About forgiveness. How to forgive and to let go.

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About forgiveness. How to forgive and to let go.

Each of us, regardless of age and experience, has been faced with situations when people have hurt us. Some of us had more situations like this in their lives, some had less, and each of us has his or her own story to tell. But one thing in common, everyone knows how it feels to be offended and hurt. The pain often lives within us for many years, strongly poisoning our life. A prolonged exposure of the body to this powerful and destructive emotion may cause significant harm to our health from low mood and self-esteem, feelings of guilt and helplessness, to depression, psychosomatic illness and even a variety of malignancies. That is why it is very important to learn to forgive, to be released from the negative that happened in your life and thus make room for positive emotions and feelings, and for the happy events in life.


The importance of forgiveness is further reinforced by various religions, spiritual teachers and psychologists. They all agree on one thing – if the negative situation happened in a person's life, it did not happen for no reason. This means that, for some reason, you need to go through this difficult and painful lesson, learn to love regardless of the circumstances, learn to forgive and to change something in yourself. For example, often when women fall victims of abuse of the men in their lives, it is a sign that a woman does not love herself enough, or is so immersed in taking care of others, that she completely loses her true self, or feels a subconscious aggression to men.


Forgiveness is not an easy task. To forgive, you must almost always relive the pain that has been inflicted upon you once. Letting go and forgiving is not an immediate action and takes a long time. However, the result that you will achieve is worth it. You will feel more free and light, and life will sparkle with new colors. When there are no hard feelings within us, the heart makes room for the creative energy of love. The person radiates from the inside, making it noticeable to all around. If we are able to accept and forgive, people around us and we ourselves feel much more comfortable and at ease. 


Before you begin the process of forgiveness, using one of the many techniques of forgiveness, I recommend to do the following steps. First – try to understand that no matter how painful and hard it may be for us, the situation provides much to learn. The strong emotions and feelings that we have been hurt by someone prevent us from understanding that whatever has happened to us has a deep meaning and gives us an opportunity to become better and qualitatively change something in our lives by overcoming this hardship. Second – try to remember all of your “offenders”, make a list and select among them those who you associate with the most intense emotions. You will have two groups of people, but you decide which list you will work with first: some find it easier to get rid of holding a grudge against the minor “offenders” and then move on to the stronger and more painful, some prefer to do the opposite. Forgiveness and letting go work towards people in your current life as well as ghosts from the past that prevent you from living in the present.


Starting to work with forgiveness, I often tell a story about a student coming for advice to a wise Chinese man:


– You are so wise. You're always in a good mood, never angry. Help me to become like you! 


The teacher agreed and asked the student to bring a sack and some potatoes. 


– When you're angry with someone and you harbor a grudge, – said the teacher – then take a potato. On one side write your name, on the other side write the name of the other person with whom there was a conflict, and put the potato in your sack.

– And that’s all? – Asked the puzzled student. 


– No, – replied the teacher. You should always carry this sack with you. And every time someone hurts you, put a new potato in it. 


The student agreed. Some time passed. The student’s sack has already become quite heavy. It became very uncomfortable to carry. In addition, the potatoes, that were put in the sack first, began to rot. They were covered with slime, some sprouted, and began to smell badly. 


The student came to the teacher and said: 


– It is no longer possible to carry this sack. Firstly, the sack is too heavy, and secondly, the potatoes are rotting and stink.


And so the moral of the story is that in order to be happy you must learn to forgive and let go of the pain from your past same like you would throw away the rotten potatoes.


Do you need to carry a sack of rotten potatoes with you? The answer is of course no.


Feeling offended and hurt destroys you from the inside, constantly returning you to the traumatic situation, making you relive it in the role of a victim over and over again.


Often people use their grievances as an excuse for their present situation and for not taking action to resolve the difficult situation. For example, I have been cheated – so I will not try to build a relationship  with anyone else, or I have been betrayed by a business partner – so I will no longer try to develop my business. 


Thus, forgiveness – is a decision to stop suffering any further,  and forgiveness – is a decision to let go of the role of a victim.


We get hurt mostly when the events happening in our lives, do not coincide with our expectations or with what we consider to be “proper” or “right”.


The  right parents – are the loving parents, the right friends – are those who do not betray, the right loved ones – are the ones who are always with us.


And what if not? If the situation did not meet my expectations, maybe I am to blame? I am the wrong child, friend, loved one? Maybe the reason is in me?


And so this guilt and the grievance become a part of the personality.


Forgiveness allows us to complete the cycle of pain, to say goodbye to being a victim …


Forgiveness – is a movement towards a new and better life, while carrying with us the experience from this painful situation..


When you analyze what offended you, stop asking "why?" instead ask yourself the question “what is the purpose?”


"Why was I given this situation, why did I have to meet this person, what is the lesson I had to learn from this experience?"


The past – is our treasure, our experience, whatever it has been. We need to extract from it all the value it has to offer, be grateful for the experience, and understand why this experience was necessary for us…


Hold on to the experience, but let go of the pain and forgive the person who was the instrument in bringing you this pain. Whoever it was – they just played a role in your life that helped you develop and move on to the next level. And if you say they don’t deserve to be forgiven remember you aren’t forgiving them because they deserve it; you are forgiving them because you deserve it.  


With best wishes of happiness and health in the New Year! Let the new year be the year of forgiveness and letting go of pain and grievances.



Veronica Semenova, Ph.D.

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