Last week, I published my first blog about “Judgment” and opened the door for future topic suggestions. Of the different ideas that I received back, “forgiveness” came up. This is an excellent topic, as I believe the benefits of finding a place of true forgiveness is a place of peace and freedom. As always, these are my thoughts and are based on my experience so you’ll have to forgive me if the information is different from your belief system. That being said, let’s dive in…
This “being human” thing is tough sometimes and we can be so hard on ourselves (I might place this sentence in every blog that I do). Nobody gets a free ride and we all go through highs and lows. We do things that result in positive feelings of pride or happiness, which we rarely think twice about or we minimize in an attempt to not be seen. On the other hand, we sometimes do things that create negative feelings such as shame, sadness, remorse, regret, or guilt (need I go on?), which we will carry for days, months or many years. When I fail to meet my own or what I consider to be other people’s expectations (“I let them down”), I can be very critical and non-forgiving of myself.
Moving toward forgiveness is a choice…it is something that the person who feels wronged must undertake in order to experience non-attachment and acceptance. Although forgiveness (acceptance) might help mend relationships, it’s not for the other person…it’s entirely a process to help release the negative burden of personal imprisonment.
Things happen in life that we cannot control. This is good news as it helps give us the liberty of “letting go.” Some pains are unimaginable and I will not pretend to understand the loss of a loved one to murder, brutal attacks on humans or animals, or intentional harm to self or to another. We each have our own unique way of healing from these types of losses and “forgiving” another person for something that creates so much pain and devastation is an individual journey which might never occur. We don’t ever have to approve or disapprove another person’s choice or behavior, although acceptance of the situation and the inability that I had to stop it is one way to start forgiveness of myself.
I personally don’t believe that someone can betray me. What that person can betray is my values, such as trust, honesty, commitment, etc. This in turn certainly feels like they betrayed me and I, more times than not, will be human and absolutely take it personal. How could I not? I feel deceived, lied to, cheated on, etc., and it hurts (many times expressed as self-righteous anger). I had an expectation that I wouldn’t get hurt and I did…which then creates painful resentment. We all have our own version of this story. As long as this person fell in line (met my expectations) with what I wanted him or her to be, then I remained in “approval” of him or her. As soon as “that thing” happened that I didn’t like, I was confused, felt betrayed, and then “disapproved” of that person.
So, where do I start with this forgiveness thing when I’m feeling like this? If someone did something where I feel betrayed, I first experience what I consider to be necessary reactive behavior (fight, flight, freeze, or façade). When I get my breath back and some space from the situation and person, I start looking at what it was that I wanted that person to represent to me. I have to (and yes, this is what I do) look at where I betrayed a part of myself first and believed this person would be someone who would never let me down (again…everyone is human). If I gave that person the power to “make me” feel good then I also gave that person the equivalent possible power to “make me” feel bad. It is how I experienced that person and that positive or negative situation that is giving me the good or bad feelings.
Transitioning from approval or disapproval to acceptance is essential to journey toward healing and true forgiveness. If I stay attached to the idea that I couldn’t control someone else into meeting my expectations and I place my own judgment on whether or not that person’s behavior was good or bad, it is hard for me to find a place of acceptance. When I can start to accept people for who they are, the perceived good and/or bad, then I begin to let go of the attachment that others will not “let me down.” I can also let go of the attachment that others are better or not-so-much-better than me.
When I make others responsible for how I feel, I betray myself. This is where the true forgiveness comes into play…I forgive myself for placing conditions on other people where I approve or disapprove of their behavior (setting them up to never make mistakes). Even more importantly is forgiving myself for the self-imposed expectations that I will never do something that I regret or feel bad about.
The great news is that we all have to go through icky times to recognize when we are experiencing harmony (non-icky times). Everyone who was ever placed in your life was here to teach you something. Sometimes the really challenging, hard and painful experiences and relationships are the ones that will teach us what we will accept and not accept (in other words, to set better boundaries). We have these emotions and feelings that can be very painful sometimes, yet they are very necessary to guide us toward making choices that better serve our lives.
Start to accept people for who they are and are not to you (what you project onto them). Try to forgive yourself for the judgment (good and bad) that you place on others. And most importantly, try to forgive yourself for the judgment you place on yourself. Life is amazing, we are all human, and are all doing our best (even when others judge it differently). Lastly, forgive me for my long-winded post about this important topic and I will try to do the same. Until next time, my friend…many blessings.
p.s. Check out my blog on Expectations, the Subtle Setup
Karen Solt is an Advanced Holistic Coach who is dedicated toward helping others discover the areas of their lives that are creating imbalance, discomfort, confusion, or relational problems. She holds a Masters in Psychology (Counseling) and is passionate about inner emotional wellness. She works individually with clients and also presents workshops and classes to others seeking inner growth, better relationships, addiction help, and ways to uncover hidden sabotage patterns. A retired Navy veteran, Karen has had various life experiences that have created her unique style of coaching of all walks of life. To contact her or to book a Holistic Coaching appointment, please visit karensolt.com.
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