I feel like the beginning of the second month of the year is a good time to do a little check-in with oneself. How did January go? What was my intention that I so strongly believed in going into 2016? Have I let that guide me in my actions during the past month, or have I put it in a side drawer and honestly not even thought about it until now? February can be a turning point; either you feel awesome about what you've created this year already and inspired to keep going further with it, or you feel that you haven't followed through and are angry, discouraged and disappointed with yourself, causing you to give up out of frustration. Maybe things (or people) have gotten in your way and caused you to stray off the course of action you had planned, and you're pissed about it. If the second or third scenarios are closer to how you're feeling, or if you've ever felt either way in the past, the focus I've decided to write about this month is key to you moving onward and upward.
Forgiveness. The f-bomb you should be dropping more often. Let's talk about it.
Merriam-Webster defines the verb forgive as:
- "to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong) : to stop blaming (someone)
- to stop feeling anger about (something) : to forgive someone for (something wrong)
- to stop requiring payment of (money that is owed)"
According to hopkinsmedicine.org, "Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions." So the anger you're holding on to by not forgiving someone, even yourself, can physically harm you. Plus, we've all experienced the mental and emotional toll anger has on us - it causes hateful and unpleasant thoughts that populate the mind, making joy and love less accessible. Doesn't it sound like it would behoove all of us to let that s**t go? What could we use our precious energy for if we released the cloudy veil that anger and resentment casts over our thoughts? Self-care, the pursuit of personal or professional goals, love and compassion for others, connection with family and friends, and self-confidence all come to mind for me. How about for you?
So who and what do we forgive and when? I am not saying that you need to makeup with your ex who left you paying double rent on your expensive apartment, someone in your family who abused you, or anyone who has truly done you wrong. The act of forgiving can be a daily process of releasing and replacing anger that only you have to be involved in. It's solely for your benefit, so you can give up or at least ease the burden of the pain inflicted upon you by anyone, even yourself. While it is important to feel anger and let yourself express it, once you've had your moment, the anger weed can start growing choking vines that suffocate your other emotions. That's where forgiveness comes into play to rip out anger at its root, allowing your other thoughts and feelings to bloom and be fully expressed without interference. Forgiveness is best done as soon as possible so that you don't have to do too much weed-whacking if it's rooted.
That all sounds lovely, but what are you supposed to do when somebody pisses you off or hurts you, or you have let yourself down and start berating yourself for it? Sure you can tell yourself to forgive a person or yourself, but I find that if you don't replace the angry feeling with another choice, it will creep back in, sooner or later. I learned a simple, powerful mantra from Gabby Bernstein in her book May Cause Miracles that has helped me greatly: "I forgive (insert person's name) for (whatever is causing you pain) and I choose love instead." You can say this to yourself, say it out loud or write it down. "Choosing love" sounds abstract, but I interpret it as sifting through your emotions to find the good stuff. If someone hurts or offends you, if you forgive them (even if just in your own mind), you then have the space to choose love by focusing on something you are grateful for (i.e. the support you have from friends and family, how kick-ass you are at your job, the opportunity you have every day to start again and make a different choice). I use this practice daily, especially in regards to negative thoughts I have about myself. Forgiving myself for having the thought acknowledges that it happened and helps me separate myself from it so I can move past and replace it with a loving thought. Giving yourself the power to forgive and choose what to put in place of anger also helps you feel less stuck in your pain and therefore more able to move past it.
If that mantra is still too abstract, here are a few other tools for using my favorite F-word daily:
1. Write two letters - one expressing your pain to the person you need to forgive (get all that anger out) and one forgiving them and offering them your best wishes. Burn or destroy the first one and either send the second or simply keep it in a journal or drawer.
2. Simply write a list of people and situations you need to forgive (anyone or anything towards which you feel resentment or anger). Go down the list and say aloud, "I accept you, I forgive you and I release you."
3. When you need to forgive yourself, have an internal conversation by saying, "I love you. I'm sorry that I hurt you. I am doing my best and I will do better next time." Then reply, "I accept your apology and I forgive you." Yes, I am telling you to talk to yourself - don't knock it until you try it.
I encourage you to try out some of these practices and see what opens up. You may feel less stressed, tired and angry, and more loving, energetic and productive. Physically you could also experience ease in headaches and digestive trouble and improved quality of sleep. You may start feeling more kindness towards everyone in your life, improving your connection to your loved ones. The bottom line is: holding grudges against anyone, including yourself, really only holds you back from experiencing love and happiness. Wouldn't it be nice to get the f**k over it and live your f**king life? I think so. And by the way, can you tell what my second favorite f-word is? :)
With love, light and f**king forgiveness,