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By Sue Ludwig November 25, 2014
I first published this article in 2009 - and not in a ‘professional publication’ to be sure.
Because it’s personal. And vulnerable. And brings up some muck.
So why now?
Because here’s the thing: It’s part of NANT’s mission to support you personally and professionally. And I know many of you reading this right now struggle during the holidays because you harbor resentment, hurt and anger toward someone.
Holidays have a way of thrusting all that old stuff to the surface, leaving you on edge, distracted, and worst of all, separate from joy.
I decided that if posting this article helped even one of you take a step out of that struggle, well, it would be worth it. Because we can provide clinical resources all day long, but this is the stuff that truly holds you back. And I want you to have the best life possible.
So here goes….
The Freedom of Forgiveness
I once had a neighbor who was also my friend.
She took care of our children while we worked. Our kids loved her.
We shared things. Ladders, snow shoveling, stories about our lives. Her fight with cancer and her recovery.
Years ago we also shared an experience all too common, yet all too quiet.
Unbeknownst to her, a member of her family was molesting some of the children in her care. One of those children was mine. My child told me or I may have never known. (Courage comes in all sizes.)
Our world crashed at that time. It was a gut-wrenching several months of police reports, court dates and sorrow.
It was also the end of a friendship I previously cherished.
I’ve learned (and continue to learn) endless lessons from this experience. One of them is about the power of forgiveness.
We tend to hold onto anger because we believe it somehow hurts the other person. We want them to feel part of our pain. Like the least they can do is absorb some of our resentment and live in the shadow of shame for a while. Yeah, that will make us feel better.
We wear this anger and resentment like armor, protecting us from any further hurt, from any further relationships that may end in similar despair. No way are we making that mistake again. No way are we trusting anyone with our children or our friendship. Not worth the pain.
Soon we become a prisoner of our own armor. The energy of that armor seeps into us. Being bitter and angry is how we begin to engage the world. But there is another way.
We can choose forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not happen overnight. It is the slow decision to shed the armor. To know that the world becomes what we put into it. And so do we.
Several years ago I got really clear about the kind of energy I wanted to put into the world and therefore into myself and my family.
It was around that time that I ran into my old neighbor at a park. She was walking a dog I didn’t recognize. Without hesitation I walked right up to her, feeling naked and vulnerable. I asked her how she was doing and if this was a new dog. We had a brief, civil conversation about nothing, and yet somehow everything was said.
I felt like I took my first full breath in 5 years. I had not realized the weight I was carrying and was relieved by how free I felt in letting it go. Letting her go.
I didn’t need to write her a long letter or declare that I was forgiving her. We both knew in that moment of humble human conversation that the armor was gone. I swear I almost heard it hit the ground.
This doesn’t mean I’m a ‘good person’. Forgiveness is not about being a good person. It’s about being free.
When in a true place of forgiveness we find we don’t want anyone to hurt anymore. (Least of all, us!)
Here are 3 thoughts that continue to help me with forgiveness:
1. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we no longer care about what happened.
It means we want to heal from what happened.
2. Forgiveness lets us live in the present.
Each time we connect with resentment we rob ourselves of being present. We give more energy away to the person or situation we resent than to those standing right in front of us. Forgiveness opens us up and helps us live in real time, not the past.
3. Forgiveness is a choice.
My husband and I could’ve chosen to live in that place of resentment. We would’ve felt very justified in being angry at the world and that family forever. Instead we chose to see them as just that: a family who was now going through their own horrible realizations.
We had to make a decision: keep our children tethered to that one moment in their childhood and teach them how to cling to victimization and resentment, OR show them by our actions that healing and letting go was a choice they could make over and over in their lives.
Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. It opens a space inside us for other things, other wonderful things…like knowing you have so much room inside you to love your kids because along the way you consciously let go of each hurt that binds you.
Free yourself.©2009, Sue Ludwig
By Sue Ludwig November 18, 2014