Learning and Living True Forgiveness

"Forgiveness" light blue border with cyan and green hue leaves

You might wonder how forgiveness ties into living Green, but this is part of my holistic idea of what it really means to live a “Green” lifestyle which for me encompasses all aspects of mind, body, and soul, rather than just buying eco store products or setting up composting in your kitchen.

To me, being “Green” is about living in harmony with nature, and though we seem to forget- humans are nature too! If we want to make this world a better place, it is so important that we make sure we are empowering and inspiring other people- I think forgiveness is one of the building blocks of this- forgiving not only others, but also ourselves. Forgiveness is one of the fundamental building blocks of relationships, it’s something that we have to do on a regular basis, whether they are small or large issues. However, this post, though it applies to smaller issues too, will be mostly tailored to those big grudges you’ve been carrying around for a while, and why forgiving is about YOU, not them.

Forgiveness is the most empowering thing you can do. It doesn’t mean condoning that person’s behaviour, nor does it mean you have to make yourself vulnerable to them again. To me, forgiveness just means trying to understand that the thing that was done to you does not reflect who you are or what you stand for. It means accepting what has happened from a place of love and it means learning as much as you can from the situation, and allowing yourself to be at peace with it and with the person. If you can truly fully forgive someone who has hurt you, it is the most empowering thing you can do, not just for them (they may not even know you’ve forgiven them) but for YOU.

In this post I’ll be discussing my own experience which lead me to learning more about forgiveness, and which lead me to coming up with my own forgiveness process. If you’d like to miss the back story then just keep scrolling and you’ll find a brief list of my process. However, I thought adding a personal story might help contextualise everything and make it more relatable, so if you’re in a similar situation you don’t make the same mistakes I did!

The Back Story

I had an experience a few months ago with an ex-partner who after we had split up had held onto a lot of my stuff, which I had allowed out of an attempt at being kind. Long story short, he broke up with me out of the blue, and then by the time he “realised he had made a mistake” I had realised that actually I was much happier and healthier out of this relationship. This was the impetus for me embarking on this journey of self-discovery and empowerment, and it has taught me so many valuable lessons that I count my lucky stars I was able to learn earlier, so I don’t have to make the same mistakes with my amazing current partner.

I started writing out the whole story, but the reality is it doesn’t matter, and this post is going to be long enough as it is, but I do hope you’ll read through because it has been a turning point for me in understanding forgiveness, and learning to understand human emotions and reactions better too.

Basically I had let my ex keep a lot of stuff from during our relationship. I felt he needed most more than I did so was happy to leave all but two big ticket items, which he had agreed to return as soon as he no longer needed them. Over the course of a year he (from my perspective) evaded every question asking when I would be able to get them back. At one point he admitted that he had damaged both beyond repair and that he would pay me for them. Again, each time I tried to talk to him about it he disappeared offline/had to go and so on. I argued with myself that well maybe he needed them more than I did, even in times when I was desperate for cash, and the added worry of his new love being incredibly insecure about me meant that I felt I had to take a very roundabout approach to getting my stuff back. A few months ago I caught him online and started trying to have a casual chat to ease into the question. After a while of hearing about things going on in his life I asked if he would like to get coffee, at which point his tone completely changed and he asked didn’t I think it was strange to be asking an ex out for coffee? I admitted that I had the ulterior motive of getting my stuff back and explained that asking him directly had never seemed to work, and also said that I had thought it would be nice to offer as his last conversation with me was that he would like to be friends, but had to wait for his girlfriend’s insecurities about me to die down.

The ensuing hour or so resulted in a massive online argument. I felt that I had been waiting for my stuff back for so long in an attempt to be compassionate towards my ex, who I knew was struggling with the end of our relationship, as well as family issues; and to be compassionate towards his new partner who I felt sorry for on account of him having commenced a relationship with her when from as far as I understand it, he was not fully over our relationship. I felt like I had been waiting months and months, and my own partner was telling me that I should just get my stuff back… all I really wanted was the whole ordeal to be over.

My reaction to this argument was one of absolute despair. His new girlfriend who never had met me before sent me messages accusing me of trying to destroy their happiness and trying to steal him back. Saying that it was their stuff that I was trying to take from them. I was a wreck for a good couple of days. I was in absolute tears. My tears brought paranoia and I wondered if maybe she was right. Why was I so upset that my ex, whom I really just wanted to be rid of; and a girl who I had never met, thought so badly of me? I am a people pleaser, and I like to be liked, but surely I shouldn’t be this upset? Maybe I did somehow deep down still have feelings for my ex? Maybe  I was the one who wasn’t ready to be in a relationship. Maybe I should just leave my boyfriend who I love so much, so that I didn’t risk hurting him down the track… because I was obviously a basket-case who couldn’t understand her own emotions and he deserves so much better. Maybe I should have tried to be more direct in the beginning. Yes I did let it drag on too long. All these thoughts and emotions turned me into a mess for a good few days, and it was exhausting.

Did you know that drama is exhausting?

I just wanted my stuff back so I no longer had to ask niceties and be made to feel guilty that I would not go back to him, to feel guilty that he might do something stupid and it would be my fault. I just wanted my stuff back. I just wanted compensation if I didn’t get my stuff back because that is what I thought (read: convinced myself) was fair and just. I just wanted my stuff back so that my ex no longer had control over me. I just wanted my stuff back so I could fully move on and appreciate my life with my amazing boyfriend.

Net result= I didn’t want my stuff back. I wanted peace.

Here’s my post-match analysis:

Drama is exhausting. My boyfriend once retold me an analogy he had learned (I wish I knew who from so I could cite): “Holding a grudge is allowing someone else to live rent-free in your head”. I think this is a great analogy, but would like to add to it:

“Holding a grudge is allowing someone to live rent-free in your head, and allowing them to trash the place.”

Holding a grudge only becomes deeper and more ingrained the longer you live with it, without forgiveness, the only thing for a grudge to do while it’s living in your head and in your heart is for it to become bigger, dirtier and messier. In this instance, I had allowed my ex to have control over me. His threats of doing stupid things, his sending me flowers, his teary 1am phone calls were all a method of control. Now when I say this, I do not mean this with any negative connotations, I believe he is a truly lovely person with good intentions, but he was unable to cope with the situation and needed a coping mechanism. This was his. Where my coping mechanism (which had initially been very self-destructive also) had become self-improvement, and keeping busy with new activities, new friends, new learning; his had been to try to retain some control over me, and perhaps other more positive mechanisms I don’t know about. However, I had allowed him to maintain that control, and by becoming so upset and by thinking all those negative thoughts, I was enhancing that control and that negativity.

My process of forgiveness:

1. Accept some of the blame

I think the first step to forgiveness is to accept some of the blame. Now this doesn’t apply in all situations, like in cases of violence, but I do believe that the majority of issues have at least a little blame on both sides. In my situation, I had allowed the control, I hadn’t taken

2. Accept that nothing can be done to change the past

Nothing you can do will change the past. You will never be able to undo what was done. Instead, accept what has happened from a loving and compassionate place in your heart. This doesn’t mean you need to forget what has happened (in fact, as I’ll soon argue, I don’t think forgetting is always useful), it just means that you need to let it go and not let it define you.

3. Forgive yourself for your part

You are only human. Sometimes it can be hard to do, but at all costs avoid the “could have” and “should have”s unless you are going to use them proactively to learn for next time.

4. Attempt to understand the other person’s point of view

There are always two sides to a story, and this doesn’t mean affirming that what the other person did was right, it just means understanding that what they did reflects on them and their own issues, not you. In this instance I might think, well my ex was having family issues; maybe the outburst was because his girlfriend noticed he was talking to me or so on; maybe he was frustrated that I had wasted time having a conversation with him instead of just asking upfront. The key to this, I think, is not to over-think it. Chances are that you will never fully understand what was going on in the other person’s head, and you don’t need to know. All you need to do is be compassionate and understand that hurt people hurt people, so their behaviour doesn’t necessarily reflect on you, but on their own issues.

5. Learn the lessons

After this issue, I sat down and I actually wrote out two pages in my book about the lessons I had learned from the experience. If your grudge has been ongoing or is tied to many issues (like all those making up a “failed” relationship- and I don’t think any relationship actually fails unless you don’t learn anything from it) then write down all those issues as well. Sometimes what we think we need to forgive and what we actually need to forgive are different. In this instance I didn’t just need to forgive the talking to me unkindly online, I needed to forgive a whole bunch of behaviours that had contributed to the ending of our relationship, and behaviours that had contributed to my negative feelings over the following year or so. Write it all down. Trust me, it is so cathartic, and it’s a nice reminder any time you might have any stirs of negative feelings pop up in future (though hopefully, if this process is done properly that shouldn’t be much of an issue!)

Voilà- forgiveness!

I hope this helps any of you out there struggling to come to forgiveness. However, this is truly such an important thing to learn. After I finished my process of forgiveness with this incident I just felt the biggest weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt I was actually able to think straight, and best of all- I was able to make sense of my emotions before I did anything silly- like leaving my perfect man- what was I even thinking!?

K

7 thoughts on “Learning and Living True Forgiveness

  1. Forgiveness is easier to write about than it is to practice. That’s one reason why I write about it – to remind myself of the character I want/ought to have. So we press on!

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    • Agreed! I guess I kind of came up with my own wee method for it after this event because I realised how much NOT forgiving was having a negative effect on me and my other relationships. So since kind of having this methodology I have definitely found it easier to practice, but in saying that I haven’t had as big a thing to forgive… So hopefully it will help if and when that time comes.

      Would love to hear if you have your own methods too?

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