“We punish other people for the same mistake a thousand times. Every time it comes in your memory, you judge them again and punish them again.” -Miguel Angel Ruiz
Have you ever hated someone so much you just can’t get them out of your head?
It’s kind of like when the car radio plays a terrible song while on your way to the grocery, and then you find yourself humming that terrible song as you walk past shelves of cheese. That’s what unforgiveness is– the habit of feeling tortured even when your torturer is long gone.
I confess to having a terrible song stuck in my head. For the past few years I’ve been replaying a certain someone’s hurtful words and actions in my mind. I want to forgive and finally move on, but holy hell it ain’t easy.
Forgiveness feels impossible. It’s like the Rubik’s Cube of the Soul. (And what makes thing worse is there’s something weirdly fun and addicting about hating things that suck.)
But it’s worth the effort. Forgiveness is freedom. Just ask He-Man and Skeletor:
So lately I’ve been trying out various techniques for releasing my twisted need to punish this person over and over again in my imagination. I can tell you right now that the following two tactics DON’T work:
- trying not to think about the person
- trying to pull an apology out of them
But never fear! For these next two tactics are much more helpful:
- Reflect on what this person’s crime took away from you on a broad level. How can you get it back independently from this person?
- Reflect on the important lessons did you learn from the ugly situation you were in. Take a moment every day to feel grateful for these lessons.
I guess it boils down to the following:
I know from personal experience that this is true. I forgave this guy after a few years of rebuilding a happy new life for myself. It was my own happiness and growth that finally changed my perspective and healed my wounds. (Notice that I didn’t list logic, cognitive behavioral tricks, or anything he did as the keys to forgiveness.)
But the most important thing I need to share with you is this: Commit to traveling in the direction of forgiveness instead of judging yourself for not already being there. As long as you genuinely want to forgive your enemy, you’re halfway there.
Here’s what one random Internet blog commenter had to say about this topic:
“A friend of mine once remarked that forgiveness…is a journey rather than a destination. We make the choice to forgive, but then we have to keep choosing it, over and over. Lingering anger or sorrow doesn’t mean you’re not in the process of forgiveness; they just highlight that it is, indeed, a process.”
And because the quote above is as pretty as a prayer, I’ll end here with Amen.
Hold on, I lied. I’ll end with this:
Your Turn: What has your journey toward forgiveness been like?
Kick ass illustrations by Mike Joos