The act of forgiveness is a potent and meaningful world. Letting go, rekindling connection, loving, trusting, and living at peace sounds out of reach. Forgiveness gives us the inner peace that we deserve. Most of us find it very hard to grant the person who hurt us another chance. We like to spare our memory banks from that feeling of pain. During this holiday season, we must realize that holding on to pain limits our happiness in enjoying this seasons of love.
Many of us return home for the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are seasonal holidays that can be met with trepidation. Some can feel anguish and fear, especially if we encounter friends and family in our past that may have hurt us and whom we cannot forgive.
The holiday seasons are the best time to start the process of forgiveness. The process of forgiveness is an act of escaping the prison we created for ourselves so that we can bring ourselves to process the trauma that it has caused us. Here are 8 thoughts on forgiveness and why we should forgive and enjoy the holidays by taking back our power and regaining a sense of peace this holiday season.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
— Lewis B. Smedes
1. Acceptance and Re-connection Starts Within
We can start by taking the first step, perhaps it may be a family friend we had a tiff with, or it could be our sibling. As we become older and wiser, we realize that time is of the essence, and we underestimate the casualty of holding a grudge and how it can affect our well-being. The stress of hate inside our hearts is detrimental to our health. We can start the process of forgiveness by first doing the inner work. We must accept things as they are, not as they were, or worse, what we think they should be.
The reality of the situation is in the now. We are where we are, the past has led us to where we are, and it does not matter now whose fault it may be. We simply must accept it. We must start with this realization. No matter how painful it may be, we start by accepting and acknowledging the trauma. We start with reconnecting with ourselves. We must ground ourselves in the now, put aside the “what-ifs,” and simply accept the present moment.
2. Acknowledge Human Frailty
In one of her Life Class, Oprah Winfrey described forgiveness as “letting go of the hope that the past could be any different.” We all make mistakes, and committing one does not makes us less noble or saintly. It makes us human. The words or things we have done or what others have done to us could lead us to pain, we may lament them for years, but it’s a wound that could remain open if we do not forgive.
As humans, we are frail in the scheme of the universal order, and forgiveness is something we must learn to cure and ease our souls. Unfortunately, the grudges and mistakes of the past can remain in the past. We are incapable of perfection, so we must not expect perfection in everyone we encounter.
For a long time, we may have blamed our parents for something, not knowing the frailty of the human experience. Our parents had no guidebook or manual to read to attain parenting perfection. Simply, they may have made do with what they had at that moment while raising us the best they could have done. Or perhaps, they may be frail in healing their past traumas, and those frailties may have caused us pain and further trauma. Forgiveness can end this cycle of traumas passed from one person to another.
Therefore forgiveness must start with knowing that we: me, you, and the ones that wronged you, are just processing the traumas caused by living a frail human existence. Therefore, acknowledge human frailty and forgive.
3. Forgiveness is Our Freedom
Dig deeper into the heart of the matter. Yes, we have been wronged, but did we do anything to invoke the conflict? Mostly, we only see our side of the story, and our bias hinders us from seeing the whole picture. We can never know. Maybe we have done something unintentionally that pushed others away.
In one of her life classes, Oprah Winfrey described forgiveness as “letting go of the hope that the past could be any different”. Everybody makes mistakes, and committing one will not make us less of a person. Mistakes tell us that we need to lament things that we might have done wrong or allowed others to wrong us. When we learn to accept this fact, we will realize that forgiveness is the cure to ease a soul grudged by hate. And since we are incapable of attaining perfection, we must not be meager in giving and asking for forgiveness.
“Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past could be any different”
— Oprah Winfrey.
4. Be Inspired To Let It Go
We can encounter deep forgiveness from others. Their stories can serve as an example for us. We can let others’ bravery motivate us to move forward. They may have gone through the same situation as us, or their stories could be much worse. Let their acts of forgiveness inspire us to let go.
One example of deep forgiveness is Victor Frankl and his experience in Auschwitz as a Jewish holocaust survivor. Frankl wrote the book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” which documents his experience amidst the suffering and his way of coping and eventually surviving a genocide.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
“When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
— Victor Frankl
5. Talk and Process The Trauma
To forgive someone can often require processing through the trauma that the person has caused in addition to the ones we have caused during this conflict. To make sure we can put our feelings in a place where we can move on, we need to elicit the words and thoughts that will be productive for our situations. This can often require accepting our feelings about the situation, even the ones that caused us deep pain.
We may need to talk to a friend or a therapist to get this process started. An indicator of our readiness to move on is if we can fully express the situation as if we are a viewer of the conflict. Someone we trust deeply could help facilitate this process.
Seeking a friend we can trust to listen without giving us advice, or the best way would be to hire a therapist that can listen, will help us process the situation, and get us ready to free ourselves through the process of forgiveness.
6. Write a Journal or a Letter
The beauty of writing down our hurt is that it is a one-sided safe practice to put our feelings on paper. A letter or journal entry could be something that can help us process the hurt.
When we sit down and write about the situation, how we perceived it to happen and how we were hurt, we can unload all the feelings onto the page. We can describe the problem and how it has caused us deep pain and perhaps uncover deep-seated meanings that we may not otherwise have spotted.
A letter to someone who caused us pain to offer forgiveness is something we can write to start the process. We may choose later to give this letter to the person, but in some situations, the letter serves the writer, not the receiver. If the situation is no longer salvageable, the letter can mark the forgiveness so we can move on.
7. Establish Boundaries
When we forgive someone who has wronged us, that forgiveness can mean moving on and continuing with developing the relationship, or it could be cutting ties with the person for good.
When we forgive, we acknowledge our hurt, but it does not mean we are okay with what happened. We will not forget about what occurred, but we simply permit our inner self to move on from it.
We must establish boundaries around what happened to prevent it from happening again. This is a boundary we set and cannot cross, and we must let the person who wronged us know that this is set in the sand. We must be firm and clear about these boundaries, and if we choose to forgive and continue with the relationship, it includes respecting this boundary.
This boundary must also be something that we must set for ourselves. This may include cutting ties with the person for good and not looking back. However, in some situations, the relationship may not be salvageable, and this boundary may still be necessary for us internally to ensure that forgiveness means moving on and leaving this relationship behind.
8. Forgive With Compassion
Forgiveness must also start with ourselves. We acknowledge that we are not perfect by far, but our mistakes could have caused our loved ones and ourselves pain. We first practice forgiveness by knowing we did wrong and apologizing for it. We must do our best to ask for forgiveness too.
Moving on from a painful situation may mean practicing compassion within ourselves to acknowledge the pain and our mistakes. We must feel and recognize the painful situation, then move on to improve it, and if we have wronged someone, we should offer to make amends and ask forgiveness.
In certain situations, when the relationship ties have been cut, it may still be a good idea to reach out to someone to say sorry, no matter what. Even if they do not accept our apologies, we must respect that too. And we must have compassion for ourselves to move on, including forgiving ourselves.
We can start the process of forgiveness with empathy and compassion for ourselves and others.
We move from struggling to regaining our power when we forgive others and ourselves. We can also seek professional help to start this process, like a therapist or a counselor.
The act of forgiveness is a way to free ourselves so that we can learn and grow successfully and at peace in life.