Forgiveness: The Art of Letting Go
Buddha is often credited with saying, “holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Variations of this quote can be found across all cultures and highlights the widely accepted fact that holding on to resentment, blame and anger slowly erodes our health and well-being.
People often believe that in order to forgive, the wrongdoer must earn forgiveness by apologizing and taking responsibility for what they have done. We fear that letting go of the anger will somehow absolve the other person of all of the wrongs that they have committed. We hold onto grudges out of a sense of duty and obligation to hold them accountable and pursue justice.
But what if we never get the justice or apology that we desire? Does that mean we have to live with the anger and hurt for the rest of our life? Thankfully, this does not have to be our fate. All we need in order to forgive is the desire and willingness to do so. It is a choice we make to let go of the resentment and anger toward those who have hurt us.
It is important to note that just because we choose to forgive does not mean that we forget. Nor does it mean that we are excusing the behavior. There are certain people who may never have a place in our life again as a result of their actions. This is especially true in cases of abuse. We have the right to choose our boundaries in the interest of protecting our well-being.
It is not only others that we may need to forgive, but ourselves as well. We may feel the need to punish ourselves for mistakes we have made or hurt we have caused. We may not even feel deserving of happiness at all. We can’t change the past, and continuing to punish ourselves does not right the wrong and serves no productive purpose. All we can do is make amends, learn from our mistakes, and make a commitment to do better moving forward.
Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change. It helps us to move away from our role as a victim and releases the control and power the offending person has had in our life. If you are tired of living with anger and resentment, psychotherapy can help you through the process of grieving and letting go of the past, and begin the journey toward healing.