When I talk to my friends, relatives, clients, and prospective employees about their lives, they often recount the ways that they have been wronged by someone at some point in life. It happens so often that I am convinced that everyone has been wronged at some point, in some way, by someone.
It is rare to find someone who has made it through childhood without being mistreated by another child or relative. It is more rare to find someone who has made it through his or her 20s or 30s without encountering bad relationships or employers who alter his or her philosophy of life. People get knocked down. People encounter adversity. It is an unfortunate part of living that is certain to occur over and over and over again. But life’s challenges do not have to break your spirit. There is something you can do in 2017 to change the course of your life.
Forgive and Be Free
The first step to freeing yourself is to free others through the act of forgiveness. For some, forgiving others is a hard thing to do. Some have difficulty forgiving others because they use the anger and resentment they feel as motivation. For others, forgiveness is a challenge because it is easier to blame others than to forgive others and accept personal responsibility for their positions in life. No matter the reason for refusing to forgive, the effects of holding negative energy cannot outweigh the benefits of complete forgiveness.
I advocate forgiving everyone who either has or is causing you to have negative feelings about yourself or others. However, there are three types of people that I will discuss in the paragraphs that follow.
These are three types of people that you need to forgive.
You have to forgive your parents. I am sure you know that your parents made mistakes when they raised you. But you should keep a few things in mind. First, except for those rare parents who had everything figured out before their children were born, parents are just ordinary people trying to figure out who they are while also raising their kids. Parents are flawed. And their children tend to place unrealistic expectations on them all the time. Second, in my experience most parents sincerely want their children to thrive in life but do not know how to make that happen. Third, to the extent that we are unwilling to forgive our parents for their past actions, we hamper the potential of our future relationships with our parents. It is hard to really value a parent (or anyone) when you openly or secretly resent the person for not meeting a standard that you set for the person.
The second type of person you have to forgive is what I call romantic partners: boyfriends, girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, husbands, and wives. Many people endure tremendous emotional pain and suffering in their relationships and marriages. Even in “good” relationships, you may find yourself doing things (moving, having or not having children, accepting or quitting a job, etc.) you did not want to do, because you thought it was good for the relationship. If the relationship fails, then you carry that experience into future relationships. And your future romantic partner(s) will suffer from your efforts to make sure that you do not make the same mistakes that you made in your previous relationship.
Learning from mistakes is a sign of personal growth. Staying guarded in relationships because of past pain may keep you safe, but it will also keep you from getting the best out of life.
I once heard someone use an analogy to boats that seems appropriate here. The person said you can tie a boat to the dock and keep it safe, but boats are designed to sail, not sit in docks. And so it is with your own life. By forgiving your romantic partner(s), you untie yourself. You free yourself to do what you were designed to do.
Finally, you must forgive yourself. You have probably done some things that hurt yourself and others at various points in your life. I suspect that you did some of those things on purpose and some of those things by accident. To the extent that you are punishing yourself for the things that you did, you are hampering your ability to grow. If you truly regret the things that you did, then it is unlikely that you will repeat the behavior. So let go and grow.
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