On Forgiveness

I have a tendency to hold onto things for longer than necessary. It’s something I’ve struggled with always, but now that I’m about to embark on a slew of new adventures, I’m being intentional about letting go of stuff I don’t need to carry around anymore.

Forgiveness can be challenging for anyone, especially as it relates to people who really hurt us, but it’s absolutely essential to the process of letting go and moving forward. Recently, in a moment of honest self-reflection, I realized that so much of my current outlook is attached to negative things that happened in the past.

While we are the aggregate of our past experiences, clinging to things that prevent us from taking in new experiences only stunts our growth as humans and prevents our hearts from flourishing to the extent we deserve. Thus, I’ve been working on forgiveness and it’s been incredible.

For years, I’ve carried around loads of animosity toward my parents and others who reacted negatively toward things like my queer identities and my battle with mental illness. While there’s still work to do and there will be tension around those topics with my parents for the foreseeable future, there’s no reason to carry around the things they said to me two, three, and four years ago.

I certainly hope my parents don’t let mistakes I made years ago continue to influence their views of who I am, and they deserve the same from me.

This realization alone helped things improve ten-fold with my parents this week. In my last post, I wrote about an ongoing disagreement between my parents and I over grad school finances. I was terrified to visit home this past weekend because I knew the issue would come up again. When it presented itself, I chose to leave behind all the other things that had made me mad at my parents and devote 100% of my focus to the situation at hand.

I not only felt less angry overall, but also became suddenly more in touch with how I felt in that moment – rather than bringing forth how I felt at various points in the past – and I realized I shared many of the same anxieties and hesitations as my parents. Instead of yelling at each other in opposition, we were able to have an honest and productive conversation about my future.

Since then, I’ve been on a major forgiving-and-letting-go spree. Forgiving and letting go is different from forgiving and forgetting in that you aren’t required to push things aside and pretend that they never happened – you’re still allowed to acknowledge the experiences and the impact they had on you – but you let yourself set them down and put them away on an imaginary shelf so you don’t have to lug them around all the time.

I’ve also begun to reach outside the realm of family and forgive those who caused pain in other areas of my life.

I do not do this in a self-pitying manner or in an attempt to blame others for things gone wrong. It’s the opposite; I’m freeing myself from the memories and experiences that have me feeling defeated so I can move forward with resilience and strengthen my relationships with the people I care about.

The forgiveness is also directed toward myself. Like many people, I am my own worst critic and I frequently beat myself up over mistakes, whether it’s been four minutes or four years since I made them. I imagine that people always see me in light of my mistakes and wrong-doings and that even long stretches of time won’t change their perspective. This happens largely because I often view myself in light of those same mistakes with the mindset that doing something bad makes me a bad person.

But I’m letting go of all of it once and for all. I’m finally facing life with a heart ablaze with love for those around me and for the soul inside my skin. Life’s short and the ugly stuff is too heavy to haul around everywhere, so I’m placing it on a shelf and running free with buoyant shoulders.

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