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The Grudge: How To Embrace Forgiveness

June 3, 2010
By Guest Blogger
|12Comments|


By Jess Ainscough

“Forgive all who have offended you, not for them, but for yourself.” –Harriet Nelson

At some point in our lives, each and every one of us experiences betrayal by friends, lovers, family members or that person on eBay who sells you a fake Louis Vuitton bag after she stated it was authentic. No one and no relationship are exempt from deceit. This little gem of wisdom could turn you into quite the cynic if you allow it. Finding the courage and willingness to forgive someone who has been disloyal can be the hardest thing in the world. But the ability to understand and practice forgiveness will lead you to a life that many people are too stubborn to experience. And the benefits of letting go of a painful situation far outweigh the bitter taste of betrayal.

You may think that forgiveness means condoning the actions of the person who hurt you. In reality, the person who feels the full emotional and physical brunt of your unrelenting grudge is yourself. By practicing forgiveness you can let go of expectations, blame, resentment, guilt and judgment, and allow yourself more energy to focus on the positive things in your life. There is no point trying to change people. We can only work on ourselves. Ask yourself, do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?

The ability to forgive was a trait I chose to embrace with open arms at an early age. After feeling the gut-wrenching pain of multiple stabs to the back and experiencing the dark depression that follows such an attack, it occurred to me that forgiveness was my only ticket back to a sunny disposition.

When I was 16, I was betrayed by both my best friend and my boyfriend at the same time. He was my first love and I thought he was the best thing since the sausage roll. Looking back now, I realize that it wasn’t really love. But to a 16-year-old girl, he was everything. To cut a long and tired story short, five months into our romance my friend decided she thought he was a bit of alright too. She stroked his ego, made it obvious she was interested, and in no time at all they hooked up.

The worst part of the situation was that everyone knew about it except me. The whole thing read very much like the script of a tacky soap opera, and I played the part of the victim perfectly. I was heartbroken. I lost all faith in the sanctity of both love and friendship. My pure, rose-colored outlook on life was severely tainted, and for a long time my optimism was compromised.

The betrayal I suffered was quite mild compared to other cases, but at the time I thought it was the end of the world. In a situation like that the easy option would be to simply cut the person out of your life, and in some cases this is a necessary action. But even if you take it that far, harboring resentment and bitterness will only lead to further personal trouble. You can only really move on if you have truly forgiven.

Here are a couple of ways to get the forgiveness ball rolling:

-Repeat affirmations such as, “I now lovingly forgive (name of person or event).”

-Write a list of all the people who have hurt you. Take some time to sit quietly by yourself, close your eyes and visualize each person one by one. Now picture yourself approaching them, and say to them “I forgive you.” Then imagine all the animosity you felt between you evaporating into the air as a dark mist.

When we refuse to let go of issues and harbor bitterness, we are only hurting ourselves. When we choose to forgive, we are choosing to be free of the past and not perceive ourselves as victims. Once we’re alleviated of the burden that comes with bitterness, we will have more energy to focus on all the good things in life. Life becomes rosy again.

Jess Ainscough is an Australian-based freelance writer and the creator of the natural healing blog, the Wellness Warrior. Before being diagnosed with cancer in 2008, Jess was a social reporter and online editor for a teen magazine. After leaving her job to focus on her health, she now spends her time drinking carrot juice, meditating, practicing Bikram yoga and learning everything she can about healing.



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12 responses to The Grudge: How To Embrace Forgiveness
  1. Forgiveness in the Jewish tradition is not something that is given as much as something that is asked for. I find this differentiation interesting.

    Regardless, something that helped me a LOT was reading a Catholic perspective — that forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation. They are two separate acts, and forgiveness is the first, not necessarily followed by the second. (Sometimes very necessarily segregated from each other, if you think about the severely abusive spouse or parents who won’t stop.)

    I think this can help with that idea (which you bring up) that we are condoning bad behavior.

  2. ana said on June 3, 2010

    the steps that you describe are fine as long as they are done from a true place of stillness, which is hard to find when one is still in rage or hurt. I find that forgiveness is a long process, much like an onion with several layers… we need to keep at forgiving the same people for the same events pretty much the same way we need to keep at exercising – one day it feels ok, another day it’s harder, but by forgiving every (other) day we get down to the root of the feelings, until true forgiveness comes and we are free

  3. Amy said on June 3, 2010

    Very poignant and timely for me…I am struggling with my sister, the only surviving family member I have. She bailed when I got cancer…it’s been a year and I have seen her twice, by happenstance. She even told me during the heat of my treatments that “if one more person becomes dependent on me, I will explode.”

    I’m trying, but it IS a daily process. Thanks for pointing that out…because full forgiveness just hasn’t seemed to have arrived.

  4. Great post–thank you. This is a tough one for me. I have tried the suggestions here, but somehow just saying, “I forgive you” doesn’t change the feelings internally. . . it’s making THAT switch that I find really difficult. But I understand the value of trying!

  5. Indu said on June 3, 2010

    Forgiveness is hard for me. Small baby steps wouldn’t hurt though!!

    Thank you Jess:)

  6. words of wisdom; great inspiration!

  7. Thanks for posting this. I have been hurt by many people in my young life and have learned from my faith that forgivness is for us. Its hard to start to forgive at first but anger torwards a person is just as bad as the act commited. I still have a hard time with a few people but have been working on it.

  8. Great article! Thank you for sharing! Yay for forgiveness!

  9. This is such an important topic…. nothing is more toxic than anger and resentment. I think part of forgiveness is learning how to draw appropriate boundaries with those who have hurt you. If you keep giving and then getting hurt, you may be stuck in a pattern that is making you a victim. I like the quote “We teach people how to treat us”. Great post, thank you!

  10. lulu said on June 3, 2010

    I know you are right…and I want to forgive…but it’s still a struggle. I will work on your steps…those are inspiring.

  11. This is a nice thought and may supply some relief to certain people,,,but, it does not solve the pain and resentment-I find it difficult toforgive a husband who chronically abuses and batters a wife and children…a husband who rapes a wife and steals all the marital assets…who tries to annilate the wife? Forgiveness there in those circumstances is humanly impossible….it is clear that the justice system fails women and children..thoughts?

  12. kim said on June 20, 2010

    thank you so much for writing this article… my heart goes out to you, jess!