Forgiveness Is the First Step to Love

It’s been more than a month since I have left my house. Between working crazy hours from home and constant news flashes from around the world about the increasing havoc being caused by Covid-19, life has become a blur of days flying by, without any real sense of what is going on.

In spite of all the anxiety around me, the lockdown has actually worked in my favour in one way — it has compelled me to confront all my unresolved issues and make peace with them. I kept running away from them by immersing myself in a million things, but I’ve been forced to face my demons and have a dialogue with them.

I use an app called ‘Mood tracker’ in my phone which allows me to make a note of my feelings each day, along with rating my mood. When I looked at the trajectory of my entries for the last week, I realised that every single entry was on the negative side. Words like ‘resentment, anger, cranky, frustrated’ were part of all my notes for the week.

Why was I so angry all the time? Why was there so much rage in my heart? Why was I ready to snap at everyone, at the slightest inconvenience they caused?

Because I was holding on to all the anger from what life had put me through. I had not learnt how to forgive.

. . .

Twelve years ago, my mother walked out of her marriage with my father, and she never looked back at her children or her old life ever again. She made a new life for herself and for the longest time this bothered me. I felt unloved and unwanted, rejected by my own mother.

I was too naive to understand that everyone has the right to be happy in their lives, and she wasn’t in hers with my father. I held bitterness in my heart for her for twelve, long years and it felt heavier and heavier as time passed by.

Recently, I lost my husband to an accident, a month after we got married. I kept beating myself up and blaming myself for his accident because I felt guilty at the very fact that I was living my life, while he was dying. I could have prevented his accident somehow, but I didn’t.

So how could I move on and have a life of my own, while a machine kept him alive, only for him to eventually die and leave me all alone?

Both these incidents were weighing me down, pulling me into a black hole. Each time I picked myself up and tried to move on, I was getting sucked back in. Because I had not truly forgiven all those people or situations in my life which had burnt me down, including myself.

I decided that I wanted to be above all that had gone wrong in my life. I began with forgiving my mom for walking out on us and choosing herself above her family. I had forgotten what my mother sounded like and when I heard her voice after so many years, I felt a huge weight lifting off of my shoulders.

Life had passed us by, and the years I could have spent repairing my relationship with my mom, I had spent in rage.

It was ironic that what helped me forgive my mom and accept her was the fact that just as my husband was taking his last few breaths, she was getting married to the love of her life. I was shattered at my loss, but I felt true happiness in that moment for my mother. And that’s when I knew that forgiveness is the most selfless form of love.

In my pain, I was able to feel her happiness.

. . .

It took me a long time and a huge amount of effort to be able to forgive people in my life, and more importantly myself. But I believe that forgiveness is the only way to make peace with your life and truly live a fulfilling one. It is incredibly rewarding to just forgive, and it begins with simple things in life.

Empathy

The basis of forgiveness is to feel empathy for someone, and for yourself too. Everyone has struggles of their own, even though it might seem like their lives are perfect.

Having the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes gives you the perspective to look at the world from their lens. And that perspective gives you the realisation that holding on to a grudge with this person is only going to bring more pain in both lives.

The effort it takes to hold on to negative emotions of anger and revenge is far greater than the effort it takes to forgive the person, the situation and walk ahead.

Stop victimising yourself

For the longest time, I felt like a damsel in distress, waiting to be rescued by my knight in shining armour, who made me feel loved and accepted again. After I lost my husband, I realised that the more I yearned for someone to rescue me, the deeper I fell into the well of self pity and playing the victim card.

I decided that I was not going to let my circumstances or tragedies in life define who I was. In order to stop feeling like a victim, I had to learn to forgive myself first. I had to learn how to put aside the guilt of being alive, of finding joy in new relationships or chasing after my dreams.

Trusting that life has its own plan

This was one of the toughest things for me to accept. I’ve always been a control freak and planning my life is the only way of living I’ve known. Yet, each time I’ve made plans, they’ve been defied and life has taken its own course. Releasing some of the control is liberating in its own way.

Till a few months ago, I truly believed that my career in Education was completely falling apart. But just when I thought I should give up and move to a different city, an opportunity fell into my lap.

It was a job profile which was very rare in my industry and came to people after years of dedicated hard work. But it came to me at the right time, when I thought I was broken beyond repair. I had to let go of enmity I had with my own life, and accept this new experience.

Life has its own way of balancing things out. You have to trust the process and give yourself a chance.

Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation

I always thought that to forgive someone meant that I had to accept that person as a part of my life again. Over the years, I’ve realised that this is not true at all. Being able to forgive a person who has hurt you is nothing but choosing to live your life without the weight of that person’ presence in your life.

The more time you spend holding a grudge, the more importance you’re giving to this person, and the more it pulls you down.

Forgiving someone is being okay with what they said or did, and accepting the fact that your life is better without them in it. It is in no way a door for them to come back into your life, or hurt you again.

Building new relationships

It is quite common that once you’ve suffered at the hands of other people or life itself, you become weary of letting new people into your life. After I lost my husband, I crawled into my shell and shut the whole world out to protect my frail heart. I did not want to fall in love again or even give someone else a chance, because that would mean giving them the power to hurt me all over again.

This is when I remembered something my therapist had said to me:

“For every person who has hurt you, think of one person in your life who has helped you pick up the broken pieces of your heart and build a new life. Life has its own way of bringing the right people into your life, when you need them the most. Shutting everyone out is what weak people do. Real strength lies in building new relationships and asking for help.”

I wasn’t able to completely break my walls down, but I started peeking over them to see if my therapist could be right. And she was! There were people who climbed over my walls, and helped me stand up on my feet again. I just had to give them a chance!

. . .

There is a thought from Jay Shetty’s podcast ‘On Purpose’ that has stayed with me — “All of us are indispensable and insignificant in this world, at the same time. This is the irony of life. Each one of us has a purpose in life, but in no way are we irreplaceable.”

Today, there is so much dialogue around self love and mental health. The first step to self love and self care, is having the ability to forgive, and embracing the fact that every experience teaches you something about yourself. Life is short, and we all want to make it meaningful.

Being able to forgive is actually a mark of strength, and not weakness. It just means that you’re ready to move ahead in life, without dragging all the baggage with you.

So close your eyes, take a deep breath, and just let your heart heal in this unforgiving world.

This post was previously published on Change Becomes You and is republished here with permission from the author.

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