This week I want to share some thoughts on forgiveness. Stay with me. That might not sound sexy or fun, but honestly, it’s a game-changer.
I’ve been slowly digesting The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu. It’s taken me a long time because this turned out to be a difficult concept to deal with—especially the last section on self-forgiveness. (More on that in a future post. I'm still contemplating!)
I’ve always prided myself on not holding grudges against others, but this book helped me see where I was hanging on to past hurts and how it was damaging my connections. I saw how the undercurrent of resentment was not serving me, the other people, or our relationships.
All of this made me very uncomfortable.
In January I chose to write letters to each of the people where I felt there was unresolved pain. I rewrote the letters many times, read them to supportive friends, and tucked them away in a notebook while I chickened out over and over.
My chest felt constricted and I got dry-mouthed and nauseous every time I thought about sending these letters of both apology and forgiveness. Over time I got clearer and clearer on why I wanted to do this.
And then finally, I was ready.
I felt clear that if I connected from a positive place, with the intention of forgiving past hurts and clearing things up, then I was acting generously and responsibly. I'd worked through my emotions and now it was the other person's choice how to respond.
One of the relationships I chose to release since it didn’t seem healthy to renew it. I apologized for any way I might also have hurt this person, expressed my gratitude for the good times we’d shared, and wished them well. It seems so straightforward now writing those words, but at the time it was so so hard.
The process felt heavy and grindingly slow up to that point. It took so much courage to finally address the letters and put them in the mailbox. (Yeah, I sent real snail mail letters!)
I wasn’t prepared for what came next.
I felt light, free, and joyful—more than I had experienced in a long, long time. It seemed as though a deep wound had finally healed. I had no idea how much these old transgressions had been weighing me down and taking a toll on my spirit.
The words in The Book of Forgiving that I initially read and glossed over, have new meaning.
Until we can forgive we remain locked in our pain and locked out of the possibility of experiencing healing and freedom, locked out of the possibility of being at peace…
When we forgive, we take back control of our own fate and our feelings. We become our own liberators. We don’t forgive to help the other person. We don’t forgive for others. We forgive for ourselves.
I know, it’s bold.
I get it if you feel uncomfortable with those words, or even reject them, or think they're selfish. I know I did. It's part of the process because it takes time to wrestle with new ideas.
You could easily choose to just stick it away as information “for later” and not really deal with it.
What I know from experience as a self-help book nerd is that taking in information without putting it into action is more clutter for the mind.
Picture adding a bunch more boxes of stuff you "might use one day" to your garage or basement only to unpack them 10 years later and wonder why you kept all of it.
Great ideas don’t help unless you use them, practice them, and finally embody them. Give me a shout out on the contact page if you're ready to give peace a chance.
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