“Holding grudges is poison to the soul. Get even with people, but get even with those who helped you , not hurt you.” Steve Maraboli
I still recall the day that I myself, sat in a therapist office and was given the advice to “forgive” someone who had hurt me in a way that changed my life forever. My twenty year old face stared him down, chuckled sarcastically and replied with an adamant, “Hell No!”
This pattern emerged for the next twenty years. Each time it was suggested to me, I would jump up on my soap box with a list of reasons why this idea was absurd. Oh, and then never return to said therapist again. How dare these educated people insist that the only way I would find my way to peace would be to forgive such evil?
Let me just hit that fast forward button with a slight sheepish grin and admit how stubborn I truly am. I really do wish I would have gotten this message earlier in my life. It took the soft-spoken, yet harsh tone of what would soon become my favourite therapist to get through to me. Not only did she help me realize I had to not only forgive to heal, she also inspired me to become a therapist myself.
Autumn is my favourite season. I share many of the same reasons as most. The cozy sweaters and the pumpkin flavours. For me, it goes just a little further. It was a Fall day in October when the pieces fell, along with a single red leaf, plainly into my lap. Just shy of my fortieth birthday and I was in a rut. I was ending a marriage and I was stuck trying to remember who I was before all of the chaos. I continued to walk hearing the leaves crunch under my feet. I was always a mom and a wife, but who else? Why did that make me panic? I had been holding onto so many emotions, so many feelings that I had not dealt with from my past, that I simply could not plan a future. I sat for just a minute and inhaled that familiar crisp fall air. Just then, one single red leaf fell into my lap. It was the brightest and the most perfect leaf I had ever seen.
I looked around and could see how intense the blazing yellow and flaming red leaves lit up the horizon. It instantly hit me. Do I want to spend the next forty years of my life blending in with those green leaves, or do I want to stand out like those red and yellow ones?
If I keep stuffing these emotions down, if I keep hiding this past baggage and not dealing with it, I will never glow.
My next appointment with my therapist, I told her I was ready to forgive. I now know that means we can forgive so we can live and grow. When we forgive, we can’t change the past but we sure do change the future.
It is common for people to resist forgiving someone out of the belief that forgiveness in some way condones that person’s actions. But forgiveness isn’t about condoning an action that caused pain for us or others. We can forgive even if we refuse to tolerate someone’s behavior and no longer want that person to be part of our life.
Ultimately forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves. We can benefit from forgiving even if the person we forgive isn’t aware of our feelings or is even no longer alive
Even knowing the value of forgiveness, many people doubt whether they will ever be able to forgive and fully let go. But rest assured, we all have the ability to forgive, for it is the nature of life to release toxicity and return back to wholeness.
At the same time, forgiveness often doesn’t happen in one fell swoop. Particularly in cases of deep violation, forgiveness is often a process that requires you to forgive one layer at a time. Sometimes you have to forgive someone many times before you finally let go of all the emotional residue of the past.
You see, that is why I love this time of year. Each time I see those leaves emerge in their glorious colours I am reminded of my ability to forgive. I am reminded of my ability to glow. Yes it is a challenging process, but we are worth it. Always remember, YOU are worth it.
Much love ❤