In one of the native languages of Australia the word for forgiveness is shbag. It also means to untie, to cancel or let loose, and it is sometimes translated as a tool for changing a reality in your mind. If we change what we think about something, it impacts how we feel and what we do, thus changing our personal experience of reality. In a much more literal and physical sense, the experience of anger and fear constricts muscles and creates tension in the body. Holding onto resentment invites that tension to become chronic and painful, while letting it go encourages elasticity, relaxation and flexibility.
Several clients have told me that the people they were resentful towards did not deserve to be forgiven. The real issue turned out to be whether they were ready to let go of their resentments. Holding on to anger and resentment leaves us feeling like a victim; we surrender responsibility for change believing the other has to change in order for us to feel better. Paradoxically, it can give us a sense of righteousness that feels powerful to our ego. There may be a thrill to riding your anger like a wild horse but eventually it throws you, often into depression or self injurious behavior. Forgiveness does not mean that you deny the other person's responsibility for hurting you, nor does it minimize or justify the wrong. It just means you get to put down the burden of anger before it harms you further. And letting go of resentment adds another drop in the bucket to foster a more peaceful world.
Open heart, let go. It sounds really simple, but it is not always easy. Some ways to support this process include:
Make the decision to become willing to forgive. Remember that it is a journey and not a destination and you can take as much time as you need.
Be compassionate, patient and kind with yourself. Let yourself feel what you feel without judging and make good choices in your lifestyle habits.
Affirm your willingness to learn to let go. Practice your best learning style with this goal.
Think about people in your past who have helped you in times of difficulty and use your imagination to envision how they might handle your situation or what they might say to you.
Read about forgiveness; literature abounds.
Write about your resentment. What was your part in it? Sometimes seeing things written out allows us new perspective.
Ask for help. Talk to someone you trust and be honest about your feelings and thoughts.
The energy of anger is real and valid. It is a strong emotion that invites us to recognize that something needs to change. Often what needs the most adjustment is our attitude, and with that capability comes the potential to make our life better. "Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future." - Paul Boese