Have you ever found yourself driving down a dark desert highway, losing yourself in the mysterious groove of “Hotel California” by The Eagles? With such a great melody, some of the best lyrics may slip by unnoticed. Especially “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device.” There is no one way to interpret a good lyric, but this line elegantly tells you that you are the sole guardian of your emotions.
It’s inevitable that we’ll come across people who don’t treat us exactly the way we’d like. It could be the one who cuts you off in traffic or the one who made a snide comment about how your shoes don’t match your scarf.
On a bad day, it could feel like the whole world is against you. These moments sneak up on you when you least expect it. Then, in that swift second, the rainbow skies you were skipping under suddenly and rapidly turn into dark clouds of a looming thunderstorm.
There are countless moments people out there could rub you the wrong way. The bad news is, try as we may, we’re unable to influence or modify their behavior. The good news is, our reaction to them is entirely in our hands.
Whenever a person wrongs you, particularly if it was unprovoked, it’s easy to take on self-righteous anger. Being angry and resentful at that moment would feel completely justified. Odd as it may seem, feeling the height of such anger is not necessarily a bad thing. Anger and forgiveness are two sides of the same coin.
The sincerity and strength of forgiveness lies in anger. The one who feels happiest also feels deepest sorrow, and the one who has the capacity for anger has the power to be forgiving.
The act of transcending anger and moving into a place of forgiveness allows us to extract the peace within painful circumstances. Yes, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. It isn’t something you do for someone else. It is an experience you afford your own self; to discover peace within you, which can neither be brought about nor prevented by another.
Contrary to popular belief, choosing to just forget about it or let it go does not equal forgiveness. It does more harm than good to forget a hurt without processing it. This can lead to you suppressing your anger, which may resurface at a later time in a much more uncontrollable manner. Forgiveness is a real task, but it is worth every effort. A plant dies when you pull it out by its roots. Take the time to search and look for the roots of your anger and resentment. When you find it, you’ll be free.
Don’t allow resentment to permanently reside in your heart. Often we hold onto the hurt and constantly relive the story of what’s happened. By focusing on what’s happened to you, you’re only keeping yourself in victim mode, open and susceptible to the weight of bitterness. Why not instead empower yourself, and ask yourself whether it is worth spending more effort on this particular matter? If the answer is no, then all is forgiven. Remember, forgiveness is not surrender. It isn’t a path taken by the weak; rather, it is a conscious effort to stop harboring resentment. If anything, it makes you more powerful.
Sometimes, to make your journey of forgiveness easier, it helps to understand where the other person is coming from. Most of the time, people hurt others because they are hurting in some way. When a person is hurting on the inside, it can blind them to the real effects of their action, making them act out of character. Of course, this doesn’t excuse their behavior by any means, but it makes it much easier to process an offense. After all, we’re all human and no one’s perfect.
It helps also sometimes to realize that we ourselves have also unintentionally or otherwise harmed another at some point. Perhaps not exactly in the same way, or extent, but at one time or another we have surely inflicted pain on a loved one. Relish the forgiveness you have been afforded in such times, and pass on the act of kindness.
On your path there is really no need to keep any accounts. Allow every person’s positive or negative consequences to be received through their own journey. Vengeance is not yours to deliver. Seeking revenge can consume your life. Live each moment to its fullest, with joy, and move on once the moment’s passed. The man who is himself, unburdened of the past, can react to every moment spontaneously, for he is completely himself!
Forgiveness, like every other art, takes time to develop, sometimes even years. But when mastered well, it can swiftly free us from being prisoners of the past to liberated people at peace with our memories.
Forgiveness image available from Shutterstock