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The Fine Art of Forgiveness


“Resentment is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

People hurt us. It’s that simple. No matter how hard we work to surround ourselves with loving, supportive family and friends… inevitably someone will blindside us with their heartlessness, crushing us and leaving us with the daunting task of forgiving them.


When someone hurts us, forgiveness is the last thing we want to offer; it seems so much easier to stay mad, to talk negatively about them, to try to validate our pain by expressing it over and over to anyone who will listen. But, as with any type of painful experience, these actions only cause us to hurt again and again, perpetuating the pain.


Just like painting, there is an art to forgiveness, and it comes more naturally to some people than others. I, for one, break out in a sweat at the mere thought of having to draw or paint anything, and a lot of the time I don’t feel I’m a whole lot better at forgiving.


But when someone hurts us, deep down we know we need to find a way to forgive them – not just for their benefit, but also for our own.

“Forgive others. Not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”

We can’t force forgiveness, and we can’t necessarily control the timeline, but if we confront the situation with intention and direction, we might just discover that we are more talented at the art of forgiveness than we realize.


This is what I have learned, and am continuing to learn, about the fine art of forgiveness.

Feel the Pain


For me, the first step toward forgiveness is allowing myself to hurt, to be angry, to feel every emotion – the ones that make me cry or scream or come close to throwing up (or all 3 at once!) instead of trying to stuff the feelings and act like I’m “fine.”


We need to know in our hearts that our emotions are a natural reaction to being betrayed by someone we care for. AND THAT'S OK!


We can beat the crap out of our pillow, scream in the shower, run until our lungs burn or simply go for a quiet walk in the woods and let the tears fall.


As much as it hurts, this nauseating pain and anger actually serve a purpose – We have to go through these intense emotions in order to clear the sadness and fill the hole the betrayal left in our heart… until we can find a way to fill it for ourselves.


We may have to do this a thousand times, but the key is that we do it, over and over, until the urge to throw up has lessened to a more manageable level and we can begin to see the situation more clearly.

Find the Lesson


In my experience, every single betrayal or hurt has brought new perspective to my life, a lesson I needed to learn.


Most likely, if you think about the times you’ve been hurt, you'll find this to be true – Whether a lesson about the types of people we want in our life, a lesson about our own strength, or something that has opened our heart to gratitude… there is always a lesson.


And in a way, the deeper the hurt, the bigger the lesson, and the more it “sticks.”

In realizing this, we can see how this pain has served a purpose in our lives and in our growth.


I am grateful for every person who has ever hurt me, because I love the person I have become as a result. In a strange way, each betrayal has been a gift for which I am grateful, and it is gratitude that ultimately allows us to feel love.


But when someone betrays us, love is usually the FURTHEST thing from our hearts. So how do we get there?

Fake It 'Til You Make It


Allowing ourselves to feel the pain and finding the lesson will help, but chances are, when we think of the person who hurt us, negative emotions and thoughts will still crop up, possibly for a very long time.


It’s what we do at this point that matters.


We can continue to feel terrible when we think of this person, or we can intentionally replace these negative thoughts with a wish or a prayer for their happiness.


I know it sounds impossible, and it IS difficult, especially at first, because when someone hurts us so deeply, the LAST thing we want is for THEM to be happy. They made us miserable, so why should THEY get to be happy?!


But remember this saying?


“Resentment is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die.”


The truth is, we will not find peace until we can genuinely let go of the resentment and wish them well, from a place of love.


This is where the “fake it ‘til you make it” trick comes in.


When I think of the people in my life who have hurt me the worst, I often still feel the sadness, but I try my best to picture them in my mind and smile (a very forced smile sometimes) and send them love. It ABSOLUTELY feels like I’m faking it, but I do it, every single time I think of them.


Because I believe that sending them love will heal my wounds… eventually.


And hopefully someday I will get to the point where I truly do feel love in my heart again when they come to my mind.

Focus on Love


Yes, it sounds cliché, but love never fails.


Loving doesn’t mean we let the person hurt us again. In fact, the betrayal might be so severe that we have to separate ourselves from the person in order to protect ourselves physically or emotionally.


I've had to make this choice a couple times in my life. But even in these cases, and perhaps MORE so in these cases, forgiveness is critical.


Once we have allowed ourselves to feel all the hurt and anger and resentment, whether this takes weeks, months, or even years, eventually we bring our focus back to love – faking it if we have to, until it comes naturally – practicing and honing our forgiveness skills until the end result is a work of art that sets us free from the bondage of anger and pain and resentment, and we can finally let it go and live… and love.


Because ultimately, love is the final brush stroke in the masterpiece of forgiveness… and the only way to truly be free.


Much love,

Jen

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