“Forgiveness is just another name for freedom” – Byron Katie
How many times have you felt wronged by someone else?
Whether it’s someone cutting in front of you and taking the last free parking space, that ex boyfriend who totally ripped out your heart, or your old boss who just never appreciated you.
We have all felt wronged by someone else.
Sometimes those feelings are so deep, so cutting that it takes years for the wounds to heal. Sometimes you wonder if you will ever find peace. Your blood boils at the mere mention of a name, or your heart cracks in a new place whenever you see their face.
It can be hard to let go.
But before the letting go something else has to happen. You have to want to feel differently. You also have to be willing to stop assigning the blame onto the other person and take responsibility for your own life.
This is a big one.
In 2009 a series of events and decisions led to my heart being broken. In truth, that never really healed. In 2016 I finally found the strength and headspace to really look at the heartbreak, to stare it down, to be real with myself, and to examine what it is I’d been hiding from.
That heartbreak was as much due to my own choices as anyone else’s. For many years I buried that. I preferred to blame someone else for CAUSING my broken heart. I assigned responsibility for my feelings to the actions of someone else.
What a load of BS.
Ain’t no one responsible for your feelings but you.
Let me state that again – no matter what anyone does in your life, you are ultimately responsible for yourself, your feelings, emotions, reactions, responses and your words.
Once that sunk in for me I realised I had actually known this deep down, in the quiet recesses of my heart, all along. I had been harbouring this immense guilt for what I had done. And while I could outwardly assign blame for my actions, onto the actions of someone else – “Well you did [blank] so I did [blank] which makes my actions your fault!” – I knew that really, truly, what I did was entirely my choice.
And WOW did I feel bad about it. Geez. 7 long years of guilt. Incredible.
I knew I could not go on like that. It was eating me up, it was blocking my growth and it was getting in the way of my future relationships.
So what could I do?
Well, there are several ways to forgive yourself and other people. Byron Katie is queen of forgiveness and new perspectives. Her teachings can be found over at http://thework.com/en
You can download a worksheet from the resources section with guidance on how to complete it.
The worksheet guides you to an understanding that you really are responsible for your own thoughts and feelings. It is incredibly powerful. The most impactful thing on the worksheet for me is the question at the end – who would I be without this thought?
Wow. Imagine. You can change who you are just by letting go of one negative thought. And you actually can. It works. Try it.
So I did the worksheet and I gained a deeper understanding, but there was still a lot of guilt and regret there for me. I mean, come on, it had been 7 years! One worksheet wasn’t quite enough for this particular problem (though it has been enough for other times I have needed to find forgiveness).
I needed something more.
So I took out some paper. I sat down alone in private, and I poured my heart out onto those pages.
When I started this exercise I wasn’t entirely convinced. I didn’t really have a clear idea of what I was going to write, or where I was going to go with it. I just knew I had to try something and this was as good an exercise as any.
Well, I wrote five pages. And I cried. Geez! My entire sleeve was covered in snot and saturated in tears (I didn’t exactly prepare for that level of emotion so tissue wasn’t as readily available as my sleeve!)
I wrote down all of my very real, very raw feelings. I didn’t censor myself. I wrote ALL of my crazy thoughts. I wrote down everything I had never and would never say out loud. I got it all out on those pages and I cried.
It was painful.
I admitted guilt. I declared emotions so private that I hadn’t ever spoken outloud before. And I didn’t stop until I had nothing more to confess.
Then I read those pages over and over again, until I managed to read them without crying. (It took a few hours I imagine, I wasn’t watching the clock but I was exhausted by the end).
I kept the pages for two days, just in case I wanted to read them again. And then I burnt them.
I am a huge fan of burning pieces of paper, letters, notes, wishes, prayers…
Write that shit down and burn it in the back garden.
By burning those pages I knew for sure that no one would ever read them again, and I was letting go of the words on that page completely and utterly forever. There would be zero chance of anyone sticking pieces back together and mocking me for my feelings, and zero chance of anyone finding it in my journal.
I knew I was going to burn it from the outset. That is how I could be so honest on those pages, because I knew that they were for nobody but me.
I wrote those words as if they were a letter. And a week after I burnt them I felt a huge weight had lifted from my heart and I no longer felt guilty. I had forgiven myself, and also everyone else involved. I had let go of those words that once haunted my heart for so long (SEVEN years! Wtf!) and I was free from the poison they held.
I had read this advice so many times. Write a letter even if you don’t send it. Write it down in your journal. Thousands of variations of write it down. But the biggest difference for me this time was that I knew I would burn it. It would become dust and go back to the earth and be truly gone. That was important for me.
So get yourself some paper, a pen, tissues (important if you want to save your sleeve from snot!) and a box of matches. Sit down in a private place and write it all down.
Uncensored, raw, glorious honesty. Write whatever the hell you like, with the intention of letting it go. Say all that stuff you never got to say, tell those people how you really felt about the way they acted and the way you acted. Apologise, say thank you, and burn it.
You’ll never know freedom like it.
Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.