Recently I found myself irritated and annoyed by someone in my life. I was struggling with acceptance and found myself aggravated and put out. My mind was on a circular track, like a broken record stuck in a groove, repeating over and over again, allowing me to wallow in my negativity.
Later that day, I went to a discussion group. We read and talked about passages reminding me that I am not my mind. I am not even my thoughts! The conversation gave me objectivity and helped me break out of my negative pattern. I began to let it go. As I sat there contemplating my own process, I started to see how my anger and frustration were holding me prisoner in my mind. It had control over me because all I could think about and fixate on was feeling wronged. Then I thought, "do I really want to give this person that power over me?" Wow. Of course the answer was a resounding, "NO!"
Toward the end of the discussion, another member shared that he also was trapped in resentment. Those weren't his words, exactly. What he said was that he wasn't able to get passed a person who'd wronged him. It sounded like it had happened a long time ago.
Of course the first words that came to my mind were, "you have to forgive him, the person who wronged you." But the gentleman wasn't hearing this. I looked at him and could see that his anger had distorted his facial features. Listening, it became clear that he'd allowed the bitterness to even define him. Who was he if he wasn't betrayed?
This man was mirroring my own inner conflict. I saw in front of me how the anger we hold onto, really holds us. Just as I'd been locked in a prison cell all day with my obsessive thoughts, I could see this man was too. For him though, it had been years.
There is a quotation often attributed to the Buddha or Pema Chodrun but the origin is actually from Alcoholics Anonymous, "Anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."
What I felt inside myself on Monday and what I saw with this gentleman, was that quotation playing out exactly. We are the ones who feel the anger so ultimately it is punishing us. When we forgive, we set ouselves free. It's the irony of forgiveness. Our egos resist it so much, "we've been wronged! She's hurt us!" But the reality is that we are the ones who go on hurting ourselves over and over again by holding onto that pain. So I am resentful. How does she know? She has no idea. She doesn't feel my anger, only I do.
When we forgive, it doesn't mean that we forget or even deny that another person hurt us. It doesn't remove their responsibility, minimize or justify their actions. We can release the emotions without excusing the wrong. Forgiveness allows for an internal peace, helping us go on with life.
Sometimes when we've been holding anger for so long it can be hard to forgive. Louise Hay recommends that even if we're not ready to forgive we can be "willing to forgive." The Universe will support even our willingness and help us get there. Along with the mental health benefits of releasing resentment are the physical health benefits. As the Mayo Clinic reports, forgiveness allows for less anxiety and stress, lower blood pressure and reduced risk or alcohol or substance abuse.
So don't think about forgiveness as something we do for another person, think about it as a gift we give to ourselves. Be willing to walk over that proverbial bridge to the other side, the side of healing, love and empowerment. As Louise Hay says, "I forgive and I set MYSELF free."