Self-care is a topic that it seems almost everyone is talking about today, especially women.  We often find ourselves in multiple roles in our lives… mom, wife, chauffeur, maid, cook, negotiator, and many of us do this while holding down a full-time job/career.  We hear it over and over again, “You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.”  We hear it all the time because it is true.  Girlfriends will talk about spa days or weekend girl getaways, which are essential.  However, I want to look at something that is a bit more internal and something we must all deal with at some point: forgiveness.

What is forgiveness?  Psychologists often define forgiveness as the conscious, deliberate decision to let go of resentments or acts of vengeance towards others who we feel have wronged us, no matter if we feel they deserve our forgiveness.  Forgiving does not mean we forget, condone, or excuse the wrongdoing, just that we are no longer going to focus on it.

I believe it is the second part of this definition that most people get hung up.  Forgiveness is more about what we give ourselves and not what we give to others.  Holding onto anger and resentment takes a heavy toll on our bodies and minds.  It creates stress, negative feelings, and often leads us to places we never dreamed we could go… vengeance.

It has been the last few years that I have chosen to focus on this area of my life.  Unfortunately, a few years back, I found myself in a situation where I had to deal with a rather ungrateful and entitled person.  I found myself away from my support system, always stressed and angry with no end that I could see insight.  One afternoon, it got so bad that it landed me in the ER with my blood pressure through the roof and my body shutting down.  It was at that point I knew I had to do something.

First, I had to deal with the immediate issue, what was wrong with me?  After numerous doctors’ appointments and specialists, it was determined I had no permanent damage due to the episode I had experienced.  However, things needed to change right now; otherwise, I might not be so lucky next time. I spent the next 6-9 months getting out of that physical situation, but I still found myself full of anger and resentment.

I finally realized that holding onto everything was just as bad as being in the situation.  It was then that I started to ask myself the tough questions…  What was my part in this situation?  Was this person deliberately trying to hurt me or doing the best they knew how to do?  Could I have done things differently?  Is it really worth holding onto this anger?

It was finally, at that point, that things started to change for me.  It merely came down to getting out of my own way.  Harboring that anger was only keeping me from moving forward.  I couldn’t change what had already happened, but I could change how I thought about it.  I just needed to start taking steps in a more positive direction.

There are several steps one can take while working through forgiveness.  If you goggle forgiveness, you will find one article after another with different steps to take.  The fact of the matter is, it’s not all that complicated.  Now, that’s not to say it’s easy.  Anytime your emotions are involved, it’s never easy.  You do have to decide to do it and work through it, step by step.

Here are a few steps to consider:

  1. Take responsibility for your part.  Try seeing the other person’s point of view.  It may give you some insight into why they did what they did.  Again, that doesn’t make it right but may provide you with an understanding of what they were thinking and doing.
  2. Stop looking for things from other people that they are incapable of giving.  Sometimes, people are just incapable of specific traits, such as empathy.  They can’t give what they don’t have.
  3. As Dr. Phil would say… “Would you rather be right, or happy?”  This can be a hard one to get past, but truer words have never been spoken.  People can become so fixated on being right fighters that they lose sight of what they are trying to accomplish.
  4. Learn to let go of those resentments.  Holding onto the emotional baggage will only hurt you in the long run.
  5. Stop living in the past … move on.  Sometimes it can be hard to move on, especially if the betrayal is something significant.  However, living in the past is not going to change it.  The best thing you can do is learn from the experience and move forward and live the best life you can live.

Forgiveness is never easy but can be one of the most powerful gifts we can give ourselves.  I understand it is much easier said than done, but I challenge you to look at yourself and see if there is something you are hanging on to that it may be time to let go.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but there is no better time to start than right now.  Work through it so you can move past it.  Do it for yourself and those around you.  I guarantee you; you will be a happier person for it!