You’re walking barefoot in the forest, soaking up the energy from the earth (no really, you should totally do that) when suddenly you feel a sharp pain in the sole of your foot. You find a moss-covered boulder to sit on and examine your foot where you find a brand new splinter.
It hurts like hell. It’s throbbing. You start blowing on it, trying to will the pain away while cursing the damn splinter for doing this to you.
Your hiking partner chimes in, “Don’t worry, I’ve got tweezers!” She starts rustling in her bag.
Your eyes snap open as you quickly slip your foot down and stand up. “No, no, no, I’ll just take care of it when I get home.” You promptly start limping down the trail, away from your surgeon-wannabe friend.
You get home and the pain is still there, but manageable. The last thing you want to do is start digging around and make it hurt all over again. Besides, it’ll probably come out on its own, right?
As the days slip by, the splinter, instead of working its way out, becomes more deeply embedded in your foot. You can’t see it anymore, and the skin around it is red and swollen. The wound has become infected, and now the problem is worse than it was in the first place.
Now imagine that splinter is a grudge and your foot is your heart. Forgiveness can be hard. It’s not always necessary to let someone back into our lives, but it is always necessary to forgive.
Why would you forgive someone whom you never plan to see again? Because it’s taking up room in your heart and head. It is a form of suffering for you to hold onto a grudge like that. Neither of you can go back and change what happened. Now is the time to let it go and free that space for joy.
A great trick for forgiving someone is to do the following meditations:
- Metta – Focus on this person. On every out-breath, breathe loving-kindness into them. On every in-breath, inhale their suffering. After all, their suffering is probably the reason they hurt you, right? Be sure when you inhale someone’s suffering you are grounded to the Earth and you focus on sending that energy straight through your core, out your bottom, and into the Earth (regardless of whether that does anything physically, it will help you emotionally).
- Three stages of life – Focus on this person. Imagine them as they are right now. Now imagine them as a baby – brand new to this planet, innocent, helpless. Imagine their toothless smiles and baby laughs, their tiny feet and perfect baby skin. Love them. Now imagine them as a 90-year old, frail person at the end of his or her life. Imagine their family gathered around their bed, soaking in their last minutes with that person.
Now let’s do some analyzing. I want you to write all of these down. Seriously, don’t read any farther until you’ve opened up a Word document or grabbed a pen and paper.
Answer the following questions from an unbiased view. Try to forgive them first. Remember, you need to get that splinter out whether you’re going to go back into the forest barefoot or not. If you can’t, this exercise might help you to. Ready?
- What did the person do?
- Answer this with only the facts. For example, you might say, “The ball that she threw hit me in the face,” not, “She threw a ball at my face because she’s a bitch and wanted to break my nose.”
- Do you think that they did it to intentionally hurt you?
- Try giving them the benefit of doubt.
- What are the reasons that person might have done what they did?
- If you don’t know, ask them!
- Are they worth having in your life?
- Did that person bring you into the world? Raise you? Are they a relative to your kids? Do they share many of your values and make a great friend? Are they still in your friend group, creating awkward situations because of the existing tension?
- What are the benefits of letting them back into your life?
- What are the disadvantages of letting them back into your life?
Hopefully that post-forgiveness analysis allowed you to step back and think about the current situation less from a place of hurt and more from a place of critical thinking. That’s the goal, anyway, because emotions can be great and all, but they do tend to cloud our judgement from time to time.
Holding grudges steals time from us in many ways, whether that’s in our thoughts (like reliving the conversation over and over) or in rearranging our lives to try to avoid someone. I hope this post helps you get a little closer to letting go of that grudge and freeing yourself.
Do you have any forgiveness tips?