“Forgiveness is an act of consciousness”. A sentence so short spoke so loudly to me as I sipped my morning tea. The phrase was written on the tag of the tea bag and I almost missed it as I hurried through my morning tasks. After taking time to reflect on the magnitude of the statement, I started to think about the role forgiveness has played in my life. I’ve struggled with forgiving others and myself and have had difficulties moving forward without hatred in my heart for those who hurt me in the past. As I turned 30 years old, a milestone to some women, I vowed to continue my journey of self-healing and meaningful change. Learning how to forgive and how to truly move past the pain has had the greatest impact on that journey.
Consciousness refers to your individual awareness of your unique thoughts, memories, feelings, senses, and environment. Consciousness is being aware of something within oneself. Before we can even get to the point of forgiveness, we must first acknowledge the hurt going on inside of us. Sometimes we even have to realize that our feelings of anger and disappointment towards others are really hurt, at its core. We also have to be honest with ourselves and realize that those closest to us have the ability to hurt us more than anyone else. Additionally, we have to be able to self-forgive so we can improve our self-esteem and adequately address any feelings of guilt and shame we may have experienced. When we are consciously equipped with that knowledge, we can move toward forgiveness and life beyond the pain of yesterday.
In my quest to learn how to forgive others, and myself, I quickly learned that forgiveness is a process and encompasses more than simply saying, “I forgive you”. I ignorantly desired “instant forgive and forget,” but realized that for me, forgiveness occurs on a spectrum. Most things are forgivable, but not all are forgettable. For instance, for a long time, I’ve held animosity in my heart against my biological mother for making choices that negatively impacted my siblings and I. When I started to forgive her, I learned that I still needed to have time away from her and interact within limitations and boundaries. I’ve forgiven her, but consciously ensure she doesn’t have a chance to hurt me again.
Another truth I had to face was that an apology would not always precede my forgiveness, and often I had to forgive, without receiving one. This remains the most difficult part of forgiveness for me. I battle with knowing that I have to forgive others for myself, not for them. I have trouble accepting that there won’t always be atonement or acknowledgment for the wrongs done against us. In order to truly forgive, we have to learn to first come to terms with that fact and let go of the anger and hate we often keep inside. Too often we go through life holding grudges against people, when it really only adds to the emotional burden we carry ourselves. Forgiveness is more about us than it is about the people who offend/hurt/wrong us. We have so often been hurt or endured intense pain that we carry the burden of hate with us as we navigate each day. It is one of the most important lessons we must learn in life if we want to be happy; forgiveness is an act of consciousness, a purposeful process, and a place of peace.