For a Happy New Year, Practice Forgiveness
With the new year upon us – I wanted to prepare something to help everyone create the best year possible. In previous years around this time, I’ve written about intentions and heart smart goals, a distinct variation from resolutions. This year I wanted to share something different as well, something I thought would be good for the soul.
Lately the concept of “acceptance” has been surfacing frequently in my life and coaching practice: that is, accepting ‘what is’, instead of resisting it. Acceptance allows us to flow freely through life’s currents. Instead of getting stuck or hooked by life’s challenges and frustrations, we simply accept what is before us and choose to move forward with positive intentions and find a better way.
One major thing that gets in the way of acceptance is our expectation that things should have been different than they were or different than they are right now. This is called resistance. “This shouldn’t have happened”, “people shouldn’t do that”, “they shouldn’t say that”, “this shouldn’t be happening!” But it did happen, they did say that and you got hurt, offended, angry, and/or resentful.
After some time has passed and you continue living your life, you think you got over the incident but whenever you think about what that person did or said, you quickly return to a bitter and hostile place within you. Perhaps it gets even stronger every time you think about it.
Resentment sets in and gets reinforced every time you engage in that type of thinking.
Let me ask you this, are you willing to enter the new year without any resentments? That means letting go of negativity, anger, resentment or hatred you have to another person, even to yourself. If someone could promise you the best year of your life but you would have to let go of a grudge to do so, would you? Could you?
You can’t fully move forward until you let go of the past.
Resentment is like a virus that sucks your life energy. With each passing day, and repeatedly thinking about the offending person and what they did, you lose a bit of yourself – a bit of your true presence and life energy. It ropes you into its grip and lessens your enjoyment of life. We can only tolerate so much of it before it creates dis-ease within us. Over time, our perceptions shift and we see the world differently. We become different people as a result of holding on to too much resentment, negativity, anger and hatred. The more we hold on to resentment, the lower our tolerance for other things/events that come up in our lives. Ever met someone with a short fuse? A quick temper? Those people are holding on to too much “stuff”. They’ve been hurt and now they are the ones who hurt others with their cynicism, negativity and even hostility – but that wasn’t their intention. They are doing the best they can with what they’ve got left of themselves, it’s just that they’ve become so buried and lost in resentment and bitterness.
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then
hoping it will kill your enemies.”
~ Nelson Mandela
Resentment restricts that natural flow of your life energy and the more you resent, the more you are cut off from life. Resentment constricts and contracts – acceptance expands. When you’re in resistance, you’re not living in the present moment, you’re carrying the past with you and it’s impossible to catch up with life’s flow when you’re carrying too much unnecessary baggage around with you. Let it go. You won’t be needing it where you’re going. It won’t serve you one bit, so just let it go now.
When you do let it go, you will free up so much positive energy within you. You will begin to restore balance in your life. This is why it’s so important. Can you imagine how much energy you’ll regain if you just let go and stop feeding the resentment?
The amazing thing is, it can happen in an instant – right now – if you choose to. Letting go means just that – let go – stop thinking about that person, incident or situation in a way that causes you to get angry and bitter. Stop playing out in your mind what you could have said or should have done. Stop feeding the virus.
Of course, it’s natural that thoughts that activate resentment will surface from time to time and pull you back into its grip. Just be aware and mindful, and remember that every time it comes, you have a choice. The choice is either to get riled up again or to accept, let it go and begin nurturing more positive emotions, attitudes, mindsets and ways of being.
Here’s where things get interesting. We already know what to do – we learned it as children from our parents and teachers or religious studies – it’s called forgiveness. Wikipedia says, “forgiveness is the renunciation or cessation of resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, disagreement, or mistake…” Doesn’t that fit the bill perfectly?
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Forgiveness is an easy concept to think about but for those really wrapped up in resentment and bitterness, those who hold a grudge, it’s hard to consider putting it into practice as a virtue. People find it hard to forgive because they realize that they have so much to let go of and they don’t believe they’ll be able to do so successfully. Often I hear people say “to forgive would be granting them a free ride or permission to do it again.” That’s just more resistance, which comes from your ego. Somehow you’ve made this part of your identity and to let it go would mean that you need to let go of a part of yourself. That’s just an illusion – a trick of the egoic mind.
“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds
on the heel that has crushed it.”
~ Mark Twain
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that once you forgive, negative thoughts will never creep back in and that you’re giving the person who hurt you permission to keep hurting you. You know it’s not going to be easy at first. It means that you’re starting a process of letting go… of weakening the strong connections this black spot in your life has created. It means that you’ll do your best each day not to let it get the better of you and instead to practice more empowering and life affirming ways of thinking and being.
If I asked you “is there someone in you know who deserves your forgiveness?” it might take you a while but you’d probably think of someone and say yes. We’ve all done thing we’re sorry about and as a corollary someone has probably done something to you this year that they’re sorry about.
The first person you might want to forgive is yourself. For what?
- For not being perfect.
- For being lazy.
- For making those mistakes.
- For not trying hard enough.
- For not being good enough.
- For not being enough.
When you think about the list above – can you relate? Can you feel the energy being drained away leaving you sullen and sulky?
Forgive yourself for thinking that you needed to be perfect and for expecting too much of yourself. It’s too heavy a burden to carry and it does you no good. It’s paradoxical. Let go of the need to be perfect and the belief that you need to be better than who you are right now. Once you do, you’ll be perfect because you’ll be just as you are.
Here’s an experience you may want to try – write down all your resentments on a piece of paper and burn it (in a safe place of course). Say goodbye and mark that moment as the one where you officially started to let go, to forgive and to live freely without such a burden.
Now – give others the same gift, which you are really giving to yourself, forgive others who have hurt you, or haven’t measured up to your previously stringent and high expectations. Whatever they did or said to you – let it go. It’s hurting you repeatedly and not doing you any good to hold on to it anymore.
Let it go, let life flow and create an extraordinary year!
Happy New Year!