I’m Still Learning to Forgive

2009 June 1
by Grace Boyle

“She sent me this, from your phone.” He looks at me straight-faced, holding his phone, showing me my number and a cryptic message that I never would have written.

I look around in confusion and angst. How could she do that? One of my close friends. Using me to get through to someone she knows trusts me, but had hurt her. An invasion of my private property. Do I just forgive and move on? I ponder this thought in my head. My head hurts.

At the same time someone else I loved deeply is completely out of my life. The life and person I once knew, changed and done, in a snap of a finger. In one conversation.

2658121670_cfb12e33c4I’m circling around a lot of forgiveness. I’m still learning. Usually, I forgive pretty easily. Still, I have a lot of pride and like my sense of strength and independence so when I’m hurt, I’m hurt dammit. I’m Italian and Irish. Straight up.

When I’m lacking this forgiveness it’s derived from resentment. My dad wisely tells me, “holding onto resentment can cause emotional and physical problems to the person that holds onto the resentment.” It does no good. Resenting a person or certain situation does nothing to the person being resented but always damages the person doing the resenting.

Overtime, I’ve seen long term resentment equate bitterness that only continue to dives deeper. When I have forgiven, I am freed from the emotional bond that causes conflict to fester on a deep emotional level.

Catherine Ponder says that “when you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”

There are many conditions and levels of experiences to forgive. Often times they caused such deep pain that we may not be able to see the light or want to forgive. People may hold onto resentment and frustration for years. That’s okay, but not forever. When I die, I don’t want to have unfinished business. I want to have forgiven. I want to be honest and let go of the fears that pervaded my mind and heart.

Zen Habits’ letting go and steps to forgive suggests to: commit to letting go, think about the pros and cons, realize you have a choice, empathize, understand your responsibility, focus on the present, allow peace to enter your life and finally, feel compassion. Realize that in forgiveness, you’re allowing yourself to be happy and move on.

The ironic part is that nearly everyone says that even the most difficult situations that have persisted for years can be wiped clean in a matter of seconds with a true act of forgiveness. It is at once the easiest thing to do but before you do it may seem the most difficult.

I’m still learning to forgive, but learning while doing helps me smile and with each little step I feel a little bit better as I begin to let the pieces of pain go.

Have you forgiven someone today? What’s stopping you?

Photo Credit: soot+chalk

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  • Erica

    Grace, great post. Forgiveness is hard to bestow, but necessary for your own mental health.

  • http://pinkbubbleworld.stilettosetsports.com/ stiletto sports jen

    my levels of forgiveness definitely fluxuate. Normally I just let it go, at least on the surface. Sometimes it festers inside until I can't take it and I explode at someone—not always the person that caused the anger.
    Resentment is defnitely tough. I have a lot of it. And I've been trying to let it all go, tackle it head on so it stops holding me back. One of them is with my sister. I've been avoiding writing her back for over a week but after reading this…..it's convinced me to do it today because I know I'll feel better tomorrow.

    Thank you for posting this!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Erica Ain't that the truth!

    @Stiletto Sports Jen You bring up a good point about letting it go on the surface. Where to everyone else or the immediate situation, it is okay but there's something going on internally that could fester for longer. I know it's not easy, especially with resentment but I'm glad to hear that you're going to write your sister back. Life is too short to not say the things we want to say or forgive the people we love(d). Thanks for sharing :)

  • http://lightonbrokenglass.blogspot.com/ Amy Segreti

    Great, honest post, Grace. I'm sorry you had to go through that. But it's all experience we can learn from, right? At least, that's what I like to tell myself to get through things. I like to think there is some benefit in learning from everything.

    I also love the Ponder quote you included about resentment being an emotional bond and forgiveness being the only way to free yourself from it. I think a lot of things can induce negative attachment and sometimes we don't want to admit it. It goes hand in hand with giving your feelings validity, even if sometimes you don't want to recognize them — once you accept that there is a bond, even a negative one, and you can think of that in a tangible way, it tends to be a little easier to let go of.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Amy Thanks. I always say, truth alone triumphs. Especially here, on my own blog and hoping others and myself can learn from the experience and/or relate. It happens with everyone at some time or another. You're so right in saying that “giving your feelings validity,” is important to accept. I always say, my feelings are what I'm feeling (same with yours) so they're valid. Thanks for sharing and of course, understanding :)

  • http://www.lifeschocolates.com sameve

    Grace, I'm so glad you wrote this. Forgiveness is like the ultimate conundrum. We're often caught between not wanting to forgive too easily and risk being hurt again, and refusing to forgive and being burdened by that grudge forever. I think your dad imparted some very crucial wisdom on you. The person you refuse to forgive might not be as impacted by your refusal because they know you won't change your mind, they think you're making too big of a deal out of whatever happened, or even (gasp!) they don't know that they did something wrong in the first place.

    Personally, I'm torn on this issue. I would like to nobly say that life is too short for holding grudges, and we should be quicker to forgive wrongdoing. But, there are certain situations that may in fact be unforgivable. So what do we do? I think the most important thing is that we hear the other person out, or at least give them the opportunity to share their side of the story. As I was commenting, I had a feeling of deja vu, and that's because I think I posted on forgiveness not too long ago…it was something about forgiving, but not forgetting. Maybe the best compromise is to find a way to forgive and move on, but allow yourself to store the memory of whatever happened in the back of your mind. It's a tough one, but you share a great perspective!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Sam I remember your post! It's such a pertinent topic. I think we're all a bit torn about forgiveness, at the same time, I have seen horrible awful things happen to people and they eventually forgive, because if they don't, then they hold onto the pain forever. It's a toss up and it's not easy. I guess that's what I was getting at though. At the same time, there's no way to completely forget something/someone but forgiving is doable. Forgive and not forget, that's okay, as long as we don't negatively hold onto that memory still letting it hurt us. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://modite.com/blog Rebecca

    I actually don't have much of a problem with forgiveness… weird, I know. All I can say is that we all mistakes, and I hope that others forgive my imperfections, so the least I can do is forgive theirs. Really great post.

  • http://blog.rachaelstott.com/ Rachael Stott

    I learnt to forgive the hard way. Once I learned the truth about forgiveness it is almost second nature. What I learned (and now teach) is that no-one has the capacity or ability to hurt you; it is your reaction, beliefs and judgements about the person/event that hurt you. They just happened to be the kind soul who gives you the opportunity to heal and grow.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Rebecca That's beautiful, then. The little things (that some people hold onto) are really easy for me to forgive as well. I guess it's the deeper things that affect me and I almost can't find the words or emotion to express forgiveness. However, it's my ongoing goal to keep forgiving and welcoming it into my life.

    @Rachael I love how you put it and you're so very right: “No-one has the capacity or ability to hurt you; it is your reaction, beliefs and judgments.” This is very well-said and ultimately, if we all learn to understand and grasp this then there will be far less hurt in the world. Thanks for sharing!

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  • Erin

    This has been helpful in just knowing there are people experiencing the same sort of pain as a result from resentment. I now have 2 big issues, 2 different situations with different people that i once thought I had already forgiven, but alas I realize I hav enot. I still hold onto this resentment. I have found myself even having dreams/nightmares about it. For me, it is hardest when the person you are resenting has not acknowledgted they have hurt you. If only i had that I feel it would be easier to let go and forgive. But these people are both unaware or are unaffected by the situation, and I am the only one in pain. For this reason, I have to do the forgiving to save myself. If I don't, I will bear this and the other person will be none the wiser.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Erin When Ponder said hit home most for me: “When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.” We're the ones hurting and struggling, while they don't feel a thing. We wish it could be the other way, however, I've seen that with time these issues dissipate on its own because we deal with it internally. Not to mention, letting go is such a breath of fresh air!

  • briiiiiiii

    This post really resonated with me. Like other commenters, I find it fairly easy to forgive things that are small in nature from people who otherwise have been good friends or good people. Yet, I have a really, really, really DIFFICULT time forgiving people who have caused a lot of PAIN, knowingly, and with the intention to HURT me or put me down, or ridicule me. This is the absolute hardest.
    I once read a quote that said something along the lines of “When you hold a grudge against someone, it's like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die.”- Nothing has ever made more sense this analogy!

    So I just decided I needed to forgive these people for their shortcomings and lack of maturity but that doesn't mean that I will ever FORGET. It's a slippery slope. You forgive others mostly for yourself (so that you can move on) but you also need to genuinely harbor no more ill feelings towards them because even holding onto the smallest bit of resentment or grudge will prevent you from moving forward. I'm learning this the hard way. I spent over a decade harboring resent. And just recently, I honestly let it all GO! I wrote out an email, (didn't send it, just wrote it to get the feelings out there, and pray that God and the Universe sees that this is authentic) explaining that 'both of us have probably hurt each other in the past (one person did a LOT more hurting but didn't need to get into that) and I forgive you and hope you can forgive me too.' I apologized if I had hurt this person and wished them well and let them know that I was moving forward with my life.

    I hope this helps other people out there. I'm a strong believer that in order to move on with forgiveness you can create rituals of your own making to move forward. Elizabeth Gilbert does this beautifully in 'Eat, Pray, Love' during her stay in India. I'd recommend others to read that book.
    But honestly, whatever works for you.. Just do it. I just did, and it feels so good.
    But let me be clear. It's not like, once you let go and forgive, feelings of unresolved issues and resentment never come up again in reference to this person, but atleast you have a way to manage it. You can go back to the thought of writing that letter (or whatever ritual you created) and remember that you once did let go and forgive. And let the universe take care of the rest. Because it's no longer your problem. You did your part. Let go and go live your beautiful life!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Brii Beautiful comment. I really agree with you and Elizabeth Gilbert + her book are very much an inspiration for me. I think that as “I'm still learning to forgive,” I know that it will be a lifelong lesson. I don't want to harbor these feelings of hate but sometimes like you said, it's so hard when you've been hurt purposely or continually.

    The inspiration that sparked this post was from one person and I actually recently wrote them an email (its all pretty fresh). I didn't send it, I still might, but it helped to let it out. It's against my philosophy to not be honest. Even if I have to get something off my chest and they may not benefit from it, they need to hear it. It helps us move on. Whether it's a letter or email, writing it out helps immensely. Thanks for sharing and I wish you the best of luck in your plight for forgiveness, letting go and moving forward :)

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  • http://www.paigeos.blogspot.com/ Paige

    I am fond of this quote on forgiveness “Unforgiveness is the poison we drink, hoping the other will die.”

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Paige I'm still on the path to forgiveness, so I appreciate quotes just like the one you shared. Thank you for sharing :)

  • http://www.paigeos.blogspot.com/ Paige

    I am fond of this quote on forgiveness “Unforgiveness is the poison we drink, hoping the other will die.”

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Paige I'm still on the path to forgiveness, so I appreciate quotes just like the one you shared. Thank you for sharing :)

  • loverevolver4

    This was a really nice post, humanity really needs to be more forgiving, it’s the only way we can move past conflict and violence and end all war. I always like to re-read the great Bible stories concerning forgiveness almost every year.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @loverevolver4 Thank you. It's hard to forgive, on a large and small scale. If you can find inspiration from any story, then you're already making steps in the right direction.

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  • justatitch

    Found this via your comment on Doniree's post…love this. Needed to read this.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Justatitch Aw, I'm so happy you stopped by and enjoyed it. Thank you! Hope you're having a beautiful day and you're filled with forgiveness :)

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