As you go through life, there are going to be people who hurt you. Unfortunately that is the world we live in (unless you live in a bubble!). Most of us can pin point someone immediately who have caused us pain that has negatively effected and followed you.
For me that was my dad.
I grew up a broken home where my father never affirmed me and rejected me. I am thankful because my dad was never physically abusive to me, but he did not love me for who I was. He said he loved me, but it is not the unconditionally type of love that a parent should have for their children. This negatively effected my self esteem growing up and even today in my mid 20’s. Not dealing with those emotional scars influence on how I felt about myself, which then affected the kind of choices that I made. Now there is a certain point where we can no longer blame our parents for what they did. They are people who make mistakes and have pain that they are dealing with just like you and me. However, I am not down playing the impact that it has on you.
The moment I realized that I needed to address these emotions from my past was when I hit rock bottom and ended my 5 year marriage. I had take antidepressants to function and was asking myself how the hell I got to this point. Something needed to change. During those moments of laying in bed wide awake at 2am, I realized that in order to live a more emotionally fulfilling life and prevent passing the same emotional pain down to the next generation – I needed to let go of the past.
With the help of a counselor to guide me, here are some ways I learned how to forgive:
1. Put Yourself In Their Shoes
I know you probably think I am crazy! But it really does help. Hurting people hurt people. I do not know the details of my dad’s upbringing, but I know he did not have a father growing up and he had the military as an example for him (which I can tell you is not a very good one since I have had those examples as well). There is reason behind their actions. They are probably feeling insecure, unloved, or are trying to cope with the pain that they have. It does not justify their actions, but it helped me have better ground to forgive when I shifted my perspective for a moment.
2. Forgive Them, Even Though You Don’t Feel Like It
My counselor told me to do this one…Your feelings follow your actions. Trust me… I DID NOT want to forgive him for all the heartache he has caused me. I felt like if I forgave him then I am letting him win. Holding on to anger and bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. You choosing to let go of something that does not serve you. It is no longer your battle to fight. Just so you know, because I said out loud that I forgave him doesn’t mean that I immediately felt happiness or that everything was made right. It was the first step to my healing journey. It is something I still have to work at every day to make sure it does not consume my energy. There are moments today where I have to stop myself and say “Let it go!” Keep working at it until it no longer has a hold on you.
3. Pray For Them
We all have a spiritual part of ourselves and for me personally I pray to God. I believe what the Bible says is true and it tells us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 4:43-45). It is very hard to pray for someone and hate them at the same time. Hate and asking for good things to happen to them cannot occupy the same space. Whatever your beliefs are, praying or meditating through it can be very therapeutic and bring healing.
I am by all means not saying that this is a quick fix or that you can automatically have a relationship with those who hurt you. There are some people that you should not have in your life because they are toxic and will continue to hurt you. That is setting boundaries which is healthy to do. What my counselor has taught me is that in order to receive peace, you have to open your hands and let go of your grip on to the things that are holding you back.
So let go of the things that drain you and grab on to the things that feed your soul.
Live In Freedom