I’ve learned a thing or two about the value of forgiving.
In my memoir, Phoenix – A Reminder that Even in the Depths of Despair, There is Hope for a Brighter Future, I talk about being molested as a kid, raped as a teenager, and forcibly addicted to heroin and how all that landed me on the streets and finally in prison. But I also talk about how I turned it around, built my own company, and worked it into a multi-million-dollar enterprise. And none of that would have been possible unless I had first learned to forgive those who harmed me.
I hope your life wasn’t quite as dramatic as mine, but I bet you’ve still known your own hurt, pain, and tragedy. It seems that nobody gets away entirely unscathed. The only problem is that if you’re holding on to any part of that, it can hold you back from living the life you dream about...
Why You Should Forgive
Millions of people are watching their diets, drinking tons of water, and generally doing everything right, but still, they’re holding on to the weight. If you are in that position, perhaps it’s worth asking what else you're holding on to. Is there perhaps a resentment or trauma that you’re not letting go of?
If you want to move forward, there comes a time when you have to be willing to close the door on the past.
Everything is energy, and as long as you’re stuck holding others in contempt and condemnation, you will remain stuck there as well. So, although it may feel impossible, or at the very least extremely unpalatable, you may have a vested interest in forgiving those who have harmed you.
Sometimes, people say that they are “not yet ready” to forgive. Ask yourself what you are gaining by holding on to your anger. It’s not as if the longer you hold on to it, the more you heal. Your righteous anger does not have the power to heal you. There will never come a time when your continued condemnation will finally have set things right. All it can do is continue to keep you stuck. Blaming, shaming, or judging others for the wrongs they have done to you, while completely understandable, only hurts you, not them. So, the question is, haven’t you suffered enough?
How to Forgive
Forgiveness is possible when you realize that everybody always does the very best they are capable of. Even if it may not seem that way, and no matter how depraved the behavior might have been. There was some sort of pathology in thinking that made it the best they were able to do at the time. Had they understood the full consequences of their actions, at the very least to themselves, they would never have done what they did. They did not have a full grasp that they would have to live with the results of their actions. Forgiveness is, therefore, an act of compassion.
When I first realized that I had to forgive my brother in order to move on, I wrote him a letter stating that I would forgive him if he admitted what he did to me. He could not. I eventually realized that, in many ways, it is easier to be a victim than a perpetrator. Everybody feels sorry for the victim, but what will happen to the perpetrator if they admit their actions? I felt genuine compassion for my brother then. I also realized that a qualified offer of forgiveness was tantamount to no forgiveness at all. I would only be able to move on if I offered him a completely clean slate. I had to let go in order to be free.
Maybe you don’t feel like being compassionate. Perhaps you feel as if your pain authorizes you to sit in judgment of those others who have hurt you. Yet, the very act of accusing is an act of wrongdoing. Every accusation is also a confession. Ironically, we become the thing we hate the most. Your judgment does not rehabilitate you. Your judgment cannot correct things. Holding on to things changes nothing except you.
Finally, all forgiveness is ultimately self-forgiveness Nothing has power over you except the power you give it. This makes you complicit in your victimization. You have to let yourself off the hook for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Children often blame themselves for being victims. It is better to take responsibility for your victimization than to remain a victim forever. In this way, you take back your power. You acted as a victim, and you must forgive yourself for this in order to take back the reins of your own life.
What If the Damage Is Irreparable?
“Life is a balance. When you are in pain, it’s because you’re overvaluing the impact an event had on the negative side and undervaluing the impact on the positive side. The truth is – life doesn’t happen TO us – it happens FOR us.” TR
If you are going to accuse someone and blame them for the bad that happened, you must also blame them for the good that came as a result of it. Call the person who has harmed you or write them a letter. Go ahead and blame them for all the things they did to you and how this affected you. Then, thank them profusely for the person you have become as a result!
I can honestly say that I would not miss a single day of my crazy, extraordinary life - and in my case, that’s saying a lot! Every single experience, bar none, made me the person I am today. Every experience afforded me greater insight, wisdom, and love. And that made the entire journey well worthwhile.