“Holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” This famous quote, often attributed to Buddha, is one of the most accurate analogies that exists.
Think about one person who you harbor resentment toward. Let yourself experience that resentment for a moment. How does it feel? Pretty shitty right?! Now think about that other person. Do you think they’re suffering right now due to your continued anger? Probably not, proving that the consequence of your resentment is self-inflicted suffering.
The question then becomes, “Why are you inflicting pain on yourself?” I don’t expect you to have an answer now, but my goal for writing this article is to help you begin to find the answer while introducing you to some powerful shifts you can make to forgive, let go, and find your freedom.
The Plant-Empowered Coaching Program is all about achieving a total mind-body transformation. Most people do not have the tools to deal with negative emotions in a healthy way. We consider negative emotions “toxic” when we are so fearful of them that we stuff them away or numb them with food, alcohol, drugs, or even exercise.
Toxic emotions can in turn manifest in our bodies as pain, high blood pressure, stiffness, belly fat, fatigue, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and even tumor growth, to name a few. When you hear the saying, “he died from a broken heart,” it’s not just a figure of speech. People actually die from extreme grief. In the days following the loss of a loved one people are much more likely to die of a heart attack.
Getting back to anger and resentment, when we hear “forgiveness,” we often think “apology.” Really though, the apology has nothing to do with true forgiveness. The dictionary definition of forgiveness is to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone after an offense or mistake, or to cancel a debt. As you can see, forgiveness is all about internally changing how you feel, and has nothing to do with outward actions like an apology.
Let’s consider four options when it comes to forgiving someone else. These are “options” because you always have a choice about how you perceive and react to a situation. You are NOT a victim to your circumstances. You DO have the power to write your own life story. These are concepts we focus on in the Plant-Empowered Coaching Program.
The first option is to protect or lie to yourself and say that you’ve forgive someone, and act as if you’ve forgiven, but then continue to harbor anger. Living in denial is the most self-destructive of all the options.
The second option is to choose NOT to forgive. Letting go takes a lot of work, and you have to be ready and willing to do the work. It may take a while for you to get to that place. In the meantime, give yourself some grace and approach yourself with curiosity and compassion (another concept we highlight in the Program).
The third option is to choose to truly forgive and cut the other person out of your life. When you determine that someone’s presence in your life is detrimental to your own growth it is not serving anyone to keep them in your life. Forgive and let them go. Forgiving does not mean you have to welcome someone back into your life. You are not under any obligation to tell them you’ve forgiven them either. Remember, forgiveness is about how YOU feel. It has nothing to do with their feelings.
The last option is to truly forgive, and choose to continue to have a relationship with the other person. This is the option that requires the most effort, in large part because you may have to keep forgiving them every time you interact with them and you feel the anger returning. To truly forgive takes a ton of mental and emotional work, and when you see the person, you’re likely to be triggered and have to do that work over and over again until it finally sticks.
There is one alternative to forgiving that I want to throw out there next. When I discovered this course of action it actually blew my mind. What if you could get to a place where you did not give someone else the power to hurt your feelings or piss you off? “That’s impossible!” you might be thinking right now. But is it? No one can upset or anger you without your permission. Empowerment comes from truly believing that only you have complete control over how you think and feel. As our clients will tell you, taking full responsibility for your thoughts, emotions, and actions will put you on the path to freedom.
A final consideration is that sometimes, when we think we feel angry at others, we are really angry at ourselves. Most of our clients have experienced a great deal of shame in their lives. Where there’s shame, there’s a lack of self-acceptance and self-love, and a need to forgive yourself.
After living in shame for over a decade, the path to forgiving myself was daunting. Escaping the prison of perfectionism and people-pleasing took years of hard work. When I finally did overcome the shame and forgive myself, letting go of the anger and resentment for others was a piece of vegan cake!
I want to encourage you to give yourself the gift of forgiveness as you glide into 2019. In the Plant-Empowered Coaching Program our clients learn how to “play life like a game.” This makes the intense work they’re doing on themselves, after some practice over time, seem, in a sense, fun! It’s like finding that proverbial light at the end of a long dark tunnel… Pure freedom!