On Forgiveness and Letting Go

When I was in the first grade, I watched Debbie Poe fly across the monkey bars at recess. It was amazing. Like a monkey, she glided from one bar to the next. I climbed up and made my first attempt. Down I went. Girls are smarter than boys. Dusting myself off, I watched her go again. In order to reach the next bar, she had to let go of the last one. Reach out, let go, grab the next bar, repeat.

For the first 35 years of my life, I had a hard time letting go of the past. Resentment and Self-Pity were my constant companions. I tried to reach out and kept falling on the ground. I knew something had to change. Dust and dirt make for an ugly appearance at recess. What is worse is the dirt on the inside. Those twin thieves resentment and self-pity were like a part time job, robbing me of opportunity and service to others. What could I do? Here is my little formula. I hope it helps.

Evaluate the price of that habit. How much is costing me? The emotional drain, the opportunity cost, the time, energy and effort it takes to maintain that level of negativity is exhausting. What am I getting from this? Would I rather be right or happy? How important is this really? If that person were suddenly stricken with cancer and had a few weeks to live, would I change my attitude and position? Life is short. Too short to spend on that kind of negativity for that long.

Consider an alternative. Forgiveness and letting go. It’s like the emergency brake on my car, holding me back, stalling the engine from time to time. I go much slower than I should and my gas mileage is worse than it needs to be. I ran into an old friend from Little League Baseball. He told me he and his siblings stop talking to each other years ago and it’s killing his parents. These are people I used to look up to. The negative effect of this habit on parents and loved ones comes with a price tag. There is no peace of mind. Family gatherings are filled with dread, trepidation and fear (if they happen at all). Since my parents passed away, my brother and sister are closer than ever. I am so grateful for that.

Give it a try. Get in the shallow end of the pool. Swim around a bit. I have found a few strategies that have helped me get over self-pity and resentment: Write it down. Put those negative feelings on paper and take a look at the root cause. What is YOUR part in it? Be honest. Look for patterns that repeat. This is usually learned behavior passed down from father to son, mother to daughter. Is it time to break the chains that bind you? Talk it over with a trusted friend or pastor/rabbi/priest. I pray for the person I don’t like. Sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it? Guess what? It works. After a few prayers, I find, it’s usually their behavior or attitude, not the person per se. I look to separate the person from the behavior. I have some distance and objectivity after a few days. Then and only then can I let go. From there I can make a gratitude list. What are the things that make you smile? The things you have that money can’t buy? From that comes a shift in my perspective and attitude. Finally, forgive yourself. To quote a friend of mine: Forgive yourself. That’s right, you deserve to be happy. Start giving yourself a break. You forgive others, right? Why not forgive yourself. The person we least forgive is the person in the mirror. So stop suffering, stop holding long and deep grudges, stop treating yourself like you ought to be beaten down. You’re not unworthy. So stop telling yourself you are.

Why did it take me so long to learn this? Reach out, let go, grab the next bar and repeat. Recess and life is supposed to be fun. It’s so much better without all the excess baggage. Now where were those monkey bars?

Tags: , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.