Being vulnerable is messy, scary, and uncomfortable.
It can be both the most painful and also the most rewarding way to truly connect with others, and I think it’s something that we all need to do more often. One of the most vulnerable acts is the act of forgiveness. People hold on to resentment, pain, and hatred but they do not realize that the only person that they’re hurting is themselves. As I’ve talked about in my other posts, I believe that we should always strive to be authentic with our emotions, and part of being authentic is to allow yourself to be truly vulnerable, and you need to start by being vulnerable with yourself. Even though this topic is far to vast to cover in a four point list, here it is. Here are four ways to authentically forgive yourself and others.
1. Observe your pain
To find the innermost reason why your own or someone else’s actions are causing you pain, you need to observe that emotion within yourself. Let yourself emotionally visit that which hurts you, and just let your self think about the things which are so easy to run from. Observe your thoughts as you let yourself open up to that hurt. So often, we run and hide from that which causes negative feelings, thinking that will somehow make the things go away or make them better. However, whatever you avoid you only lend more power to in your mind. So, right now, close your eyes and visit those thoughts you have tried so hard to ignore and simply observe what you are thinking. You would be surprised what you might realize just from doing this, and how healing it really is to just let yourself feel the past. You will never rid yourself of this pain until you let yourself truly feel it, sit with it, and know how it makes you feel.
2. Learn to find Comfort in not having control
You cannot change the past. Stop, do not read on until you really think about this. You absolutely, 100%, can never change the past, it is impossible. We can attempt to find ways to compensate for this, things we do to think that we can somehow make the past better. However, whatever terrible thing that happened years ago, will always be just as terrible as it was years ago. So whoever hurt you, you cannot change what they did. Nothing that you do right now can change the hurt that happened to you in the past. If you are the one you are trying to forgive, realize that you cannot change any actions you have taken in the past. Those who live in the dark parts of their past become depressed, just like those who live in constant mental turmoil about their futures become anxious. All we have is right now. All you can do is go along on this ride of life right now. In 10 years, will you want to look back and know that you made peace with your past, or will you want to carry it with you like a moldy sack attached to you, constantly there but not at the forefront of your mind? You must make peace with the fact that we are not magicians. We barely have control over the present moment, but at least we can control our own minds and how we feel in that moment.
3. Spread ‘Light” Within Yourself and to Others
Care for yourself as you would imagine a best friend would care for you. When you’re learning to come to terms with these dark things that have happened to you, it is imperative that you spread light. Do good things for yourself that lift your spirits. Read by the lake with bare feet while the dew is still on the grass in the early morning and breath in the fresh air. Know that right now, everything is okay.
The best way to spread light? Do completely selfless acts of kindness. This past thanksgiving, I donated hundreds of dollars of food to a local shelter. When I walked in with box after box, the man inside, a very religious gentleman, asked me “why are you doing this?” My only answer was that I wanted to make others happy on this holiday. I did not report this on my taxes, nor did I want anything in return.
Now don’t just read this and then think to yourself “oh, well that’s a nice thought,” and then go about your business tomorrow. I want anyone who’s reading this article to do a selfless act of kindness tomorrow. Yes, I know that most charitable acts makes us feel better about ourselves, but that’s an unavoidable ‘selfish’ aspect. So tomorrow lift someones spirits. Anyone, anywhere, and it doesn’t matter how you do it. Just make someones life better tomorrow with the aim purely being to help them.
4. Be at Peace
Once you have allowed yourself to feel the pain of what you are forgiving, once you realize you cannot change your past, and if all the while you spread light, you will eventually be at peace. Sometimes, people actually enjoy feeling the pain of something from the past and spread that pain to others because they have not found a way to come to terms with their past. We must never take this route. We must forgive. As I said at the beginning of this article, being vulnerable with yourself is one of the hardest things in the world. We naturally want to avoid these things, but in order to grow as a person you must allow yourself to feel these difficult emotions.
Once you have processed the past, simply let it be. Yes this happened, yes that person was mean, someone hurt your friend, whatever it was, just let it be the past. The past is all it ever can be.
One you’re at peace you are free to go on and spread more happiness and light throughout your life. Never hold onto pain or hatred because it blocks you from helping others. We, collectively on this earth, have all been hurt at some point. We need to start comforting, inspiring, and breathing life into each other. Live in the present and give all the love you have to give.