There was a definite advantage for me in finding the gift of forgiveness. It is a gift for you, as it frees your heart of the resentment, anger, and hurt which you harbor. When you forgive, it adds a great deal of inner peace to your life.
According to Webster, to forgive is to give up resentment and the desire to punish someone, to pardon them, to overlook one’s transgressions. This is not to say you condone what another has done. Yet, you give up the need to punish them with your silence, or scorn, or anger.
Forgiveness for me happened in tiers. And it involved many years of tears. There was a period of years in my life when I endured much physical and verbal abuse; the details are not important.
What is noteworthy is that I was told repeatedly during those years that I was worthless, no good, and would never amount to anything. Needless to say, I started to feel very worthless.
I went on with life, resenting this person who had bestowed the extreme physical and emotional hurt upon me. I seethed inside. I made snide comments to punish them, or withheld my love and attention as a way to further punish.
Then I became sober. I had to look at what was done without having alcohol to numb the pain, and it was excruciating to do so. I did it because I had no choice but to go through the pain if I wanted to heal. And I wanted desperately to heal.
I was doing a self-appraisal one day, looking at all my relationships with men that I had had over the years. I realized that for each of them, I would get drunk and scream at them how worthless they were, that they were no good, and would never amount to anything.
I was horrified to remember and to admit this to myself! What a horrible thing to have said! I realized I did not mean it, that I was feeling those things about myself, and just took out my anguish on them.
Suddenly, I wondered if the person who said those things to me felt the same way – felt worthless and no good about themselves, and that is why they screamed those words at me. I saw myself with compassion, knowing what extreme pain I was in at the time. This allowed me to believe that the person who abused me was also in great pain at the time, and I was able to feel compassion for them, also.
This didn’t excuse my behavior, and I have since apologized to these men, but the psychological and spiritual damage was done. Yet, by acknowledging how I said these things, and applying compassion to both myself and the person who abused me, I was able to forgive myself, and the person who had said them to me. Years of anger and resentment slipped away. I have since gained peace from years of abuse.
What are the ways in which you are withholding forgiveness? Is it getting in the way of your peace of mind? Tomorrow we will look at ways you can learn to offer forgiveness, so you can gain peace, too.