In my children’s book, The Lilac Princess, a princess is faced with the dilemma of whether or not she will choose to forgive the dragon that was going to kill her. What would you do? What have you done with the dragons in your life? Forgiveness is not easy. Forgiveness takes a lot of courage. I want to encourage you today to choose bravery by choosing to forgive and begin enjoying happiness and better relationships and emotional freedom. You’ll be glad you did!
We’ve all had something happen to us in our lives that hurt us. Hurt that may have even come to define us. We may not open up as quickly as we used to or not trust like we used to or even have developed emotional walls to keep people out entirely. These coping skills may serve us well until one day we realize we are sad or lonely or bitter. That’s when we start looking for a way to heal.
Don’t stop reading after what I’m about to say, but the path to healing lies in forgiveness. Stay with me. No one likes to think about forgiving that person or persons that hurt us. We’ve held on to that hurt and maybe even nursed it, feeling justified. And we are justified because yes, our pain is real and no, we didn’t deserve to be hurt. But, the path to us re-gaining our lost self and finding healing rests in forgiveness.
For me, my journey towards forgiveness began when I was going through my divorce. I picked up a devotional book. In it, I found a definition of forgiveness that I could finally embrace—“letting go of all hope of having a better past.” I wish I could remember the name of the book or the author, but I don’t unfortunately. However, these words rang true for me. It spurred me on to take those first few wobbly steps towards forgiveness.
We tend to think of forgiveness as saying, “it’s ok that your hurt me,” or worse, “it’s not a big deal that your hurt me.” But, we don’t feel that it’s ok to be hurt or that it’s no big deal. So, it’s no wonder we don’t want to grant anyone forgiveness. Likewise, the princess in my book cannot just say that it was ok for the dragon to steal her away and threaten to kill her.
But, if we use our new definition of forgiveness and we start with giving up our hope of having a better past, we get off the hamster-wheel of grinding over it. We may grind about why it happened to us, or why it happened at all or what had we done to deserve it or what could we have done to prevent it, etc. While it’s worthwhile to analyze something to determine if we did anything to cause the problem in the first place so we can make changes, often we were just plain vulnerable and/or naïve. There’s nothing we could have done differently.
The grinding we are doing is not productive, it is just that, a grind. We have to stop that hamster-wheel thinking because we all know that leads to nowhere. We need to let go of all hope of having a better past. When we let go, we find ourselves lighter and freer. We realize we’ve been carrying a heavy burden and we’re exhausting ourselves emotionally re-living and re-analyzing our past. All of that energy causes us to come to the same conclusion we did originally; the world isn’t safe and we have to pull in to survive. Ultimately, that conclusion is what led us to this place of unhappiness that we’ve found ourselves in and why we are now looking for healing.
Alternatively, when we let go, yes, we feel more vulnerable and that’s a scary new feeling, but we also feel happy. For the first time in a long time, maybe. If we get off the hamster-wheel and stop grinding over the past, we stop re-enforcing old thoughts and ways that lead us to being sad, lonely and/or bitter and we start to feel free and happy. We embrace the here and now. We live in the moment. We begin the journey of healing. As in the story, The Lilac Princess, healing not only comes to the dragon but to her and her friend and then the whole country.
We find ways to feel more comfortable with being vulnerable. We realize the risk of being vulnerable is worth it because the cost of protecting ourselves was our sadness, loneliness, and/or bitterness. We also learn we are older and wiser and therefore less vulnerable. We’ve learned good judgement which we can use to determine if someone is trustworthy vs. not trusting anyone. We’ve also learned how to walk away when someone is unsafe. In other words, we have new and improved tools.
Can you feel the difference letting go makes? Just that one change has changed our path. We are free and it’s all because we chose the path of forgiveness.
Wanda Luthman has her Masters of Arts in both Mental Health Counseling as well as Guidance Counseling from Rollins College located in beautiful Winter Park, Florida. She worked at a community mental health center for 10 years before transferring into the public school system as a guidance counselor. She’s worked at a high school for the past 18 years. She has also been an adjunct professor at the local community college and presently works with teens who have lost a loved one through Hospice. She has always loved reading and writing and wrote many books and poems as a child growing up in Missouri. She presently resides in Brevard County Florida with her husband of 20 years, her daughter, and 2 dogs.
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