I recently got hurt deeply by a friend of mine. Trust was broken and something I hold sacred felt dishonored and jeopardized. Basically, it sucked.
Worse still, feeling guilty, my friend sought me out to try to clear her own conscious and help me understand. I deeply respect her for this; it’s hard to look someone in the eye and say I know I’ve been dishonest and hurt you. Saying that takes courage. At the same time though, it didn’t mend my heart.
You see, even as I create distance from this person, she seems to have ingrained herself in my mind. I reply conversations and events. I annoy my beloved with continual commentary and upset. I’ve even woken up in a panic and had to meditate in my closet to calm down. (True story.) Being hurt is hurting me not her.
I’ve realized—mending my heart is on me. I need to forgive.
The Power of “I Forgive You”
Everytime we retell our ‘____ wronged me’ story, we actually are attempting to justify our feelings rather than release them. If we desire healing, this needs to stop! In fact, re-engaging and justifying hurt feelings can have negative physical effects, including anxiety, increased cortisol levels and physical pain or tension.
Practicing forgiveness, in contrast, allows us to find greater freedom and peace in our heart. By creating a sense of agency around an event, forgiveness affords an individual an opportunity to actually heal. This has profound physiological effects. Harvard researchers studied forgiveness, noting that people who practiced forgiveness have:
- Reduced Stress
- Stronger Relationships
- Less Pain
- Greater Happiness
Essentially, Grudges Don’t Work.
In fact, holding grudges or anger can make us sick. Yogis have known this for a long time. Whether we recognize it or not, Ahimsa (non-violence) is actually a forgiveness practice! When we make a commitment to not hold aggression towards others or ourselves, we make a commitment to forgive.
So now, I’m practicing. Everytime I want to story-tell, I tell my mind: ‘I know this is hurting you but I want you take a deep breath with me, and as we exhale you are going to let go a little bit…Breathe in love. Exhale grudge.’