Forgiveness is for the Forgiver, not the Forgiven

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You may remember that in August this year, I did the Ventura Storytellers Project, where I shared my story with a room full of strangers who somehow through those moments of sharing vulnerability, joy, struggle and victory became friends. One of the other storytellers was a man who shared the horribly poignant details of a terrible childhood, and yet he went on to get married, have kids and be a productive member of society. He talked about this:

Forgiveness is for the Forgiver, not the Forgiven.

It’s a really strong statement and one that truly gave me pause. Intellectually I could see how that was true. Forgiving someone for something that they had done to you, no matter how horrible could truly help assuage age-old, long-buried emotions, and truly help you move on.

But, I didn’t understand it in my heart.

Until today!

I came across someone from my past who, for whatever reason decided that she needed to come clean to me about how she had treated me over a decade ago. This was someone I had the deepest respect and admiration for. Someone I could say was like a role model and mentor to me. She was a tough one, never shied away from doling out tough love to help me learn lessons of life. She had changed her perspective about me and therefore had changed the way she treated me through what I had perceived was no fault of mine. Or at least, none that I was aware of. She had made our relationship tenuous, but I never knew what had caused that to happen. Things got so tough, that I just had to cut her out of my life because it was affecting my health and my life. I had a little toddler at home, and couldn’t afford to be stressed out and miserable all the time. Since I couldn’t get a straight story out of her about why our relationship changed. I eventually moved on. I resented her for quite a number of years thereafter. I wondered what I had done to deserve this. I didn’t have the skills then to ask the right questions to get the story out of her, or to understand things from her perspective.

She went on to tell me about a couple of other women in our circle. People I considered friends. Women I would have done anything for. They had colored her judgment of me by feeding her blatant lies (her words, not mine) about me. They had been literally building a case against me to drive a wedge between the two of us. And it worked like a charm. So, this woman, this second mother figure, decided that she was going to take their words as truth, and not give me a chance to tell my side of the story. Although till today I don’t know what story I would be telling. She wouldn’t tell me why they decided to do this.

I had hairs rise on the back of my neck as I flashed back a decade and thought of these two women; both of whom I considered close friends. I had shared so many moments of vulnerability and weakness with them, I had let me guard down with them.

You see, when I first moved to this area, I had no women friends at all. I had moved from New York to get my MBA at Pepperdine, where I had hoped to form close friendships but didn’t. I was a commuter student like most of my classmates, so while we did do things together socially, I somehow didn’t get to form much wanted long-lasting college buddy friendships. From college, I started working for a very small organization where all the other people were nearly twice my age. No opportunity to form friendships there either. So when these women started entering my life, I was ecstatic. Women friends have always been important to me as an adult, perhaps just because I didn’t have a lot of girlfriends growing up. Needless to say, I was shattered when my friend had so abruptly turned on me without any indications why.

Now here she was; she said she had carried the hurt of this in her heart for all these years and she just needed me to know. She said she has watched me from afar, and is proud of the life I have built and the relationships I have nurtured over the years. She hopes that I would forgive her.

Ahhhhhhh I get it now. Forgiveness is for the Forgiver, not the Forgiven.

Yes, of course I forgave her. I had forgiven her years ago. I had made my peace. I knew that if I ever saw her again, I wouldn’t hate her, I wouldn’t wonder why, I would just embrace her as if none of that had happened.

But she had lived with this for over a decade.

She hadn’t forgiven herself.

I had moved on.

She hadn’t.

Her heart still hurt from the role she had played in sabotaging our friendship.

The ripple effect in my life of moving away from that relationship had been astounding.

To say that my life flourished thereafter would be an understatement.

I learned so much about myself through that whole process, and I also learned my boundaries.

I learned that people will treat you the way you allow them to.

We have to train people the way we want them to treat us.

I learned so much about what goes into a good relationship.

I learned about being a good friend and not being a pushover friend.

I learned it was okay to say NO.

I learned to say YES to myself always.

But most of all, I learned that my gut has never let me down.

And that in the noise of the outer voices of people’s opinions about me, I had drowned out the whisper of my inner voice; And the latter is the only one that mattered.

So, as is always the case, the toughest critics, the biggest backstabbers, the most challenging situations are always the people, places and issues where we have the biggest breakthroughs in our lives.

So the next time someone challenges you, irritates you, upsets you or plain annoys the heck out of you.

Say thank you to them silently.

Then go sit with yourself and ask yourself…

What am I to learn from them?

If you’re quiet enough for long enough, you’ll get an answer.

I promise.

 

 

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Inner and Outer Problems

I attended a Buddhist meditation class last week. The teacher talked about inner and outer problems in a way that really resonated with me. Outer problems are the ones we have no control over- the ones that happen to us as a part of living our lives- our car breaks down or someone cuts us off on the freeway, an accident backs up traffic and makes us late to an important meeting or job interview, people talk to us badly or any myriad of things– these all comprise outer problems and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.

The inner problems are the ways we chose to deal with these outer problems. We can get super aggravated, retaliate by cutting off someone else or chase after that person to flip them off, get really upset and develop anxiety or have sleepless nights and really make ourselves and those around us miserable because of how badly we are being treated by someone in our lives whether it be a co-worker, a boss, a parent, a spouse or a friend or anyone else for that matter.

This really got me thinking about this topic because I can certainly relate to this. In the past year I had a situation going on with me where for months I was in what I felt was a ‘stuck’ place– I didn’t feel like I had a way out with this person’s behavior and I couldn’t understand why I was being treated this way. I started sleeping badly, getting into fights with my husband Jason, and my 7yo started acting out which made things worse– only in hindsight after I extricated myself from that situation (and things at home went back to normal) was I able to realize that my husband wasn’t trying to ‘be controlling’ my daughter wasn’t ‘acting out’ rather it was ME! They were the mirror for my thoughts and actions and were merely ‘doing’ what I was…except they weren’t really doing anything– I was!! This was such a huge realization to me.

How you chose to let this affect you is in your hands. Typically when someone treats you badly or says something that hurts it’s them using you as a mirror that reflects how they feel- and because they dislike how they feel and they don’t know how to articulate it so they lash out against those that are closest to them- usually family and people they care for and interact with on a regular basis. You can’t change them, but you can change you!

I decided that my self-worth wasn’t tied to this person’s treatment of me, that no one gets to treat me this way- and that I ALWAYS have a choice! ALWAYS!

There are two types of suffering in the world– the one is where you learn from it and never go through the same experience again– and then the other where you didn’t actually learn and implement your lessons and so the way the Universe works is that you continue to experience the same lesson over and over– what is it that we are taught in school at an early age? Repetition is a pillar of learning! Life lessons are no different. It took me 10 years and three different experiences to learn this particular self-worth lesson. I consider myself blessed to have had such great ‘teachers’ because without the angst they caused- I’d never have had these breakthroughs.

So what can you do when you find yourself in what feels like and untenable situation?
1. Remember that we give words a lot of power. We can take that power back.
2. By being hurt/offended/upset by someone’s actions or words against us we are giving away our power to that person- and we can TAKE IT BACK!!
3. You always have a choice! Extricate yourself from the situation as quickly as your time, situation and resources allow.
4. Mentally disconnect from that situation and remind yourself that you control how you think and feel. And YES you can control your mind.
5. Surround yourself with positive people who believe in you! Use them like an AA sponsor and ask to connect with them when you’re feeling low! There’s no better feeling when your mentor, well wisher or biggest fan tells you how great you are because they truly believe that!
6. Affirm daily that you are strong and that you are in control of how people behave with you.
7. The world’s greatest thought leaders and humanitarians all shared the same message- Love and Forgive. Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nonviolence (Ahimsa) movement in India is noted for literally ‘turning the other cheek’ and he’s not alone. I’ve never read the Bible- but someone once told me that the word Forgiveness appears more often than the word Love.
8. Most of all love yourself above all else. Love yourself the way you love your children. Imagine how you would respond if someone hurt your child, said mean things or physically hurt them- that pain would be unbearable — it is that emotion and feeling that I want you to tap into when you love yourself. When you do that– nothing and no one will be able to say or do anything negative to you because you will have taken away their power to do so!

Make a decision today that you will not let your feelings run away with you. That you’re in control and that you can’t be hurt by someone else because their words/actions have no power over you. It’s your time to shine!

Sending you light and love

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