Forgiveness is one of those ideals that tends to create a lot of buzz. It's an action that so many tout the amazing virtues of, yet still have a really difficult time actually doing. We're hard-wired to avoid pain -- and pain includes hurt derived from so many sources beyond physical; psychological, emotional, financial, moral -- just to name a few. When we experience these or other pains, and associate them as being caused by another (blame), we find it very difficult to forgive. Many argue that another has wronged them, and therefore need sit in judgement or on higher ground than their transgressor(s). The problem with blame and an unwillingness to forgive? It actually traps the one unwilling to forgive so much more powerfully.
I had a very difficult time exploring forgiveness in my life. I've ended up holding onto grudges and hurts from my past, longer back than I actually realized. One example? I still held a lot of hurt and bitterness towards those who picked on me back in grade school. Yep -- hurts 20 to 25 years old (does that mean I'm really old now?) still impacted my self-worth and mindset in present day. Not constantly at the front of my brain, but more subtly beneath the surface, eroding the base my confidence built itself upon. Forgiving others isn't easy as virtually any growth is difficult in nature -- and forgiveness is definitely a growth in awareness and maturity.
Forgiveness is deemed weak by some, though I dismiss that notion freely, as anyone who has forgiven knows what kind of fortitude it takes to do so; to put one's own ego out of the way for their own benefit. The trickier idea attached to forgiveness is that it can somehow imply that whatever transgression occurred is accepted as 'alright'; that if constant and perpetual judgement is not placed upon the wrong, that it somehow becomes an acceptable circumstance. This I definitely disagree with, as one can maintain their personal boundaries and uphold their desire to be treated in a certain manner without holding onto never-ending judgement of another's actions. We cannot control another's actions, though we can most certainly let them know when it has violated our boundaries, so that they are aware what behaviours are acceptable when interacting with us. In choosing to forgive, we are not accepting the behaviour as acceptable; rather, we're choosing to no longer focus on the pain, and resume moving forward.
Because that's the ugliness about holding onto blame or grudges -- they make it damned difficult to move ahead in our lives. They act as proverbial ball-and-chains, slowing us as we drag them into the future; we constantly look back with bitterness and resentment, and then re-live the entire chaining process all over again. We may believe we're moving forward, yet we bear that weight by choice -- choosing not to forgive and move along unhindered. This is painfully evident when it concerns blaming others, though is dwarfed in magnitude when we, ourselves, are the ones we blame.
I've held myself to task for as long as I can remember -- blaming myself for missteps, missed opportunities, and mistakes that I play on a highlight reel of Not-Top Moments in my life; we all do this, to varying degrees. For as difficult as it is to forgive someone else, it's an entirely different experience altogether to forgive ourselves. I, like many of us, held myself to nigh-unachievable standards of perfection, and would constantly judge and put myself down because of an inability to function at that level. It's more than I would ask of anyone else -- boundaries or no -- and yet I felt it necessary to do so.
In learning to forgive myself, I've made it infinitely easier to do the same for others. After all -- if I can forgive the actions of someone whom I do have full control over (myself), then how can I not forgive those whom I have no control over? When I finally understood that blame and bitterness are themselves cages which trap us with our hurt, in perpetuity, how could I continue to do so? I was willfully choosing to remain focused on the hurts I had caused myself, or those I perceived had been done to me. Forgiveness opens that cage -- unchains that ball -- and allows us to be free of re-living the same pain over and over again. It doesn't mean that you or I accept or invite the same hurt -- we learn and grow from our experiences so that we are aware to not let those impositions on our boundaries occur again -- but means that we are free of being locked in a proverbial cage with it.
Explore and ask yourself, "who am I not forgiving in my life?", and take stock of the answers you find. Likely, you are number one on the list. Begin there -- as you're the most important person to forgive in your own life -- and move outward. Your burden will be much lighter, and your outlook on life becomes more vibrant when you're not consistently re-living pain. You'll thank yourself for it.