It’s really tough to forgive people who aren’t sorry. When those who have wronged us choose not to take responsibility for the pain they cause; we tend to carry it. This is how easily baggage is made and it gets heavier as we go.
We built defenses to protect ourselves only to learn that they distance us not only from others but from ourselves as well. We’re defensive even when we’re not being attacked. We find it difficult to lower our “walls” or see beyond them. It’s a case of “once bitten, twice shy.”
There comes a time in our lives when we become increasingly aware of the costs of what we carry and the defenses we maintain. It drains us and limits our ability to get close to people who have not wronged us.
Most everyone I work with describes themselves as having, “trust issues.” They explain that they need time in therapy to feel comfortable in order to trust me. I get it. When we’re hurt, betrayed, or abandoned by those who were supposed to love us unconditionally; it’s really hard to open up to folks who aren’t expected to love and value us.
The real challenge is being able to trust ourselves. This is no small task. When we are conflicted within, when we deny our own needs and feelings, or when we silence our own voice we are not true to ourselves. This makes it impossible to claim our own truth and to receive what others perceive and believe about us. We only take in what we’re comfortable with. When the truth that others have of us is greater than our own, we explain it away (“They’re just being nice. “If they really knew me…”) we’re not open to considering that what they’re saying could be true.
I encourage folks to listen for what resonates.
Resonance occurs when we both hear truth and feel truth. It’s the pairing of intellect and intuition. Your head and your gut simultaneously say, Yes!” even as your heart cries out, “No!” The adages are always bittersweet, “The truth will set you free but first it will make you miserable.”
We come to see the shortcuts we’ve taken to forgiveness. We accept that forgiving is an emotional process and not something we can simply explain away. We come to see that it’s not about blame; it’s about claiming our own truth, standards, beliefs, and values. We realize that we’ve been living by someone else’s rules, expectations, and ideas about us and about what we deserve.
While we cannot change the past, we can reframe our view of it in a way that does not condemn ourselves for the pain others inflicted. We stop regretting and self persecuting. We stop telling ourselves, “If only I had…” and we stop making excuses for them (No – it wasn’t the best they could have done. They could have done far better.) It is what it is and we want to let go of it.
Letting go is made possible through meaningful expression. That which was ingrained can be drawn out and released. I do not believe that there is a way to let go of pain in a way that doesn’t hurt, yet I frequently talk with folks who tell me, “I’m all done crying over that.”
Spider Robinson wrote, “Shared pain is halved and shared joy is doubled.” This underscores the difference between grieving and suffering. When we share our pain with others, release is easily attained. When we experience pain alone we tend to recycle it endlessly.
To allow others (even your therapist) to bear witness to your pain requires a level of vulnerability. This is the key to intimacy, which all of us want and most of us fear. My friend Ardis has an expression for intimacy, “In to me, see.” To allow others behind our walls and to allow them to view us “warts and all” is both terrifying and liberating. This allows us to be more fully understood and loved. It provides the opportunity for meaningful self acceptance.
We all want to be free – from our past, from our baggage, and from our shame. When we discard the emotional blinders of false hope and false beliefs; we find that we can have so much more if only we make room in our hearts to receive what we want by releasing everything painful that we’ve held in.
Tell your story. Write it. Paint it. Sing it. Scream it from a f@cking mountaintop but from today forward, create the life you most want to live on your own terms. Most of all, forgive yourself.
“I did then what I knew to do. Now that I know better; I do better.” – Maya Angelou