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The Reality Of Forgiveness

"We can't control the world, but we can control how we experience the world." - Gabby Bernstein

Why is forgiveness so difficult???

For a long time, I couldn’t see a way out of the resentment and unforgiveness that I held in my heart. There are many people who feel completely justified in not forgiving the person, or people, who wronged them. Understandably so, their trust was betrayed or they were violated in some way and feel that they have the right to hold this person, or people, accountable forever.

Till this day, I would have every right to continue holding the people who wronged me accountable for what they did. I would be completely justified in harboring resentment toward the person, or people, who have mistreated me, bullied me, abused me, or neglected me over the span of my entire life.

However, after years of learning who I am and discovering who I want to become, I have learned that holding onto these things only causes me to die a slow, painful and miserable death. You might be wondering, “why so extreme”?

Here’s why:

I recently heard someone explain this and it has stuck with me ever since. You can be a very healthy person with a seemingly good life, but as you choose to focus on the awful (negative) things that people have done to you, you are not living life to the fullest. You are giving away precious hours, days, weeks, months and years of your life to your unforgettable past. You’re not actually living your life with joy. You’re simply existing until the inevitable happens!

Think about it! How does it make you feel inside to think about the things that have had a negative impact on your life? You feel heavy inside, oppressed, sad, your stomach is in knots and you feel lonely.

I am living proof that your pain does not have to guide the rest of your life.

As painful as things may be, spending the majority of your thoughts blaming others for how screwed up your life is, will eventually cause serious physical issues and diseases and could possibly lead to an early death.

In an article released by CNN in 2011, A young college student was hospitalized for physical issues brought on from stress and anxiety through bullying from his peers. He said that when he forgave them, he felt it in his body and left the hospital three days later and declares, “If I hadn’t forgiven them, I’d be dead”.

I refuse to use my pain for my own self-pity. I refuse to view the world as an awful place, full of perverts, abusers and rapists. I refuse to be a victim for the rest of my life. Did bad stuff happen to me? Yes! Did it hurt me and affect my childhood? Yes! Has it affected my marriage and parenting as well? Yes!

So, now what? Am I going to let what other’s have done to me continue destroying my life? NO! Am I going to allow my life to be consumed by hate, bitterness, revenge, or resentment? NO! What good would come out of any of that??? Absolutely NONE!

After something happens to you and you’ve had a chance to heal from it, your life is your responsibility to take charge of, learn from and move forward!

Let’s just be real for a minute. The reason why most of us can’t move past years of our issues is because we have made a habit out of feeling sorry for ourselves. I’m including myself in this! I can tell you that after a certain point, you have to decide that you’re not that person anymore and take steps to move beyond your former self. You have to decide whether or not your future is better served by keeping those emotions, or letting them go. You create your own life by the thoughts you think and the actions you take!

Life is too short to hold onto the things people have done to us.

My story:

I remember my first day of freedom like it was yesterday! My new husband and I were running errands and we were coming back from the post office when I told him to pull over somewhere so we could talk. It was one of the scariest moments of my life.

I thought I would never tell anyone. I made a promise since I was a little girl and straight into my adulthood. It was locked down inside and never coming out. That is until I began having horrible flashbacks. Every moment of the sexual abuse I had experienced as a child began surfacing to the forefront of my mind. We were newlyweds and it was supposed to be the most amazing time of our lives. It was wonderful, but the memories that I had suppressed for so long came flooding into my mind, unfortunately, at the most intimate times with my new husband.

I apologize for the graphic nature of this next sentence, but it must be told to convey how serious things were. I couldn’t close my eyes while being intimate with my husband. In my brain all I could see, smell, and feel was the person who abused me. I had to open my eyes and make sure it was actually my husband with me because I was hallucinating the other guy. It devastated me and my sweet, adorable husband had no idea.

The weeks prior to me telling him everything were spent crying while he wasn’t around and pretending I was fine when we were together, but inside I was terrified! Not only was I terrified of what my husband would think of me for hiding this from him and what it would mean for our marriage, but I was terrified of breaking a promise that had held me captive ALL of my life. What would happen to me? What would life be like after the truth is exposed?

Everything that I ever knew about my life was changing at a rapid pace. The little girl part of me, that felt scared and alone, was in a battle with the very grown up part of me that still felt scared and alone. I was used to pushing everything down and out of my mind, basically ignoring it and hoping it would go away. However now, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Every time I was intimate with my husband I felt like I was being abused all over again, and again, and again.

It wasn’t right! This wasn’t fair! I just wanted a normal life! The image of the other man haunted me when all I wanted was to be with the man I fell in love with. There was a couple of times that I even had to blink because I actually thought I saw him in place of my husband. I was literally living in a silent nightmare.

I’m sorry if sharing the reality of my journey makes you feel uncomfortable, but this was the beginning of my healing story. As dark as it was. As completely painful as it was. This is what had to happen to begin the healing process for me. It needed to come to the surface and I had to deal with it for the first time in my life.

My pain and fear erupted the day I told my husband. We drove to the park, found a secluded shaded area and I poured out my past for the first time in my life. I told him everything. I told him my fears, the darkest most awful parts of the abuse and how terrified I was of losing our marriage in the midst of it all. I felt so awful for keeping all of it hidden from my best friend. However, much to my relief, he was the most compassionate and loving person I had ever met. He held me for days as I cried and continued to share with him memory after memory that I had suppressed and pushed away.

Weeks later, I still carried the fear of what life would be like now that I’ve told someone, but I knew that having him by my side, I would be okay. For the first time in my life I finally felt safe, protected and free. In the months to follow, family members, church leaders and close friends were informed of my secret. Each time I talked about it, the more freedom I felt.

The feeling of relief from what had kept me a prisoner became addictive.

The only thing I knew to do was talk about it. It felt freeing to tell someone. Every new memory that came up, I let it come and I let go. Even when the same memory came up multiple times, I talked about it, how it made me feel and I was able to release it. I was so thankful that I didn’t have to face this alone. In the early days of my healing journey, I couldn’t even talk about my past without physically shaking all over my body. My body was literally responding to the purging of the deep pain I had hidden all those years.

I had no idea how to heal, but since talking about it felt right, I kept doing that. There was no 12 step program. No counselors. No therapy. It was just me and my husband. Every late night, every middle of the night, and every inconvenient time of the day, I remembered, I talked, I cried and I healed.

You may be wondering…how can I forgive someone who pretty much messed up my life? How could I forgive someone who wanted to protect his own reputation and life more than he wanted to protect me? How could I forgive someone who betrayed my trust and self-worth, expecting me to hide it all and ignore it? Where is forgiveness for someone like that?

Hear me. The reality of forgiveness isn’t about the other person and forgiving what they did for their sake. Forgiveness releases their influence over you. The reality of forgiveness is when you free your heart from the chains of their prison. I knew this truth, but to act on it meant, not only did I have to heal, but I had to choose to walk away from my own hate and put love in it’s place. I chose to forgive because I knew the power it would bring to my life. I chose to forgive for the sake of my future. I chose to forgive to set myself free from a life of torment and pain.

It wasn’t easy. He didn’t deserve it, but I deserved to be free.

It would take me five years…every time a memory would resurface, being triggered by a smell, or seeing someone that resembled him that would make me visibly tremble, I chose forgiveness.

You know what?

Not once did I EVER feel like forgiving him!

The feelings of forgiveness did not come with the choice to forgive. To be honest, I hated him for everything he did. I hated him because of what my marriage was now going through. I hated how, as a child, everything was played off like nothing ever happened.

I chose forgiveness anyway…for me! Forgiveness became MY power to bring healing to my life! I chose to clean my heart from what had happened to me!

Finally, after those five long years and working on healing daily, I knew I had truly forgiven. I felt it. I literally felt love replace the hate in my heart. Another beautiful step in the healing journey. My choice to forgive wasn’t so the other person could feel better about what they had done. My choice to forgive was so that what they did would no longer control my life. For the first time I had the control! This was my life! I am in charge of how I live and I was not about to let what they did destroy me or my future!

The reality of forgiveness is that… you control what comes next for YOU.

Holding on to what others have done, only causes more misery for YOU. The person who abused me could only control me until I found freedom. Once freedom became available, I was responsible to reach for it and go after it.

They no longer controlled the outcome of my life because I released their sin from my life . It’s been 19 years and counting on this beautiful journey and if I wouldn’t have taken the road less traveled, the road of forgiveness, I wouldn’t be writing about true freedom today!

Don’t give what happened to you the power to control your life anymore!

YOU are responsible for your life and your future. No one can mess up your life at this point except you. What was done is done and now you have a choice to be stronger from it or to be weakened by it.

People ask the question, “If you had to live your life all over again, would you change it”? No! I am who I am today because of the things I went through. I am stronger because I have learned how to turn pain into purpose. I am wiser because I have learned how to turn fear into courage. I am braver because I have learned how to replace hate with love.

I don’t know if you’ve been through a situation like mine, or much worse, but I can encourage you to free your own heart from the prison you were placed in.

Be your own hero!

Choose to live in the beautiful reality of forgiveness and become free, even if it’s baby steps. Even if you can’t “feel” the feelings and emotions of love and forgiveness, claim to live in that mindset anyway.

Every day, you are one decision away from freedom!

I promise you, if you make the right choice, you will embark on your own journey of healing and never be the same!

“We can’t control the world, but we can control how we experience the world.” – Gabby Bernstein

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