Practicing love for all humankind is what I do regularly, so this next admission may come as a shock. There are a few people that I don’t give a shit about. I’m no saint or angel with a golden halo. Sure, you can call me petty. Harboring these feelings isn’t healthy, but the truth is I’m having a hard time forgiving them for what they did. I’m not as forgiving as God or any messiah. Yes I know the past is the past and it shouldn’t affect my present or future, but it does. All experiences good and bad have helped shape me. Some of those experiences have been more traumatizing than others. How can I forgive some one who has severely hurt me?
The theme of forgiveness came up in This Isn’t Love: Gaslighting and the Emotional Hostage. I was in a bad relationship and it took me years to come to that realization and get out. But even after I left, even after the separation, the ghost of that relationship still haunts me. I may have moved on but my subconscious still suffers and manifests itself in nightmares and social anxiety. To help with the healing process I meditate and write affirmations habitually.
As I do my best to work through the past, I’m harboring a strange feeling that is somewhere between guilt, embarrassment, shame, and self pity. With any relationship or friendship gone sour you wonder how did this happen? What did I do to deserve this? You try to figure out the ways you’re at fault for the mishap or betrayal. What happens next is a bit daunting. You think, but I’m supposed to be this strong, fearless person. How could they ever take advantage of me? You’ve built up a fortress for your heart and dressed yourself in emotional armor, yet someone still managed to tear you down. And you begin to blame yourself for what happened.
You’re feeling like you got played or worse, you played yourself. You know you. You’re this no bullshit-taking, tough-talking, I got my shit together kind of woman. But remember you’re also this loving person who would give your last bite of food to a starving child. You’re the woman who will give until she has nothing left for herself, which isn’t necessarily a good thing either. The difficulty lies in the fact that you must accept that accept your duality: strength and vulnerability. You can be both and unfortunate things will still happen to you. That’s not a reflection of who you are. Sometimes shit just happens and people can be shitty.
Before you can forgive others, you must first forgive yourself. And let’s be real. You’re so much harder on you than you are anyone else. How many times have you forgiven a so-called friend or guy so quickly for an incident that maybe you needed more time to think through, but you can’t forgive yourself for this? You opened yourself up and got hurt. That doesn’t make you any less of a person. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It certainly does not mean you deserve a self-inflicted beatdown. You love yourself, right? Then you can forgive yourself.
Forgiveness takes time. It is not instant. Allow yourself the space to heal. But the longer you wait the more this feeling of resentment will burden you. This is something that I’m working on too. I’m starting by writing down the names and transgressions that plague me. One by one I will read them while standing in the mirror. After each, I’ll look at myself and say “I forgive you.” I’ll probably add in some extra stuff like burn the piece of paper or light up some sage. But the root of the practice is to absolve myself of these negative feelings.
Nothing can ever permanently hold me back. Like gold, I am malleable and ductile. I can be pulled, beaten, and thrown in the fire, but through it all I will retain my worth without breaking. Forgiving myself and those who have hurt me does not make me weak or weigh me down. Ultimately the power of forgiveness strengthens me.
*This piece is part of a monthly collaborative series called The Refined Collective. This month we’re talking Forgiveness. Show some love and and check out the other ladies in our village Katherine Harris, Lauren Scruggs Kennedy, Tutti del Monte, Chelsey Korus, and Joanne of Go Fit Jo.*