per month. The money you spend on your personal growth is well worth it.
My Fav Self Helpers
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book)by Don Miguel Ruiz. The author discusses the reasons for life-limiting beliefs that extract all happiness and create needless pain. This book is extremely unique. A friend of mine, who is a Purple Heart recipient from the Vietnam war, gave me a copy of this book. When he met me, I had not processed my wounds and was angry and unhappy. This book helped me gain perspective and release a lot of what kept me awake at night. I have since purchased this book approximately 20 times and have given it to many people I love. I also found it on Audible (Amazon) and in Kindle format. I reread it once a year.
Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World, by Admiral William H McRaven, is written by a retired Navy Seal.
“Full of captivating personal anecdotes from inside the national security vault…McRaven’s lessons, like his commencement speech, extend far beyond his bed-making. He devotes the 10-chapter book to lessons about moving beyond failure, standing up to bullies, and giving others hope.”―Washington Post
I know what you are thinking, what does this have to do with forgiveness? Trust me; it has everything to do with taking control of your life.
Hollis is wise beyond her years and has excellent advice for ladies of all ages. She is the narrator for her Audible book and is extremely infectious. She did not get the best reviews on Amazon, but I liked this book.
Mason has a unique approach on how to achieve happiness by learning to let go of bull. This book had me laughing out loud and pondering a suggestion at the same time.
I threw this in here because everyone should laugh as hard as I did while listening to this book. Hart is brutally honest, and the way he narrates his book is engulfing. Kevin did not have it easy, ladies, and it is always comforting to know we are not alone.
Accountability for our happiness starts today. If we wait around for an apology, tears, begging, or a chest-pounding, we could be waiting a very long time. Own your life and your heart. Do not give your power away to anyone! Love yourself enough to do the work and learn the art of forgiveness.