“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
– Lewis B. Smedes
Sometimes in life we have the experience of being hurt by someone else. This hurt is often the result of perceived dishonesty, betrayal, disappointment, etc. When dealing with strong negative emotions that cause hurt and pain, it can be easy to get wrapped up in them. One powerful way from which we can escape that emotional suffering is through forgiveness.
One of the most important (and sometimes one of the most difficult) ways that we can extend our forgiveness is towards ourselves. We all have had errors in our thinking which have led to mistakes in our actions. Many of us still hold our wrongdoings against ourselves. We feel guilt for our actions and their effects. However, guilt is a wasted emotion. There is never a reason to feel guilty about anything. ANYTHING. Let me explain…
Guilt blocks forgiveness. You cannot forgive yourself and feel guilty at the same time. Just as you cannot hold a loving thought and a fearful thought at the same time.
When you stay stuck in guilt long enough, it can transform into shame. This means that you move from feeling guilty about your actions to shameful about the person you are. If guilt becomes an emotion that defines you, then you may start to believe that you’re no longer a good person that made a mistake. Instead, you have become a bad person who can do nothing right. It only serves your ego to stay stuck in guilt. It does not honor the divine nature of the loving spirit that you really are. Guilt keeps you from fully loving yourself and from being able to truly forgive.
What is important is the acknowledgement of the error. The realization that you may have acted in a way that was not loving is all you need to make a different choice the next time. As we grow, so do the choices that we make. Reflection of our past mistakes can help us understand that we were acting under a more limited consciousness than what we currently have in our present state of awareness. In the moment of our mistake, we acted/reacted as best as our consciousness would allow. Understanding this concept can save us from a lot of self-inflicted guilt and shame.
Just as we should not judge others for their actions, we also should not be so harsh in judgement of ourselves. When we recognize an error in someone’s thinking, we should send that person love. And if it is us who has made the error, we should send love to ourselves.
You may be saying, “But this person intentionally tried to hurt me! How can I forgive him/her? How can I love him/her?” In these situations, I try to always remember the saying, “Hurt people, hurt people.” Only a person that is suffering through a lot of emotional pain could intentionally try and inflict hurt upon another. A person who is full in love would not seriously entertain the thought of trying to hurt someone else. When you come across a person who is in the midst of such hurt and pain, compassion for them is a helpful and loving response.
Some people also hold the notion that forgiving means that you’re allowing acceptance and approval of the mistake that was made. That’s not at all what forgiveness does. Forgiveness allows you to release the anger/frustration/blame/hurt that you have been holding so that you can return to the peace and love that is of your natural state. A lack of forgiveness does not hurt the trespassers, it only affects the one holding the animosity in their heart.
I have found that prayer can be effective in fostering forgiveness. I heard Marianne Williamson mention the practice of praying for your enemies for 30 days straight and it is something that I recommend to my friends when they are having difficulty forgiving someone. Embarking on such an honest devotion towards forgiveness can help to create new peaceful circumstances and new loving perceptions. I recommend praying for peace in the relationship, forgiveness in your heart, and well-being for him/her.
When we can allow ourselves to forgive, then we can move into a space of sincere love for the person we felt we were betrayed or hurt by. Forgiveness is a tool that allows us to shift our perception from fear to love. It allows us to see past the human imperfections and see the perfection in each divine soul. And if we all exercised forgiveness and allowed love to guide our perceptions, imagine all the beauty we would see in ourselves, in each other and on our planet.
“Respect yourself and others will respect you.”
You may have heard this saying before and I think it rings very true. As we grow through life, we began to identify those things that make us feel good and those things that do not. In turn, we often learn through reaching a breaking point what we are willing to deal with and what we are not. When we begin to inner-stand those things for ourselves, we can make stable choices and set clear boundaries as guidelines for what we are willing to accept into our lives.
One of the core spiritual principles is that everything in your life is a reflection of you. All of the situations that are present in your life are there because you allow and tolerate them to be there. There are no victims, just “allowers”/volunteers. This is not meant to discredit your truth or your experience of a situation. Yes, you may have been hurt. Yes, you may have been transgressed against. But you cannot experience a thing that you are not a vibrational match for. In other words, all of the things that you experience: the good and the bad, are there because either consciously or unconsciously you invited them in. You energetically allowed them to happen. This may be a lot to take in and understand but when you own your part in the experience, you can then take charge to change it. If you continue to look at things through the eyes of a victim with thoughts like “They did this to me“, then you will continue to suffer in the same perpetuating patterns. By taking responsibility for your choices, you gain the freedom to move from that situation and choose something different for yourself. It is all up to you and YOU can choose to bring an empowering meaning to any situation.
You teach people how to treat you. You set the example for others. When you treat yourself well, others will see that and know how to treat you too.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who is in a relationship that was causing her a lot of stress. She told me that she had not been happy for a long time and that she was feeling emotionally rejected and abused many times when she shared her feelings and concerns with her boyfriend. She also told me that prior to entering this relationship, she had never had a boyfriend before. Because of that she had no idea of what to expect or how to really go about being in one. For that reason, she did not set any boundaries for herself, nor for what kind of behavior she is willing to accept in a relationship. She had no prior experience to look back on and had never considered that setting boundaries might be something that could be beneficial for her to do. Fortunately, after some brief time apart, they both decided to start over and work things out again. I suggested to her that this was a great time to now set boundaries for the things that she will no longer tolerate such as the verbal lashings and emotional attacks. Since then, she says that things have been much better and I hope their relationship continues to grow from the foundation that they now have established.
I believe that boundary setting in relationships is very important. These do not always have to be laid out explicitly at the beginning of a relationship; although, sometimes they can. I think it works well to share your feelings in the moment when you are feeling disrespected. Simply just let them know that what they are doing or saying to you is not acceptable. From there, they will know not to do that the next time. If that unacceptable behavior continues after you have made your feelings clear, then you may want to consider letting go of the relationship. By allowing someone to continually disrespect you, you are not honoring yourself.
This topic relates back to self-love. The things that you are willing to tolerate in your life show where you are in your level of consciousness. Put more simply, it shows how much awareness you have to choose and act from a place of love and not fear. When you are full of self-love, self-confidence, and self-respect, you will be able to more consciously choose those things and allow those things that are aligned with where you are. As you raise your consciousness and your standards, you will not allow some of the old things that you used to. It is up to you let people know what is acceptable behavior for you. Know that it’s never too late to start displaying and requesting the respect that you deserve. It’s better to let your concerns be known than to continue to be demeaned or disrespected.
When you carry yourself with respect, people notice that and reflect it back to you. Self-respect is a visible expression of the love that you have for yourself. For example, the attention I get when I walk into a place with a suit on is different from the attention I get when I walk into the same place with some sweatpants. This is not to say that you cannot respect yourself in sweatpants. However, the way you carry yourself and the way you choose to present yourself is a reflection of the way you feel about yourself on the inside. The outside is always a reflection of the inner. Sometimes positive outer circumstances can trigger that internal confidence and respect. Just by putting on some nice new clothes, you may automatically feel better about yourself than if you throw on that balled up shirt you had lying in the corner. Something as simple as getting a new haircut or putting on a pair of glasses could be the spark to get you started to building your inner love, confidence and respect. It is important to note that the true means for building your self-respect is not dependent upon outside circumstances. It comes from going within and loving and accepting yourself where you are, as you are.
Outside of just your relationships with others, this same idea holds true for your relationship with yourself. Many times we set out to accomplish certain things, but then make excuses that keep us from actively working toward achieving our visions. When you allow yourself to continue to make excuses for why you haven’t done a thing or why you’re too tired, or too old, or too young, etc. you end up with the same results and not with your realized dreams and goals. You don’t have to put up with the same excuses you have been making for yourself. You can lovingly set a new boundary that will no longer allow the excuses. From there, you are bound to make progress towards manifesting what you desire.
When you do have to make the choice to let go of things that no longer serve your highest good, understand that it is okay to feel bad at first. Just know that the choices you make are equal to the amount of love that you have for yourself. As you gain more love and respect for yourself, you may find that you have to let go of some things to allow for new situations to come into your experience that are more aligned with where you are right now.
Setting boundaries is one way in which you can honor the miracle of life that you are. You are deserving of all good things, but it is only when you come to know that to be true that you will begin to allow the good to flow more easily into your life. Don’t hesitate to let go of those toxic relationships, friendships, etc. Ask yourself today, “What are the new standards that I accept for myself? What do I need to let go of? How deeply do I love and respect myself?” With honest reflection and authentic self-love, you can open yourself up to an amazing new idea of the vision for your life.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
Somehow in our society it has become commonplace to think that someone who shows their emotions is weak and someone who is stoic and seemingly unbothered by life’s challenges is strong. However, that idea couldn’t be more wrong. The exact opposite is true. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable in a given moment, it is then that we are actually displaying our true strength.
As men, we are often taught that being emotional and being in touch with our feelings is a sign of weakness. They say, “It is only proper for girls to be vulnerable. Men aren’t supposed to have negative emotions outside of anger. Men are definitely not supposed to express those negative emotions. And there is absolutely no excuse for a man to ever cry.” But as a human-being, we all have emotions. Positive and negative. Our emotions are meant to be felt and expressed. With this understanding, we can move from a place of letting our ego be in control, to really letting our soul shine through.
One of the most important things that we can do is to teach our children and our youth how to express their feelings. So many times we tell our kids to “Suck it up” or “Stop crying and don’t be sad“. Such statements are often made by loving parents who do not want to see their children hurt and in pain. The error is that we are teaching our children to deny their feelings. We are teaching them that they should not feel any type of sadness or hurt. Instead, what we should be teaching our youth is how to feel their emotions and let them pass as they naturally will. What ends up happening is that instead of learning how to feel their emotions, children start to build up walls to protect themselves from feeling much at all. These walls often carry into their adult lives and create unnecessary struggles for them in the forms of trust issues, defensiveness, and sabotaging a good thing in the fear of being hurt by it. By guiding our children through the right way to deal with their feelings, we can help them establish strong emotional grounding that will support them as they grow into adults.
I’ve found that one of my biggest challenges has been opening up my heart again and expressing those emotions that are deep inside. Sometimes it seems easier for me to pretend as though everything is okay, rather than to let someone know that I am actually upset or saddened by something. But as I am learning, I see that without feeling you are not truly alive. You have to be able to feel.
It is okay to have feelings of sadness, of heartbreak, of despair, of hopelessness and of other negative emotions at times. What is not okay is ignoring your feelings as if they don’t exist. When emotions are kept bottled up, it is unhealthy on many levels. Bottled up emotions often are the root of extreme expressions such as rage and tantrums. And they are also the cause of many physical dis-eases such as ulcers, cancers, etc.
Many people use different things to numb their pain instead of feeling it. Some of these things may include working a lot, eating in excess, drinking alcohol on a regular basis, excessive shopping, etc. All of these things are distractions that keep you from feeling those negative emotions that are deep within. The way to move past these extreme behaviors and addictions is to feel whatever pain you’re avoiding. Deal with those issues and allow all of those feelings to come up no matter how painful they may be. What you are not willing to deal with and face, you will not be able to heal. Don’t use your behaviors as an excuse to stay stuck in sadness, hurt, anger, etc.
It takes a vulnerably strong person to say that “I am sorry.” It takes a vulnerably strong person to say that “I was afraid.” It takes strength to show your heart. Much like with many things in life, the more you practice being vulnerable and living from your heartspace, the easier it will become to act from that place in more of life’s situations.
Being vulnerable doesn’t mean that you are being gullible or too free in sharing yourself. It simply means that you are willing to express your emotional truth in a given moment.
Being vulnerable is really just being open. Open to the good things and the bad things. Without one or the other, we wouldn’t be having a full life experience. An open heart may experience heartache but a closed heart cannot feel love. If you’re too busy worrying about protecting yourself from being hurt all the time, you may miss out on all of the love and joy that could come in the most unexpected of ways. I offer you to see vulnerability as one of your greatest strengths. You may find that you’re stronger than you had ever imagined.