Is there somebody in your life you are mad at for something you feel like you cannot get over? Or perhaps someone you feel did something to you and you just cannot find it within yourself to forgive them for it? Maybe you pushed them to the very back of your mind. But still, if you caught a glimpse of them at the grocery store, you would choose another aisle and hope they didn’t see you? Or maybe this someone in your life is someone closer to you, like a family member or an ex-husband? The one that popped into your head as you were reading this, that’s the one.
Maybe you want to say, “no way, I am not granting them the grace of forgiveness. Surely, they are an exception. You have no idea what this person did to me.” That is definitely the one I’m talking about, my friend. And I am going to tell you exactly why this very person is the one you need to let off the hook as soon as humanly possible.
I would like to share a story about a recent experience I had with this. I had a friend who I’ll call Maria. Maria and I were really close for several years and our friendship ended on a bad note. Maria had been saying negative things about me behind my back because she was feeling jealous of some of the good fortune entering my life at the time. When I found out about the hurtful things she was saying, it was a final straw that caused me to immediately back away from the friendship.
But I carried an underlying resentment against her that was really bothering me. Whenever I would hear her name, I would feel this clenching up in my stomach that felt like resentment toward her. I just kept trying to forget about it and not let it bother me, but sure enough, her name would come up in conversation and the resentment would trigger the clenching all over again. This went on for years.
Finally, I realized I needed to forgive her. So I tried to think and imagine offering her forgiveness but the clenching would just increase in intensity. I somehow thought I should be more evolved and should be able to simply forgive. We are ultimately all innocent, right?
Here is the deal, my friends, no matter how evolved you think you are you must go through all the steps of forgiveness and step one is to feel it. Think about it, if someone slaps you in the face you aren’t going to step into forgiveness right away, obviously! You are going to feel the pain of it first. You are going acknowledge that it hurt and maybe even be mad at them for slapping you in the first place, right?
So I once I realized that I couldn’t skip this first step, I went for it. I complained to my husband about how she had wronged me and how mad I was. I cried in his arms about how much it hurt that she couldn’t be happy for me and how I would never have treated her like that. When friends would say, “hey did you hear Maria is finally getting married?” I would say something like, “You know what? That is great, but I am actually still mad at her right now so I am not ready to celebrate the news.” This went on for a few weeks.
But, I finally got to a place where I felt complete in expressing my anger and sadness. Then I knew I was ready for the second step of opening the door for forgiveness. Even if you really want to forgive someone, it’s not always as easy as it sounds.
Part one of step two is to send love to the person who hurt you for 5 minutes every day for 30 days. I would start my morning meditation by sending positive thoughts to Maria. I am going to be totally honest, the first week of this was not so easy. It was like there was some part of me that did not want to pray for her or grant her this grace. It was quite difficult to think about wishing someone well who I thought was not wishing me well. But I did it anyway, because I knew the only way to get this heavy weight off my back was to extend my 100% forgiveness to her.
Here’s the thing about forgiveness, my friends. It’s an all or nothing deal. Are you with me? Those folks who say, “I can forgive, but that doesn’t mean I am going to forget.” They have not forgiven. You have to be willing to let the thing go 100% or you are still carrying the burden. It is also important to note here, that by forgiving them, you are only saving yourself. Does that make sense? Resentment only hurts you! By extending forgiveness, you are actually setting yourself free of carrying this heavy load that you have been lugging around!
So I began my journey of praying for her for 5 minutes every day. Usually, 30 days does the trick, but this one was bigger for me. It took me 3 months before I started to notice the lifting begin to happen.
At 6 months, I had forgotten about it altogether and sure enough, I ran into her at a coffee house. I had walked passed her without even seeing her and she called to me. I turned around to see her and her baby, sitting there enjoying the beautiful day. And you know what, I was genuinely happy for her. I felt so unexplainably free. I still remember what the breeze felt like on my face that day, if you know what I mean. If you don’t know what I mean, I want you to begin this practice now so you can experience this freedom.
I ask you, is there someone you need to let off the hook for your own sake? Is there some circumstance that still makes your stomach clench when you think about it? If so, try this forgiveness process. It is totally worth every bit of the work, I promise!