Forgiveness; the impossible task of letting go
Photo by Alex Green:

We all make mistakes and we all need forgiveness. When we forgive others, we are not only forgiving them but also taking the burden off of our own shoulders. But does anyone else struggle with forgiveness? I struggled with the idea of forgiving someone for their actions towards me as it means that their shady actions with get buried in the sand – not to mention that some people want forgiveness but aren’t truly sorry.

Forgiveness is an act of love that brings peace to the forgiver and the forgiven. It offers a new beginning for those who have hurt someone in their past, and it opens possibilities for those who have been hurt to move forward with their lives. Forgiveness is a gift that you give yourself by letting go of what has happened in the past and choosing to live life now.

Forgiveness is not just about being nice or polite; it’s about your mental health too. Holding on to anger or resentment can lead to depression, anxiety, addiction, stress-related illnesses, poor relationships with others. So while I haven’t fully learned to forgive others, recent events in my life have slowly started teaching me a different art; how to forgive myself.

The Importance of Forgiving Yourself

Forgiveness is a powerful and freeing act. What I have finally come to terms with is that it is not about letting the person who hurt you off the hook. It is about you taking back your power, letting go of the anger and resentment that can hold you back, and moving on with your life. But I am not being self-righteous here. There is one significant incident which changed the course of my life forever, and not for the best. I can’t find it in me to forgive those people just yet but I’m not in a rush. It’s me first for once.

The idea of forgiveness has been around for centuries but has only recently been studied scientifically. There are many benefits to forgiving yourself such as feeling less angry, resentful, or bitter towards yourself and others. You will be more open to new experiences and be able to better let go of guilt or shame that may be holding you back from achieving your goals. In my experience of never being able to forgive, I experienced one detrimental factor that I am ashamed to admit but can proudly say I have worked on. Compassion.

Developing a stone heart meant that my compassion for others went downhill. People’s problems were their problems and theirs alone. This mindset also came from the years of bullying I had personally experienced alongside other familial behaviours I experienced, but my change of heart came from moving out of that toxic environment and into a much better one with people who had better mindsets and showed me the compassion I so desired. Once I had accepted that I was worthy of compassion, I was able to project it onto others.

How to Deal with a Lack of Self-Acceptance

Self-acceptance is a key factor in the development of one’s self-worth. When we lack self-acceptance, we are unable to truly love ourselves and feel worthy of anything. After clambering through mountains of self-help books, podcasts and videos, I have found the three steps that help me out on the days where I find myself belittling my existence.

The first step to self-acceptance is to identify the root cause for why we don’t accept ourselves. This could be a traumatic event or an idea that was instilled in us by our parents, extended family, friends (if so, find a way to slowly cut them out) or society in general.

The second step is to work on changing our thoughts about this event and how it influences our life today. We can do this by writing down every thought that goes through our head, challenging it, and then replacing it with something more positive and supportive of who we are.

Finally, the third step is to take action by taking small steps towards what makes us happy.

I haven’t fully accepted my existence; self-acceptance is not an overnight feat but the key to slowly pulling yourself out of this abyss is to find better coping mechanisms – mechanisms that weren’t taught to me due to cultural or societal misbeliefs. My culture has a belief that everyone is born with thick skin therefore they can criticise however they want. This is definitely not the case for me and while I spent years worrying that this was what made me so flawed, I also came to realise that these opinions were mostly unwarranted and I was wrong to be upset when receiving such comments.

Forgiveness Isn’t Just For Others. It’s For You.

Forgiveness is hard because we think that by forgiving someone, we are letting them off the hook. We are telling them to continue with their hurtful behaviour.

But forgiveness doesn’t mean that you’re letting someone off the hook. It means that you’re letting go of your anger and resentment. It means that you’re not going to let what happened in the past affect your future.