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emotional wellbeing personal growth perspective Aug 15, 2022

Many, many years ago, I heard the Dalai Lama talk about the power and necessity of living a life of forgiveness. It was a great idea, I thought, but not really relevant to me. After all, I am an incredibly forgiving person! I don't hold on to resentments or anything!

A few years later, while in couple's counseling, the therapist talked about the power and necessity of forgiveness in intimate relationships. Again, I agreed with the concept, but it was really not an issue I struggled with. After all, I was the calm, level-headed person in my relationship.

Later, as I really began to delve into spiritual wellness, I kept coming across books and videos and talks and mentors and magazine articles (and, eventually, podcasts) about the only effective path to holistic wellness was rooted in forgiveness. Now, I may be stubborn, but I'm not stupid; I recognized that the reason I kept coming across this information was because I needed it. So, I tried to get my rational head out of the way and really *listen* to what I was hearing.

This is what I came up with:

Remembering or acknowledging pain is, in itself, painful. And we are designed to avoid pain. So often our defense mechanisms cause us to become unaware of the pain we feel which makes it impossible to forgive and move beyond it. How can I address a problem if I am unaware of it? This process also becomes the vehicle for future harm and damage since we can't prepare our responses, behaviors, thoughts, beliefs, etc. So, the concept of "letting go" needs to be healthy and not based on denial. True forgiveness includes acknowledgment and processing of the hurt caused.

Once that acknowledgment and processing have occurred, the person needs to become empowered to do whatever is possible so that hurt does not occur again. If we are not empowered in regard to our ability to keep ourselves safe (physically and emotionally), the person/place/thing continues to have the power which keeps us connected. It is impossible to truly let go if that connection remains.
There is a difference between understanding the reasons a person acts in a hurtful way and enabling the process. It's appropriate to be able to set a boundary about what is not okay in a context of love or empathy. This does not make unacceptable behavior simply means that we recognize we do not have to take on the pain of others, especially if it will cause damage to us.

Forgiveness of self remains the hardest thing for me. I am not perfect (not even close!) and, as a result, I have made decisions or behaved in certain ways that have resulted in painful consequences for me and for those I love. I give myself the "Bad Mommy Award" on a regular basis. This keeps me stuck and is exhausting.

These concepts allowed me to come up with my own definition of forgiveness, which many of you have heard. Here it is:

You hurt me. That is not okay. It was not okay then and not okay now. I'm going to do whatever I can to make sure I don't get hurt again. And here's your stuff back: your issues, your neuroses, your trauma. I'm not going to carry it anymore.

I hope this helps.

With much love,


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