Over the weekend, between loads of laundry, packing lunches for the return of school, and putting on Christmas music at the first sign of cold weather only to realize it is April down under, I was reading something from Jay Shetty. If you aren’t familiar, I would highly suggest checking him out. His videos and messages have become a daily staple during my morning coffee.
Caffeine, growth, and inspiration – don’t mind if I do!
Two things that I read on Saturday morning really stuck with me, so much so that I went back throughout the weekend to read again and really absorb.
The first was a simple reminder about gratitude and kindness and how changing your attitude can completely change your life. The second was about forgiveness and detachment.
As I contemplated the messages, I thought about how each of these relates to the other. Particularly, forgiveness, as we often get it wrong and think it is about the other person while really, the ability to forgive is about allowing yourself the freedom to move on.
But if you are being held back by old resentments, can you really practice gratitude or is your own inability to forgive creating a block within yourself by harbouring negative energy?
I remember when we first made the decision to move to Australia. I was scared to tell certain people in my life, not because I thought they would be upset with me but because I knew their reaction would cause a rush of emotions, usually followed by tears.
I knew that staring me in the face as the decision had been made to change everything in our life, was the reality that I would have to tell my friends and family – the people I, more than anything, wished I could pack and bring with us.
Goodbyes are always difficult but sometimes goodbye is a healthy necessity to clear space in your own life. And as we moved, I realized there was space being made in mine.
A few months after we left, I received a nasty email. Without dwelling on the sender, it was from someone who I knew and had spent a substantial amount of time with over the years. As their own world was crashing down around them they felt the need to project their feelings onto me and to go as far as to blame me for their circumstances. They had this idea that my decision to leave was the catalyst for what was happening in their own life.
It couldn’t have been further from the truth but sometimes when people are faced with difficult circumstances it is easier to react and project, then to accept and find resolution within one’s self.
When I first read the email, human nature kicked in. I immediately drafted a sharp and factual retort but rather than send, clicked ‘save’ and walked away.
There sitting open on my computer was an equally scathing email back to this person who had chosen to intentionally lash out at me, although I lived half a world away and hadn’t spoken with them in months.
But, I knew better than to send it.
I knew that doing so would simply mean I was reacting to their toxicity and that would have a far greater and more destructive impact on my own well-being then choosing to take the high road.
I poured myself a cup of coffee, sat on the deck, and closed my eyes. As I listened to the sounds of morning fill the air, I was thankful for the distance and the freedom to not react.
As much as I wanted to say some of those things that I wrote, I knew nothing good would come of it. I deleted it altogether and sent a note that said:
“I am sorry you feel that way. Best of luck to you.”
The simple note was followed up with a “cleanse” of sorts – deleting from contact lists, social media accounts, emails, etc.
But what I realized is that although I may have removed this person from my life, the negative energy you carry with you if you don’t forgive someone can be just as harmful – a detriment to the active pursuit of gratitude.
It took time, patience with myself, and a lot of reflection to do so – and it didn’t happen quickly – but months later, sitting alone one night in my room having just returned from an evening walk to the beach, I finally said those words.
“I forgive you.”
I was alone. I didn’t say them to this person. There was no apology that came first. It was simply forgiveness without the apology I knew would never come.
Words they will never hear.
Words said to free myself from negative feelings about the situation as opposed to ridding them of their own guilt.
When you hold onto bitterness or anger, you slowly rip away at the very essence of who you are, gradually becoming someone and something you aren’t. Much like gratitude, holding on to anger and resentment is a choice.
By releasing those things even without having an acknowledgment or apology, resentments no longer have a hold over you. You gain the freedom to truly live without constraints or false limitations that have been placed on you.
Freedom to let go. Freedom to rise above. Freedom to get back to basics.
My best friend once said to me, not everyone deserves your friendship but everyone does deserve kindness. And sometimes that kindness means inaction – not responding and walking away with your head held high when someone is actively pushing you to go low. Just as the incredible Michelle Obama beautifully articulated, “when they go low, we go high.”
By doing so, you will eventually find the space you need within yourself to forgive and get back to the basics – gratitude and kindness – which are a lot easier to put into practice when you let go of negative energy, past hurts, or unresolved issues.
This week, let’s all challenge ourselves to write the name of one person on a piece of paper. Is it an old boss, a former lover, an old friend, or perhaps a family member? Whatever name you see staring back at you, allow yourself the space you need to offer forgiveness. You don’t need to have a conversation with them or tell anyone.
Do it for yourself – it may just point you in the right direction of exactly where you need to go.
Cheers to a new week and actively participating in life.