Forgiveness: Letting Go of Anger, Resentment and Bitterness
The whole concept of forgiveness sounds like a huge cliché doesn’t it? Somehow, by some stroke of magic, forgiving someone, who has done you a terrible wrong, is supposed to make you feel better. That sentiment has always sounded a little ridiculous to me.
We’re probably all familiar with Buddha’s famous quote, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
That sounds logical in principal, but the reality of giving someone a free pass after they hurt you, just doesn’t sit well with a lot of us. It’s like saying, “You know what – it’s all good. Don’t worry about it. It’s just my feelings, my life, my self-esteem and my heart that you crushed – but hey – no biggie.” I would equate that with the doormat-like behavior I’ve fought so hard to get away from.
Forgiveness just doesn’t seem to give a sense of empowerment. The whole idea of it makes a lot of people mad, because you know what? Hurting me – is a big deal – it’s not all good – and there should be some sort of universal justice that holds people accountable.
We all want justice and we all want to feel like we matter, that our feelings matter. And somehow letting go of it seems like we’re letting someone off of the hook.
When we’ve been victimized our anger is necessary. Anger kind of gets a bad rap, but it can be a good thing, for example, when it’s used to fuel you out of a bad situation, or emotional headspace – when it’s the fuel of your indignation or dissatisfaction, it can be very powerful and uplifting. Anger is good when it fuels change.
For a long time I believed that my anger and resentment kept me safe and in control. It was a shield that protected me and told anyone bent on doing me harm, that I wasn’t ever going to be anyone’s victim again. It kept me strong and it was a constant reminder that I would never again be that pathetic, emotionally weak girl that nobody loved. With it, I felt powerful, like I stood in the face of all adversity and said, “Come on, do your worst,” It gave me that Grrrrrr. It was my inner warrior and allowed me to battle through any challenge and go toe to toe with my fear. It made me feel invincible.
As time went on, that strength that my anger had given me, became a part of me. I began to realize that I didn’t need my anger anymore. The truth was, my anger had become a coping mechanism. It was my protection and when situations came up that would trigger my fears, or past hurts – my armor clicked on instantly. If a man tried to get close, out came the shield. My dates started to go like this:
Guy: Hello I’m Jack.
Me: Hi Jack, I’m Savannah and just so you know – you can’t hurt me. I will never let you hurt me, because I’ll never let you get close enough. My past has taught me, not to trust anyone, that people hurt you and that I have to look out for number one. So sorry, this is not going to end well – for you.
“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger. ” ~Buddha
As I concentrated on getting emotionally healthier, I became increasingly aware of the damage that was done to me, throughout my life. I was angry at my dad, for dying and leaving me when I was so young. I was angry at my mom, for making me feel broken, flawed and never good enough, I was angry at my ex Narcissist for destroying whatever was left of me. I had a lot of resentment and anger stored up inside of me and I was afraid that if I let that go then I would be open for more abuse and besides – how could I forgive them. They didn’t deserve my forgiveness – they deserved to hurt, like I hurt, because they caused it.
Don’t Touch My Thorn
I’m embarrassed to say, that when I watch movies, or see shows where a father dies, or is killed and he leaves a young child behind, I’m a mess. I can’t even watch the Lion King. I mean, I get that thing, whatever it is, in my throat, I can’t breathe, my heart just hurts and tears are running down my face. I try to keep really quiet, so no one notices, but it happens pretty much, every time. I suppose it takes me back to that moment when I knew my dad was never coming back. I’m that little girl all over again. I never grieved properly for my dad. I never dealt with it at all. I just tucked it away and soldiered on. But it comes up every time a similar event happens and it gets triggered.
The same thing happens when I see a child experience success and their parents are there and they’re telling them how proud they are. I never heard anything like that growing up. My parents never went to any of my graduations, elementary school, high-school or University. I never got an, I love you, a good for you, or an, I’m so proud of you, never – not once and every time I see that…. It triggers my hurt and my resentment and my emotions bubble up.
And dating…I learned to never let anyone get close to me. I was suspicious of every guy that wanted to be with me. As they tried to get closer, they’d be hitting my panic button. I’d feel like that weak, helpless girl that my Narcissist left, and all I could see was the new relationship turning into the same relationship with my Narcissist and I was never going to let that happen again.
What I learned from all this, is that if we don’t deal with our shit – it doesn’t go away – it remains stuck in us, until we release it. When we close our hearts to keep us safe, it traps our hurt inside of us. If we don’t get rid of it, it will pop up every time a similar situation comes up and triggers it.
I read a great analogy by Michael A. Singer, in his book, The Untethered Soul:
Imagine that you have a thorn in your arm that directly touches a nerve. When the thorn is touched, it’s painful. Because it hurts so much, the thorn is a serious problem. It’s difficult to sleep, because you roll over on it. It’s hard to get close to people, because they might touch it. It makes your daily life very difficult. You can’t even go for a walk in the woods, because you might brush the thorn against the branches. This thorn is a constant source of disturbance and to solve the problem you only have two choices.
The first choice is to look at your situation and decide that since it’s so disturbing when things touch the thorn, you need to make sure that nothing touches it. The second choice is to decide that since it’s so disturbing when things touch it, you need to take it out. The effects of the choice you make will determine the course of the rest of your life.
Most people walk through their lives just trying to figure out the best way to protect themselves from pain, they never even ask the question, ‘How do I get rid of it?’ The answer is so obvious and it’s has been hiding in plain sight this whole time. We get rid of anger, resentment, bitterness, and pain through forgiveness.
“You Can Have a Grievance, or You Can Have a Miracle, But You Can’t Have Both.” – Marianne Williamson
One of my favorite author’s Marianne Williamson, was on Oprah’s super soul Sunday last week. She is the best-selling author of the book, A Return to Love. In the interview the author discussed the concept behind, what she called, Divine Compensation. She said that when someone causes you harm – the universe gets right on that. She claims that God holds in trust for us the entirety of our true potential, but if our hearts are not open – if we have closed them because we are angry and bitter, we will not be able to receive the divine gifts the universe has for us.
This may sound a little too New Agy for many of you, but it does make sense even from a logical perspective. If I’m focused on my hurt and anger and the need to protect myself and a great guy comes my way, because my heart is not open, I will repel any new and healthy relationship, until I shift my perception from fear to love.
Author of Journey of Souls, Michael Newton, believes that we choose our lives before we carnate into our physical bodies. He claims, we choose our parents, our circumstances and that we even make arrangements with others in the spirit world to cause us pain in the physical world, so that we may learn, what we came here to learn and so that we will wake up spiritually in the physical world. He believes that the older and more experienced the soul, the harder and more painful the lessons to be learned.
While that concept may be hard to wrap your head around, it does certainly make holding a grudge a colossal waste of time.
Letting it all go
Some time ago I had come to the realization that it was time to let go of my anger. It had served me well, but it was now holding me back. I hesitate putting this in here, because it honestly sounds pretty lame, but I know a lot of people will be asking, “How do I let go of my anger?” And the results that I got where pretty amazing.
I’m going to preface everything by saying I’m not into rituals– I think they’re lame. I don’t know anything about crystals other than they are pretty, but here’s how I came to a place of forgiveness. You by no means have to do any of this, this is just what I did and it worked for me.
I lit 3 white candles and placed them on a table – why – because my favorite author Wayne Dyer says before he writes he lights 3 white candles.
I placed a clear crystal and a smoky crystal on the table. Why – they are supposed to do something with the energy- I think clear gives positive energy and smoky sucks in bad energy.
I placed a picture on the table of everyone that I held resentment towards.
I lit white sage and cleansed myself in the purifying smoke.
One by one, I picked up each picture and looked directly into their eyes and I had a really good conversation with each person. I told each one why I was angry with them, that they hurt me, and I told them about all the pain that they had caused me. I cried and I sat with the pain. I felt it in my heart and I just let myself feel it. I tried to be empathetic and to understand why they did what they did to me. I somehow came to the understanding that each one did the best they could, with the tools that they had. I then looked at all of the things that each one had taught me and I began to see that they were all necessary for my growth and development. I told them that I forgave them. I was breathing deeply and I let the pain flow through me and out of my heart.
I then brought my emotions to a happy place and I exuded love and joy and wished them well.
And once I was finished I said a prayer and I asked God and the Universe to take this burden from me and then I went to bed. The next day I reached for my resentment and it wasn’t there. I felt different, lighter, freer, more peaceful and happier. Periodically, I still test myself to feel if it’s there. But it’s gone. It has left me entirely and try as I might I can’t even access it.
We are all at different stages in our journey, for many, anger and resentment are the catalysts that allow us to get away from abuse. Anger protects and makes us feel safe. But eventually, when it has served its purpose, there will come a time when you have to let it go.
Oprah Winfrey once said, “The sign of true forgiveness is when you stop wishing it had been any other way.”
I don’t recommend radical forgiveness for people who are just out of their abusive relationships. I think it takes time and the need to protect yourself, at that moment, is greater than the need to forgive. As you work through the stages and you are well on your journey towards healing and when you do reach the place where you wouldn’t change it, regardless of how awful it was – then I think you are ready to let go of your anger, resentment and bitterness. Only when you are liberated from it and it’s all behind you, are you truly free and ready for whatever comes next, with no strings tying you to your past.
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See the link below for clips of Marianne Williamson on Oprah.