*As seen in The Voice of Southwest Louisiana

“For only after forgiveness can we begin to heal and prosper.”

On December 31st, 2014, I shared a Facebook post encouraging us all to forgive those who have hurt or offended us in 2014 in order to enter 2015 with a fresh start. I received several comments from people who genuinely would like to forgive but who did not know how or even why they should bother doing so.

I understand that for many of us the knee-jerk response to an offense is to put up our defenses and/or lash out in kind. Very few of us default into an attitude of grace, compassion, or understanding when someone has dared to hurt or offend us. I would submit, however, this may be due in large part to a misunderstanding of what forgiveness is and why it is so important for us to begin to consciously practice. Many people believe that forgiveness is the equivalent of granting our offender a pardon, a free pass, that to just let it go is somehow excuse, if not condone, the action or behavior. But this is not at all the case. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” Forgiveness is a constant attitude that begins with making the CHOICE to forgive—it’s really just that simple. What may be so difficult is making that choice in light of the hurt and pain, and I get it, I really do (been there, done that, repeatedly). But, if we can step into a place where we observe the offending act, observe the resulting emotional pain and then consciously choose to release the pain and release the offender, we are actually showing ourselves a huge act of self-love. Extending forgiveness has nothing to do with the offender and has everything to do with who you are and what you choose to experience in your life.

“Forgiveness is a reflection of loving yourself enough to move on.” —Dr. Steve Maraboli

Gritting our teeth and clenching our fists in order to so tightly hold on to the resulting pain, anger and bitterness from the thoughtless and even malicious words or acts of another has zero affect on the offender, but may result in tremendous adverse health effects for us. Why would we ever knowingly do this to ourselves? According to the Mayo Clinic, “Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace. Forgiveness can lead to healthier relationships, greater spiritual and psychological well-being, less anxiety, stress and hostility, lower blood pressure, fewer symptoms of depression, stronger immune system, improved heart health, and higher self-esteem.”

If you are interested in extending forgiveness but have no idea where to begin, the following is a mini-process that may help get your started on the right track.

Three Steps to Letting Go & Letting Love

  1. Set the intention to forgive by declaring, “Today I choose to forgive ______.”
  2. Take three deep breaths in and out.
  3. Visualize yourself holding all the pain, anger, bitterness and resentment in your cupped hands. Visualize these dense emotions transforming into little yellow butterflies and when you are ready, see yourself lifting your hands in the air and releasing all the butterflies.

Repeat these steps as often as you feel like you need to, and do not worry if you don’t feel any different after the first attempt. Depending on how deep the wound is, the longer it may take for you to truly let go. Be gentle with yourself.

XOXO – LeNae

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