Originally featured on Sipping Sunshine as How I Learned to Let Ish Go During My Season of Forgiveness September 18, 2019
It is funny how life will humble you. I was 27 years old and had been jobless for three years after receiving my bachelor’s degree. Everything was moving around me, yet I stayed stuck and stagnant.
Growing up, I was very set in my ways. I angered easily, I held grudges, and I was stubborn. What I experienced was primarily internal though it reared its ugly head through conversations. Broken hearts and wounded spirits were drawn to me. We feasted on each other’s misery. Many times, people would feel extreme ends of our wrath whether it was warranted or not. I grew tired and something had to change. What had to change was me.
I began my process of change prior to facing a few back-to-back challenges. Late June 2018, I had my last argument about nothing in a toxic friendship. In the next ten minutes, another friend told me they were in mental distress. I cried. Within the hour, I continued to be strung along about a job opportunity. Within two weeks, two people I went to grade school with were murdered within days of each other. Riled and emotional, I needed to change my way of thinking and could use some positivity. July 2018, I made a pledge to myself to get right and unpack all my emotional baggage before I turned 30. I no longer wanted to hold on to things I could not control. I no longer wanted to sit in sadness. Frustrated, I wanted clarity and purpose. I had to let go and forgive.
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is best described by John Kornfield, an author and American Theravada Buddhism practitioner. In his talk Dr. Kornfield, he states, “Forgiveness is…the capacity to let go, to release the suffering, the sorrows, the burdens of the pains and betrayals of the past…”
Forgiveness does not mean you have to be forgiven nor does it mean you will receive an apology. It is ridding yourself of that constant replay of trauma. Forgiveness is understanding you will be okay in spite of it. By no longer punishing yourself for what has transpired, it lessens its impact on your life.
What does forgiveness look like?
Through my research, I have discovered four types of forgiveness: of yourself, of others, those who seek, and from God (or your higher power). Of the four, my focus has been forgiveness of myself and forgiveness of others.
Coupled with these types are a few methods of forgiving: not saying something, saying something, and praying on it. The method I choose to employ is dependent upon the person or situation I am working on. Not all trauma or experiences can be settled through words. Oftentimes, it is just about internally dealing with the situation and absolving yourself of the pain. Sometimes you have to just get it out, be it through sending a message or having a face-to-face. Then there are times where you cannot vocalize what it is, so you simply pray.
“Sis, what did you do?”
In my season of forgiveness, I had to relish in vulnerability and accountability. Vulnerable about how I have felt in the past, vocalizing what I feel, and being honest moving forward. Being accountable for my reactions and holding people accountable for the ways they make me feel in that moment. Firmly understanding what vulnerability and accountability looks like for me prevents any festering. Without vulnerability and accountability, I am doing a disservice to myself. I make it sound easy, but it is not.
I combed over my life, thinking about the impact people had. Growing up in the inner-city has presented its own set of obstacles. People do not realize just how impactful it can be to your development. Recognizing this, I made a choice to forgive people who have done me harm in adolescence, even harm I manufactured in my own head.
Not knowing what to do, I began writing letters. Pouring out, I forgave people for what they have done to me. I recognized how my own behavior may have impacted them, and I recognized the spaces we both were in during that time. I made peace with my reactions to their actions. True to nature, I have only ever gotten around to sending out one of those letters. Another I never sent because we “talked” it through. There is still a sense of nervousness about being raw and potentially opening old wounds or closed doors.
“And this worked?”
Sort of. It would not be honest of me if I did not state I am not completely there. I still harbor some resentment for certain people and certain situations. I am unsure if I will ever come to a place of forgiveness for those things. The impact is too great.
However, through this season I have made plenty of changes. My conversations are different. My interactions with people are different. I remove myself from anything that revels in mess. I am more honest about the ways I feel and try to be an external emoter.
If my way does not work for you, the important takeaway is to change the behavior that may have allowed for the trauma, pain, situations, or issues to fester. There is a life outside of trauma and forgiveness in whatever form is the first step. While easy, you don’t want to harbor or keep space for things that cause you pain. Forgiveness is essential for clearing that out and making room for the things you want in life. Let your season of forgiveness unfold.