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The Reasons Why You Feel It’s Difficult To Forgive

The Reasons Why You Feel It’s Difficult To Forgive

If you heard that it was possible to forgive someone in an instant and let go of long-held anger and resentment, you would probably be skeptical. It would be hard to believe because you’ve dealt with those feelings all of your life and you know how long they can linger. But what you may not realize is that there are reliable, predictable and teachable components to the forgiveness process–and they have nothing to do with the person who hurt you. They’re all about you and the story you tell yourself.

Let’s try an experiment. Think of two people in your life: Someone who made you angry but you’ve since forgiven and still like and someone who has hurt you that you don’t like and haven’t forgiven.  After identifying these two people, think of them at the same time.  As you see them in your mind’s eye, notice how you represent them differently.

First, look at your mental pictures. One image might be larger, brighter, farther away, or in a different location, etc.

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Second, take note of any sounds associated with these two people. Are there voices with one image and not with the other? Do you notice a difference in volume or quality of sound?

Lastly, notice the differences in your feelings as you think about these two people. Do you have a hot or cold sensation with one or both of them? Do you notice a smoothness or roughness associated with either person?

After you have made a mental note of the differences in how you represent each person, swap the locations and pictures of these two people and notice how your feelings change in response to this.

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People who have done the above experiment often report feeling uncomfortable, unsafe and want to rearrange the images and sounds back to their original locations. The reasons for this response are the same reasons people find it difficult to forgive quickly. You have legitimate objections that must be satisfied before you would be willing to forgive the offending person and you would need to feel safe and comfortable with your decision to forgive.  

Here are some common objections to forgiving others and a “hack” to get around them.

They don’t deserve to be forgiven! This may be true but forgiveness is not for the other person, it’s for you, so that you can live in your body comfortably and according to your highest values.

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Revenge is sweet! Some people feel that when they get hurt they become less of who they once were.  It’s assumed that getting even will build them back up again, both in their eyes and the eyes of their friends and family. Simply put, people want revenge so they can feel good about themselves again. But getting even every time someone hurts you keeps you enslaved to other people’s whims and bad behaviors. There are many more powerful ways of feeling good about yourself that’s not dependent on hurting other people who’ve hurt you.

I can’t forgive or I’ll be unsafe. Forgive and remember. Remember what happened to you, so that you remain alert to similar situations in the future in order to keep yourself safe. Instead of feeling angry and resentful, forgive the person so that you can focus on being strong and staying in touch with your choices and resources.

Forgiving them means giving permission to keep doing it.  Yes, the offender needs to know what they did was wrong. That message needs to be clear but anger tends to muddy that message. When we speak with anger, the other person we’re trying to relay the message to becomes defensive and stops listening.  Being able to communicate calmly and effectively puts you in the driver’s seat, enabling you to deliver a powerful message.

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After dealing with your objections to forgiving someone who hurt you, try swapping the mental images of the two people again. How do you feel about the person who hurt you this time? If something still isn’t quite right, you may have more objections that need to be dealt with.

Feelings like anger and resentment become our allies when we pay attention to the message they are sending us; to value ourselves by stopping mistreatment and setting clear boundaries. Once we realize that forgiving others really depends on satisfying our objections, we can easily and safely let go of the “negative” emotions and realign with our values and resources.

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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