The best advice I can give to anyone is that you need to forgive. Forgive always! And then forget. Seriously. Forget! But how do you forget something that happened to you? By stopping yourself from thinking about it over and over. By refusing to let those thoughts bubble up and overwhelm you to the point where you get mad and relive the trauma all over again. You cannot heal from any pain if you don’t choose to forgive and forget. If you choose to remember and re-live all your painful emotions, you will just make yourself sick. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, anger is an insidious poison. Once it’s in your system, it’s hard to get out. You need to learn how to drain the poison – and that is by forgiving. Then you need to learn how to stop trying to suck that poison back up. Your brain is powerful, and will do anything you tell it to. You can tell yourself, “stop thinking about that!” You can tell yourself, “I choose to focus on these thoughts instead.” You can tell yourself, “I am in control of my life, and I refuse to let the past overwhelm me or influence me in any way.” Say it, and believe it. What you say and what you focus on will become your destiny. Don’t stay stuck in victim mentality because you choose to carry around your anger.
DO WE REALLY FORGET?
Of course not! What happens to us will always be buried in our brains. If we keep bringing up those painful memories, then they are close to the surface, and will keep popping up. If we choose not to think about painful memories, they fall down deeper. The only time those memories will come up is if you choose to bring it up, and talk about it, as I am going to do with some examples from my own life. Life is too short to keep a list of hurts. Can you imagine carting around a notebook and writing down every hurt done to you? Every rude comment? Every jerk driver? Every insult? Every argument with your kids? But hey – guess what! You may not have the notebook, but your brain will keep track, and it works better than a notebook. All you have to do is see a person that hurt you and WHAM – you’re triggered. You don’t need a notebook, you have your brain! So, guess what! You need to get in the habit of regularly getting rid of your anger, your hurt, and your pain. The only way to get rid of it is to forgive – AND forget.
CHOOSE TO HAVE EMPATHY
I grew up with a road rage parent. Okay, it was my dad. He would shake a fist, call them jerks, rant, but he never swore or used the finger in front of us kids. So, guess what. When I started driving, I tended to have the same driving habits. One day when driving to work, I was nearly in an accident because of some idiot. When I got to work, I complained to a co-worker. Then an hour later I told someone else about it. And so on, and so on, and by the end of the day, I was STILL MAD! Later that evening I realized that my stomach hurt, and I couldn’t fall asleep. I finally came to the conclusion that it was because I had worked myself up so much about being angry. I was still feeling angry. So right there and then I decided to forgive that person, and let it go. And I decided from that moment on, I would CHOOSE not to get angry at driving jerks on the way to work, and just be happy to get to work safely. I made a conscious decision right there and then to no longer swear, give the bird, or yell. I decided that I would smile and wave at any jerks that I encountered. Guess what. I no longer have any anger while driving. What I noticed is that when I smile and wave when someone cuts me off, sometimes they would wave back with a sheepish grin. It actually started making ME happy that I could be nice to someone who was behaving badly. Then I started coming up with scenarios of why they were driving like jerks. If you can show empathy, you will not get angry. Try it, it works! Everyone can choose to have empathy, it really is a choice. Here are some of my thoughts: “oh wow, that guy is in a rush because his boss told him if he was late one more time, he would get fired”. “Oh dear, that lady is in a hurry because she’s rushing to get to the hospital before visiting hours are over.” “Uh oh, that guy took my parking space because he’s making a cake at home, and ran out of sugar, and he’s trying to get it done and in the oven before company comes over.” I make up stories all the time, and guess what – I no longer get mad. I can drive, and no matter what jerk or a$$hole appears, it doesn’t faze me. I am challenging all of you to have empathy, because we have all been jerk drivers at some point in our lives.
STOP BRINGING UP THE PAST
If you have forgiven someone, then stop bringing it up. If you keep bringing it up, that means you have NOT truly forgiven. If you are still mad, then nope, there hasn’t been any forgiveness. True forgiveness means you let go of the pain, and let it slip into the deep. I need to share a personal story.
My mom made liver on my 16th birthday. Now, you should know that I hate liver. Not only did I hate liver, but my whole family hated liver. My mom made it anyway, and it was worse than shoe leather. It didn’t matter how she cooked it, it was ALWAYS disgusting. Even if you added bacon and onions – YUCK! Okay, so now you know how I really feel about it. Back to me. I turned 16. Sweet sixteen. Should have been the best birthday of my life, right? Nope. Why? Because my mom made liver for dinner. Not my favourite meal, not something I liked, but something that I TOTALLY HATED. Up to that point in my life, I have never been that outraged or angry that she would do something like that to me. We had gone down to the motor vehicle branch first thing in the morning so that I could get my driving learner’s licence, so that was the best part of the day. Anyhow, let’s just say that after dinner I was pretty upset with my mother. I was furious. In fact, I was SO ANGRY that I didn’t talk to her for a week. My dad finally intervened and told me to talk with her, and so I told her why I was so angry. “LIVER for dinner on my 16th birthday? How could you?” And her response? “I forgot it was your birthday, I’m sorry Donna.”. Well, guess what. That didn’t sit well with me, because she was lying, and I knew it. How could she say that, when she had just taken me to get my learner’s licence? How could she say that, when she watched me kiss my calendar wearing lipstick counting down the days until my 16th birthday for a YEAR and being so excited the night before? How could she say that, when she had made me a birthday cake? So, I was mad for years. Years and years and years. Every year my birthday came around, I would remind her, “Remember when you made liver for my 16th birthday?” And I would give her a hard time about it. Well, fast forward fifteen years. Again the joke came up about liver and my birthday, and my mom actually grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, “Donna, when are you going to forgive me for making liver on your birthday?” I was so surprised, that I actually had to stand there and think about it. I remembered all the pain it had caused, I remembered the entire week of me ignoring her, I remembered EVERYTHING about it, because I was STILL MAD! She could obviously see I was struggling, and she took both of my hands, and said, “Donna, I am truly sorry for making liver on your birthday. Will you please forgive me?” I looked at her, and decided yes, it was time to let it go. And so I did. I verbally said “yes” and she hugged me, and that was the last time I brought it up. I never reminded her again. It’s gone! I’m telling you now to show you how EASY it is to carry a grudge. Even though I knew she lied, and she deliberately made liver on my birthday, I chose to forgive her. I chose to stop re-living that painful experience, and I decided that my relationship with her was more important that remembering pain she caused me. So, forgive that person right now for whom you are carrying a grudge. Get rid of it! Stop letting it harm YOU! It’s only you who gets hurt, not the other person. Choose to heal, and choose to let it go. See? No, I will never forget, but it’s not a topic that needs to come up ever again. I’m writing about it now so that you can search your own hearts, and heal yourself from wounds that you have never forgiven.
GET RID OF GUILT – ASK FOR FORGIVENESS AND MAKE IT RIGHT
Not only is it important to forgive and forget, it’s also important to get rid of our guilt, and forgive ourselves. Carrying around a secret wrong is like being chained to a ball. It will become incredibly hard to move, and will do so much damage to your mental health. I have another story to share. I bought a car when I was nineteen. I had a wonderful sports car, a Nissan Pulsar, and it was my first car. My pride and joy. Well, one day I was on a hill approaching a red light, my car rolled into someone when my foot slipped off the clutch. When I got out of my car to survey the damage, it looked like a horrible dent. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t even going 2 mph when our vehicles touched. There was no damage on the lady’s vehicle in the car in front, so I just shrugged it off and drove around with a dent. Fast forward approximately 20 years. One day in church, our Pastor was talking about sins, and he suddenly looked out over the audience and said, “and what secret sin have YOU been carrying? Perhaps it’s time to ask forgiveness.” Well, shortly after the service, my sister came up to me, and her eyes were brimming with tears. I asked what was going on, and she blurted out, “Remember that time I borrowed your car after I got my licence? Well, I dented it and never told you.” I was stunned! All those years and I thought I had done it myself! I wasn’t mad or upset at all, and when my sister asked me to forgive her, of COURSE I said yes! Who cares about a dent? Not me! We hugged, and it was all okay! And I haven’t given that dent another thought until now, as an example for this post! My sister carried that guilt for over 20 years. YIKES! That’s too long to carry unconfessed “sin” as it were. If you’ve done something wrong, and you’ve never apologized, make it right today. Don’t be weighed down by hundreds of balls and chains attached to your ankles. Ask for forgiveness. If you don’t know how to ask forgiveness, click here. Make it right. And then forgive yourself, and FORGET!
I ASKED FORGIVENESS FOR A 20 OLD SIN
The most amazing thing I ever did was take a course called Freedom Session. It was amazing. I learned so much about myself, and it enabled me to become a better person. I also learned that if we don’t confess our sins, they will eat at us, and erode our self-esteem. Have you ever heard the expression, “the truth will set you free?” Well, guess what, it does! For one of our sessions, we had to write down every single hurt that we could think of that we caused to someone else. Ouch. I had a pretty long list. But wait….this was the list of hurts that we had done to someone else, but had NEVER apologized for. Hmmm. Let’s just say that that was a VERY hard week of homework. The next week it became even more painful, because we had to learn how to apologize and mean it, and THEN we had to make it right. We had to call, write, text, or email those people on the list, and ask for forgiveness. Wow. I had a few calls to make, oh yes I did. The one I will share with you is about hair mousse. My sister had a friend who used to stay over at our house. She had hair styling mousse, and one weekend she forgot it. I used it one day, as it was in our bathroom, and I loved it. So, I kept using it. My sister’s friend realized that she had forgotten it, and asked my sister for it. I told my sister it was mine. My sister knew it was her friends, and an argument ensued. We really got into a fight, and my dad even came upstairs to see what was going on. It was pretty ugly. My sister knew I was lying, I knew I was lying, but I “won” the argument. Fast forward to this Freedom Session course. My sister’s friend was on the list. Of course I remembered this event, it still made me feel guilty. So, what did I do? I called my sister’s friend and apologized for stealing her hair styling mousse. I then bought several styles, and actually mailed them to her to make amends. She completely forgave me. PHEW! Then I went to my sister and apologized to her. She laughed. She said to me, “Donna, I knew you were lying.” Oh dear. Yuck. I hate that memory. Anyhow, let me tell you, when both of them forgave me, I felt like a million bucks! I made quite a few more calls, and guess what. I ran out of things I could think of that I had done and never said sorry for. Now, if anything comes to mind, I take care of it immediately. Let’s learn how to ask forgiveness NOW, when we know we have done something wrong, instead of carrying guilt and shame around for 5, 10, 15, 20 or even longer years. Let’s not damage ourselves by carrying poison, okay?! Truth will set you free, forgiveness will set you free.
START FORGIVING EVERY DAY
It really is a good idea at the end of the day to just flush out any pain that you have. It may be an annoying co-worker who was rude to you, it may have been your child, or it might have even been your spouse. Choose not to get into bed if you are still mad at someone. If you need to talk about it and work it out, do it. Some days it might not be the right time, or you may just not have the time, but if you can’t do it daily, then at least try to do it weekly. I wrote a post called Forgiveness Friday, in which I encouraged everyone to get rid of their junk, get rid of their pain, and get rid of their revenge thoughts every single Friday. It’s important for us to stay healthy, and that includes our mental health. We cannot be physically healthy if we are mentally unhealthy. Being angry will definitely make us sick, and the only way to release that anger is through forgiveness. If you want to read more on why we should forgive, click here.
WHAT IF SOMEONE DOESN’T FORGIVE YOU?
This is tough. What if you apologize, and the other person refuses to forgive you? Well, technically you can do nothing. All you can do is hand it over to God. Tell him how sorry you were, tell him you apologized. Remember, just because someone says sorry and asks for forgiveness doesn’t mean the relationship will ever be the same. Just because someone is sorry doesn’t mean the other person has to accept it. It’s sad that there are very bitter people out there who would rather cling to that hurt and pain, rather than let it go. There is nothing you can do for this person, so you have to let it go. If you apologized, you repented, and asked for forgiveness, and your changed behaviour also indicates that you were truly sorry, then that is all you need to do. Carry on with your life, and don’t EVER beat yourself up about someone else’s bitterness. Yes, your actions may have cost you the relationship, but you don’t need to remind yourself, or beat yourself up about the past. It’s over, you are forgiven. You are only responsible for your behaviour, not anyone else. Keep your chin up, and carry on. The world is rather big. There are over a billion people out there. Don’t get caught up with one or two that suddenly hate or despise you. Move on, carry on, and release mercy and forgiveness to those who are still hurting because they refuse to let go.
PRAYER TO LET IT GO
God, I am still angry. I am still hurt, and I can’t believe this happened to me. I want to get even, but I know it will end up destroying me. Would you please take this pain and carry it for me. I choose to forgive _________________ for what they did (or said). I choose to let go of the anger I have, and I hand it over to you. I choose right now to release mercy to _____________. I choose to stop talking about it, and slandering _______________ to all my friends and family. I choose to stop trying to make people dislike or hate ___________ because of what they did to me. Today I choose to forgive _____________ and let it go.
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