Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom.
Are you ready for the end of 2019? If you’re like most people, you’re probably working your way through your to-do lists and hoping to get everything done by the end of the year. (If you’re in that boat, last month’s post about staying productive, focused, and sane during this period should be helpful!) Or maybe you’re drawing up some to-do lists for the coming year, starting with a batch of New Year’s resolutions.
In addition to working on lists, ‘tis also the season for taking stock of what’s happened over the past year and using that information to plot a course for the next. One vital—yet often overlooked—part of this process is forgiveness.
First, let’s define what forgiveness is not.
- It’s not condoning wrongdoing.
- It’s not letting someone off the hook for doing something illegal or immoral.
- It’s not letting someone take advantage of you.
- It’s not forgetting what happened.
So what is forgiveness?
- It is letting go of emotional baggage to eliminate the negativity that results from hurt.
- It is something you do for yourself (not for others). You forgive someone so you can get well and then move on.
When it comes to end-of-the-year tasks, forgiveness is in some ways the most important one of all because it sets the stage for what comes next. By wiping your mental slate clean, you open yourself up to more possibilities. It’s an experience that lets you learn, grow, move forward, and be better. In short, forgiveness is an opportunity to close the door on something negative so you have the potential to welcome and embrace something positive.
Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.
Think about how much time and energy can go into holding on to resentment and anger. That much negativity can be exhausting to carry. And how much good does it do you? Absolutely none. So why not choose to let it go?
I know, I know—forgiving someone is often much easier said than done! Like pretty much any human, I know what it means to hold a grudge. If someone slights me or makes a mistake that negatively affects me, I can hold on to slights for too long (especially from friends whom I hold in high regard). Often I’m reluctant to let such injuries slide because I’m worried that doing so will send the signal that it’s okay for that person to continue that behavior. But offering forgiveness and standing up for yourself are not mutually exclusive. You can be assertive (and point out when people’s actions or words are harmful) and forgiving at the same time!
When struggling to forgive someone, I’ve found it helpful to think of life as a play with several acts. Each act has its own themes and plots twists and characters, including both heroes as well as villains. The villains aren’t likeable, but they do play necessary roles in the play, so whether I like or not, there’s no way to get rid of them. Therefore I just think of them as something I have to deal with until the next act begins.
Perhaps the best strategy to keep in mind when thinking about forgiveness is to focus on being kind rather than on being right. Pride and fear often drive us to want to retaliate when we feel we’ve been wronged. But if the ultimate goal of forgiveness is to enable yourself to move forward in a positive way, then you can’t wrap it up in negativity. In this situation, having a mantra can help keep your focus on the positive. My go-to mantra here is “Where there is injury, pardon” from the Prayer of St. Francis, because it reminds me that when people hurt me, I will be better off if I forgive them.
As we know, forgiveness of oneself is the hardest of all the forgivenesses.
Being able to release that negativity is critical to your health and happiness. When you decide to offer forgiveness, you make a conscious choice to let go of the insults and injuries you have experienced (or perceived) at the hands of coworkers, bosses, family members, friends, neighbors, acquaintances—pretty much anyone you interact with. But here’s the thing that most people forget: the group of people you need to forgive also includes yourself.
If you subject yourself to some no-holds-barred introspection, no doubt you’ll find plenty of mistakes, failures, derailments, and other events that kept you from reaching all of your goals for 2019. But you know what? That year is ending—and you have a chance to walk into a new year carrying a toolkit that’s been well stocked with new knowledge and new perspectives.
So take the time to forgive yourself for not hitting all of your work-related goals during the last quarter. Forgive yourself for not making it to the gym three times a week. Forgive yourself for making mistakes. Forgive yourself for not being perfect.
No one is perfect—including you. And that’s okay.
Forgive yourself for your faults and your mistakes and move on.
It’s not okay to mess up if you keep doing over and over again. But it is okay to mess up if you learn from those experiences and resolve to do your best to avoid making the same mistakes another time. Remember, there is always next year! Better yet: there is always tomorrow.
Although the end of the calendar year is a traditional time for many to start new projects, don’t limit this kind of reflection only to this time of the year. After all, every day (not just New Year’s Eve) has a tomorrow. So when you find yourself falling short in some way or being hurt by other people at other times of the year, just remind yourself that “tomorrow is another day”—then offer forgiveness and make the best of that fresh start.