I was raised in a confrontational family — meaning when there was a problem at home, we confronted it. We’d argue and five minutes later, everyone was fine, the problem was solved and we went back to happily cooking dinner and drinking wine. The act of confrontation is a cultural difference which is not as common in the United States as it is in countries like Cuba, Spain, Russia and Italy. I realize not everyone is comfortable with this communications approach, but it does help me forgive and forget more easily. Or at least I thought.
You can say my sh*t list is rather short but once someone makes the list, they are on the list forever. I may forgive you, but it is difficult for me to forget. Can we even call it forgiveness when someone can’t forget?
I remember past hurts and I replay the sequence, as I remember it, in my head. I’ve tried all the methods of forgiveness such as:
Writing a letter and burning it.
Imagining I’m sending the hurt off in a hot air ballon.
Going to a church, lighting a candle and praying like my life depended on it.
In the Bible, Jesus said to forgive 70 times 7. I think I’d still feel resentful. I never could quite figure out what it is that I wanted out of forgiveness. Why I even gave these few people on my sh*t list any space in my conscious. I needed a memory eraser perhaps? It felt at times as that was the only way I could truly forgive and forget.
If you have not tried it yet, I love the Oprah & Deepak 21-Day Meditation Experience app. I am certain for meditation professionals there will be skeptics among you, but I get a lot of value from it. It’s a quick twenty-minute session that leaves you feeling a bit wiser and at peace. While listening to a meditation on hope and forgiveness it finally clicked for me:
Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.
My ah ha moment was realizing the reason why I could never let go is because I wanted the outcome to be different. I replayed the scenes in my head to see if I could have done anything differently, or even said anything differently. Oprah said in order to forgive someone, you have to know and accept that the circumstance cannot be any different.
I read that anxiety and depression is amplified when we are living either in the past or the future. I can see this has been true with my own life. I’m always either worried about the future or pissed off about something that happened in the past. The easiest path to genuine forgiveness is to live in the present and accept that the past cannot be different. Sounds so elementary but so many people have a tough time forgiving and forgetting, including myself, that I thought it was important for me to share this insight.
Originally published at medium.com