One of the hardest things on earth is the act of forgiveness. One of the most liberating things on earth is to forgive. Therefore, achieving freedom is no mean feat. So, do you really want to be free?
I used to think I understood what forgiveness is, and I was bragging about forgiving people who have hurt me in the past, until now…
Learning how to forgive others was a big part of my journey to becoming a grown-up woman. When I started caring about my mental health in my early twenties, I learned that holding grudges is harmful to my emotional state. But reflecting on the act of forgiveness, for me, was just a means to an end: finding peace and moving on from disappointments easily.
I was thinking to myself, “Well, that was easy!” For me, forgiveness meant not taking things personally and accepting that the other person didn’t mean to harm me on purpose. My understanding was that we are all fighting our own battles, and sometimes, we hurt other people along the way, without meaning it.
But there’s so much more to forgiveness than just moving on. I realized that I have been just scratching the surface till now, and I need to dig deeper to uncover my redemption.
As I entered the second half of my twenties, thinking I’m this mature and wise young person, disappointments inevitably continued to occur. At the start, I was like “Marta, you’ve got this.” But life throws stuff at you the hardest when you think arrogantly that you’ve hacked it.
I don’t know if it’s because as you grow up what’s at stake grows too, but I feel like disappointments have become harder to swallow these days.
And I’m not only talking about disappointments from others. Disappointing ourselves, too, can be at the root of us feeling bitter and unsatisfied.
Feeling hurt, betrayed, and angry because they did this to me. They acted selfishly when they had had the choice to act differently. They didn’t meet my expectations. They didn’t consider my feelings. I blamed them for feeling unhappy and disappointed, and then I blamed myself for blaming them. This is what I call a vicious cycle. I tried to justify their actions and understand their behaviour, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t forgive them.
Realizing that you are unable to forgive, while still believing that you’ve mastered the art of forgiveness, is what I call the ugly truth.
Losing friends, breaking meaningful connections, and worsening relationships with family when refusing to forgive is just one side of the coin. The other is the lost opportunity to gain wisdom and admit that sometimes “bad” outcomes are actually for the better.
But I know being wise and distancing oneself from pulsing and heightened emotions, especially negative ones, is hard! When you’ve invested in something, and this something fails you, it hurts.
It might be my ego or pride not allowing me to say “I forgive you.” But it also might be that I can’t forgive myself first and foremost.
Do you judge and blame yourself for failing you? People who tend to be more critical to themselves might find it challenging to get over their own missteps and failures.
Not forgiving myself for being only a human affects my ability to forgive others for being only humans.
Because the truth is we all sometimes act like assholes without realizing or admitting it. Our “good” intentions might be perceived as bad by the other person. We can act selfishly when under pressure. We can let people down just to feel better about ourselves. We can betray someone to protect ourselves. We can hurt others to preserve our feelings.
We might not admit it every time, but we’ve disappointed loved ones not once or twice. We humans are extremely good at justifying our own actions. We tell ourselves all kinds of stories about how we didn’t have a choice to act differently. The truth is in most cases we have a choice, we just choose the other option, influenced by emotions, events, or personal values.
So, why do I struggle to forgive them when I’ve made mistakes too?
One of the reasons is that I’m harsh on myself, and I find it hard to forgive myself above all. And I’m now learning gentleness and compassion toward myself. The act of forgiveness starts from our understanding of human nature and our own selves. Realizing we are not perfect, and we can’t expect others to be perfect, gives us the space to practice compassion and forgiveness.
These are all some zen, blah, blah words to some people. But I believe in them deeply.
The thing is we’d better accept the fact that this process takes time, and we might fail at it many, many times along the way.
I’ve noticed that when I manage to forgive myself for something, only then can I forgive someone else for the same thing. Interesting, right?
I decided to forgive myself for not being able to forgive now. This, too, might take time. Some wounds heal quickly, and some wounds heal slowly. So, now I’m not telling myself that I’ll never ever forgive them: I just give it some time.
Giving yourself true freedom takes time. 🙂