Last week a friend shared a story with me about a falling out she’s had with her brother and his new wife, following a remark that caused her offense. My friend promptly issued an apology for her insensitivity, but her new sister-in-law has refused to accept it and hasn’t spoken to her since. Her brother has backed his wife, leaving my friend feeling first hurt and upset – but now also angry.
I’m sure that you have experienced people who haven’t always been reasonable or rational to deal with; people who can be quick to judge and slow to forgive. Even worse, people who have acted cruelly or maliciously toward you or left you feeling deeply wounded and hurt. And perhaps, like my friend, you’ve found yourself feeling angry as a result.
It’s only natural to sometimes find ourselves feeling resentful toward people who have been unfair, deceitful, mean spirited or just behaved in a “not very evolved” way. But holding on to that resentment is not only psychologically harmful, it’s physically unhealthy, creating disease in our bodies as it robs joy from our lives. As I wrote in Find Your Courage, anger acts like a cancer that can spread throughout all the corners of our life, infiltrate our relationships with people who had nothing to do with the original “crime,” and take years off our life. Literally. Clinical studies have proven the very real link between the emotion of anger and the development of heart disease and numerous other unsavory ailments and illnesses. They’ve also proven the medicinal value of letting it go.
The only way to release anger from our hearts and lives – and find our way to wholeness and healing – is through forgiveness. Forgiveness of yourself and of those you feel have ‘wronged’ you. Holding on to anger is akin to swallowing a bottle of poison and waiting for the other person to die. But as you may know all too well, forgiving is easier said than done. While we may intellectually understand its benefits, sometimes we still end up in the midst of a head vs. heart tug of war with an indignant voice in our head protesting “What the hell?! That schmuck doesn’t deserve my forgiveness!” That voice comes from our shadow side feeds on righteousness and gets a payoff from being right, from making others wrong, and clinging to its claim on victimhood – even at the expense of our spirit’s deepest longing to make peace with those around us, and with the events that have inadvertently shaped up. Needless to say, it can leave you wallowing in a sea of righteousness, that leaves you feeling anything from mildly pissed off to drowning in in a fierce and wild sea of rage.
QUOTE: Holding fast to your claim on anger renders you a victim to yourself.
Forgiveness is not a question of whether others are deserving of it because forgiveness is ultimately not about anyone else; it’s about you. More specifically, it’s about how you choose to respond to your anger; whether to let it consume you, or to let it go and live more wholeheartedly as a result. At the heart of forgiveness is to let go the power an event from the past has on your future. Holding fast to your claim on anger renders you a victim to yourself. You may have had no choice whether to feel pain at the time the “offense” was committed, but you do now. As I have heard Oprah Winfrey say, forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past can ever be any different.
So as my friend confided to me about her own resentment, I suggested that maybe this was a really wonderful opportunity for her to practice forgiveness: forgiving her brother and new sister in law for being the fallible human beings that they are. That we all are. Just at varying places along our journey along the path of love and life. And as I reminded my friend, it can’t be much fun to be someone who takes offense so quickly and is so committed to feeling wronged.
QUOTE: The stronger your anger, the stronger the reason to let it go.
What about you? Is there someone you need to forgive? Do you need to begin by forgiving yourself? Through the simple yet profoundly courageous act of forgiveness you expand what is possible for you in every arena of your life and enlarge your capacity to give and receive love in every relationship.
Forgiveness is not always a one off event. Some wounds take longer to heal. Particular those inflicted through the betrayal of a spouse that leave raw lashes on our heart. So be patient with yourself when anger simmers to the surface. You are, after all, a “human becoming.” Just know that within you lies all the courage you need to release your past into the past, to forgive if not to forget, and in doing so, to enlarge your future possibilities for health and happiness, for love and life. Surely that’s worth the effort.
READY TO BEGIN YOUR HEALING?
If you would like to let go a long held resentment or hurt that you’ve been carrying with you for longer than you care to think about, you can download an exercise on this link http://margiewarrell.com/wp-content/uploads/Forgiveness-Exercise.pdf that will walk you through the process. This exercise is one of the 27 I created in my first book Find Your Courage.
Photo Credit: greatergood.berkeley.edu
About the Author:
Margie Warrell is a master coach, international speaker and the bestselling author of Stop Playing Safe (Wiley) and Find Your Courage (McGraw-Hill) who has learnt a lot about love and life since her childhood growing up on a dairy farm in rural Australia. More information and free courage-building resources at www.margiewarrell.com