Lately, I have been contemplating what it means to forgive. Many of us may have heard the phrase, “Forgiveness is for you, not for the person who caused the pain.” But what does this mean, really? And how would one go about doing that? Some people may think, “Yes, I understand that it’s for me, but they shouldn’t be able to just get away with it without any consequences at all!” And I get that. But it also doesn’t help those who felt the pain to internalize the hurt and carry it with them throughout their lives, remaining a prisoner to it. Just as we may want peace for other people, we also deserve a sense of peace ourselves.
For me personally, I have a long list of being hurt by a vast number of people for a variety of reasons, and I am learning to recognize this and move on for myself, to achieve a sense of peace from each situation. And this peace has to come from within, with the knowledge that we were not hurt because we deserved it, or because we are flawed in some way. As someone who lived with un-diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder for all of my childhood and part of my adult life at a time when it was a misunderstood condition, this meant a lot of assumptions were made about my intentions and motivations for the things I either did, or did not do. I experienced rejection a lot, from a large variety of different people and for different reasons. Very often, I took this personally when maybe it wasn’t personal.
What I have learned throughout the years is, much of the time people just do what they do because they are operating on their own perspective of the situation – they are not doing these things to me. Just as I didn’t intend to make life difficult for my family in dealing with my intenseness, other people are also usually not being hurtful on purpose. I think we are wired to consider our own perspective first, and I also think this is not selfishness on our part; we are not Borg after all – we are individuals first and foremost, with a need to connect to other individuals in our environment. This means also that we intensely care about how we are perceived to others, and thus we care about acceptance.
Rejection does happen; we cannot please all of the people all of the time. But, we also do not have to make this rejection personal, as we end up attaching feelings of rejection to the inner core of our being where it will live, taunting us, day by day. It becomes a part of our narrative and defines who we are. The good news is, this narrative can be changed. We can rewrite our narrative by choosing peace within ourselves. We can leave the rejection where it belongs – within the environment where we exist, not within ourselves. We can think about the pain we feel, and the cause of it, and make the choice to not allow it to define us anymore.
This doesn’t mean those who hurt us got away with it; there are always consequences for every action. We may not always see those consequences, because they live in the core of another person, not ourselves. This is not our baggage to own, it belongs to someone else. But, by separating our mental and emotional belongings from other peoples’, we can achieve peace. We can forgive. And we can do it for ourselves, because self-love is one of the most powerful forces we have.