The real way to get over your pain
The field of psychology has gone through different schools of thought in how to deal with anger. New research has now proven that the act of continuing to talk about the issue that angered you over and over for years can increase anger and traumatize individuals further. The one therapeutic process that will eliminate anger, let you gain clarity and get you unstuck spiritually is forgiveness. I have two past clients that are engraved in my mind in this area of anger, forgiveness and letting go. I remember years ago listening to one women’s story of hate, anger, resentment and bitterness toward her brother for teasing her as a child. She shared of “typical” sibling teasing, however she took what he said to heart and in turn hated her brother her entire life, and hadn’t talked to him in decades and blamed him for all her pain in her life. She was a women that was alone, with failed relationships, other life struggles and serious depression. When I asked her what she thought about forgiveness she began to yell, and become upset saying, “I could never forgive him, I want him to pay.” In truth, by not forgiving him, not letting it go, she was really hurting herself while her brother was fine. On the other hand, I remember meeting with a man also in his 50’s that openly shared about his childhood, and briefly about his father molesting him. He shared that it was difficult, that he didn’t let his father be alone around his own children, and that he didn’t see his father that often. The man said, “I decided to forgive my father, and just move on.” As a therapist, I could see that he was really free from what had happened to him, he had peace, he was able to live a fulfilling life with his own family, and that he did not allow the incident of his youth to define him. I can still remember holding back tears as I could see how God had given him peace and freedom as he chose to forgive.
What it really means to forgive
Choosing to forgive someone means that you are choosing to let go of the hope that the past could be any different. Choosing to forgive does not mean that what happened is OK or right in any way. In actuality forgiveness has more to do with you than it has to do with the other person. It’s good to look at the situation for what it is, process through it, sometimes with professional help, and then choose to let it go. Letting go means choosing not to obsess over the issue and taking responsibility for your life moving forward. Don’t spend countless hours replaying and retelling your story to others, you’re wasting your time and they are stealing your joy. Forgiveness doesn’t not mean being a doormat! Remember the story of the man that forgave his father. He shared that he put boundaries in place with him, he did not let him be alone with his children, and he did not see him that often, however he also didn’t cut him completely out of his life. If someone is hurting you, holding a grudge isn’t going to protect you but placing real boundaries up will.
What happens if we don’t forgive?
You may think you are not ready to forgive, you’re not over it, or you could never forgive. If you told me your story I might agree, however what if you saw forgiveness as a pathway to healing and wholeness instead of what you do after you are already healed? What if you knew that forgiving did not mean that you lost and they won, but instead that you are choosing to take back your power instead of letting them have power over you. In Matthew 18:21-35 The story of the unforgiving servant, a servant that was forgiven much chose not to forgive someone that owed him little. The man that had initially forgave him, then threw him in jail and “handed him over to the torturers.” You may think your un-forgiveness is not a big deal, however what if I told you that your unforgiveness is causing you to be tortured? Are you experiencing anger, depression, bitterness, resentment or even low self-esteem because of what happened and your feelings against the person that hurt you? Anger and unforgiveness have been compared to a cancer in the soul, so its time we get clear that we’re only hurting ourselves the longer we hold our grudges. Forgiving others even when they do not deserve to be forgiven truly sets us free, enables us to gain clarity, and brings healing. Forgiveness is extremely hard and courageous but worth it when you think of it in terms of taking off bitterness, rage, pride and anger and putting on love, freedom, clarity, joy and peace.