I’m a pretty sensitive person. I cry during romantic movies, get teary eyed when I’m frustrated, and criticism often brings extreme anxiety. If we ever have a conversation, I’ll remember most of the things you said, all of your facial expressions when you said it, but most of all, everything you do to me, including how you make me feel when you do it. Even if it’s as simple as you smirking after I ask you how my hair looks.
HOLDING ON CAN BE A MEANS OF PROTECTION
Petty, I know, but I’ve accepted the fact that this is how I was created (God only knows why) and I’m a highly sensitive introvert – an INFJ to be exact, one of the most rare personality types. I’m intuitive, very connected with my feelings and can tell you things about yourself that you don’t even know or realize. This is me, and I love me, but sometimes I get in the way of me.
What I mean is that since I feel so much and remember so much, forgiveness can be SSOO difficult! I mean, I remember things for the daunting task of creating a complete picture of who others are (with a bit of room for them to show me something different), but I also remember things to protect myself, as a defense mechanism against more pain, the fear of future pain.
NOT FORGIVING IS CHOOSING TO BE MISERABLE
This is where it gets real – real tough, real dark, real overwhelming. Holding on to all of this isn’t healthy – mentally, spiritually, physically or emotionally. It weighs heavy on the mind, body and soul, and it isn’t worth it. So how do you forgive and let go? It isn’t simple, but with compassion, dedication and love – pure, unconditional love – it can be done.
I LEARNED TO FORGIVE BY LOSING A LOVED ONE
For me, the beginning of my journey to forgiveness started with therapy. In May of last year, my favorite uncle, who was the one person in the world that I could tell everything, anything without judgment, who supported me, who understood me, loved me unconditionally and believed in me, died suddenly. To say that I was devastated is an understatement, especially since it had been a few months, maybe even a year since we had spoken.
You see, my uncle was mentally ill, and over the past few years, his illness got worse. He was less like himself and more like a stranger. He could be mean, he was aggressively paranoid, mean-spirited and it really hurt my feelings. He wasn’t the man I knew and loved, and it isn’t how I wanted to remember him. So I distanced myself from him, based on the way he treated me, and I did what I (thought I) had to do to “protect myself”.
I never thought that he would leave this earth at 51 years old. I never thought that I would have to say goodbye so soon. I wasn’t ready for this moment, and somehow I needed to move on, to live life without his presence, an oh-so-loving presence.
I struggled for weeks to get back on track, and I wasn’t the same. I’m still not the same. I was distracted at work, it was difficult for me to focus on the things that I wanted and planned to do before he died (we planned to write a book together among other things). I had written an apology letter to him in my journal, wrote all of the things that I wished I could have said or should have said, but I was having a difficult time pushing through it.
HOW THERAPY OPENED A NEW CHAPTER OF LIFE
At a friend’s suggestion, I started therapy, and learned a lot; about the grieving process, about life and love, about myself. I needed to not only forgive my uncle, but I had a host of other people, events, comments, and transgressions to forgive, going all the way back to elementary school. Now that was a lot!
Part of my difficulty in forgiving was this: Me choosing or accepting others’ imperfections, or that other people are imperfect forced me to realize and accept that I am also imperfect. So my first step in getting over this was accepting the fact that no one, no person, no human roaming this earth is perfect – Jesus was the only one.
The first person that I had to forgive was myself – for letting my feelings get in the way of my relationship with my uncle, for not allowing my heart to let it go.
WHY SHOULD WE FORGIVE?
God says that if we do not forgive others (choose not to forgive others, or try) then He won’t forgive us.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)
A process. It is more than often not immediate, and sometimes requires a repeated commitment to do so.
A gift; “for” we “give” mercy, grace, love, compassion and the opportunity for redemption to others; just as God has gifted them to us.
As John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”. Why not be an example of love in the way God loves us? We forgive so that we can share, offer and impart something to ourselves and others. Forgiveness is love in action, in decision.
In forgiving you will never forget, but you can dissolve the emotions and burdens that come with what hurt you. However, to do this, you MUST go through, experience, express and process all of these emotions, one by one, intentionally.
Forgiving frees us to be open and willing to accept love; open and willing to interact with others without fear and anxiety; because we know that God will care for and take care of us through it all.
Forgiving creates a filter for us to protect ourselves instead of building a wall around our hearts.
I am stronger, not so easily offended, nor do I take things personally. However, I’m still sensitive, still in touch with my feelings and intuition.
For me, forgiveness was a journey, one that has changed the trajectory of my life.
What and who do you need to forgive? How will your life change after doing so?
Do you need help forgiving others? Do you want to know what forgiveness looks like?
If so, check out my post How to Forgive and Know That You’ve Forgiven, where I outline the seven steps I took to forgive including the things that helped me confirm whether I had truly forgiven.
Be loved. Love you. Be love.
*Photo Credit: Brown Girl Bloggers