In my book, Raven Transcending Fear, I tell my story of childhood trauma. The violence my mother started, allowed, and perpetuated devastated me for decades. The physical, mental, and emotional pain I endured was devastating.
As I stayed trapped in victimhood over the years, I allowed the anger, resentment, and bitterness to build within me. What I didn’t realize was the rage within me did not affect my mother. I didn’t even tell her I was furious with her. So, all this negativity was building inside me and not being released.
The uneasiness I lived with each day kept me reliving the trauma repeatedly. This living in the past caused me to spiral down into a depression. And the longer I held onto my victimization story, the more attached I grew to the wrath building within me.
When I made the conscious decision to change my story from victim to survivor, the anger didn’t go away. Instead, I pushed forward into anxiety, fear of the future. Because I couldn’t trust my mother, my egoic mind kept warning me I also couldn’t trust others. So it always scared me that the people I befriended would hurt me.
Then I had someone tell me I needed to forgive my mother for the pain she caused me to release the agony and move forward. Forgive her? Never! What she did was unforgivable- I wouldn’t let her off the hook. She was to blame. She deserves my judgment, not forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. ~ Paul Boose
Then I saw a quote from author Anne Lamott, “Not forgiving someone is like drinking rat poison and expecting the rats to die.” Hmmm, was holding onto the rage against my mother harming me?
I was the one reliving the past. It was my egoic mind that was replaying the tapes of my mother ridiculing me. My ego was enacting scenarios of others harming me. But was my mother suffering because of my anger and judgment? Was she dying from the rat poison I drank for her? No, she wasn’t. She was living her life despite my pain and suffering.
Many trauma survivors aren’t aware that the fury within us is rat poison, which does nothing to the perpetrator of our wounds. Instead, we allow the ego to make us think that staying attached to the anger means we keep them culpable.
Whether or not we forgive, they are responsible for their actions and their part in our pain, even if they don’t accept responsibility. So, is the forgiveness we give for them or us?
Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
The Ego’s Definition of Forgiveness
The egoic mind believes we are giving absolution for the sins committed against us when we forgive. Or we are condoning the reprehensible behavior. Neither is the truth. Furthermore, it’s not about giving in, getting along with, or agreeing with the perpetrator. Forgiving doesn’t mean that we pretend the atrocities didn’t occur, or we shouldn’t put up personal boundaries to protect ourselves from the offender. Finally, it doesn’t mean that our anger isn’t justified.
We do, however, need to change our perception of what forgiving another means. Maybe forgiveness is about moving past the pain so we can live our lives. Could it mean that we live a life of peace and joy instead of righteous anger? Perhaps forgiving the offender means we don’t have to relive the past trauma repeatedly. Could it be possible through our mercy, we become aware that these emotions don’t help us but keep us from living our dreams?
Withholding forgiveness is really about sabotaging our healing and our future. We waste time and energy being consumed by our anger and resentment as we nurse our wounds. So I think forgiveness is about freeing ourselves to use our energies in a more constructive way to benefit ourselves. It’s an act of self-care which enables us to take steps towards our emotional freedom and empower ourselves. It’s a gift of a clean slate for us to build our dreams.
I think the first step is to understand that forgiveness does not exonerate the perpetrator. Forgiveness liberates the victim. It’s a gift you give yourself. ~ T. D. Jakes
Clearing Out The Clutter
Letting go of the things that no longer serve us allows space for the right things to come into our lives. This decluttering includes the mental clutter the ego has stored. Those pieces of evidence it uses to remind us of our justifiable anger, resentment, and bitterness we hold against others.
The ego muddles our thoughts with the idea that because of the trauma the offender caused, we can no longer overcome and make our dreams come true. Our ego is effectively giving us an excuse to do nothing to improve our lives. Because if we forgive, then that excuse is no longer valid, and we are responsible.
Remember, the past is not a sign of the future because the ego doesn’t allow for our personal growth. After all, it tries to hinder us. And by keeping us trapped in anger, shame, and blame, it keeps us from retaking our power.
When we take responsibility for how we feel, we empower ourselves to make a change.
Despite what anyone has done to us, we can overcome. When we believe this, it’s because we have taken back our power and consciously choose the path we are taking to move forward.
Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were. ~ Cherie Carter-Scott
Accepting The Events And Its Effects
Another option for us to help release some negativity when we aren’t ready to forgive is to accept what is. By accepting ourselves as we are, anger and all, we open up, releasing the mental clutter yet still being true to our emotions. We stop obsessing and seek resolutions for ourselves.
Recognizing that an unjust action caused us harm and shouldn’t have happened is crucial for us to move forward. When we let go of the attachment to our story, we release the hope that we can change the past and accept what happened as it occurred.
Being compassionate doesn’t diminish the wrongdoing, nor does it lessen the trauma. We didn’t deserve the suffering we endured. But we need to accept how we feel before making the changes we want to see in our lives.
One change we can make, whether we forgive, is to put personal boundaries in place so we won’t be mistreated again. We can still hold the perpetrator accountable for their actions and let the consequences of their behavior come to fruition.
Through acceptance and not willpower, we allow ourselves to be freed of the negative attachment to our abuser. We consciously choose to tell our egoic minds we are more important to us than our offender is.
Forgiving isn’t something you do for someone else. It’s something you do for yourself. It’s saying, ‘You’re not important enough to have a stranglehold on me.’ It’s saying, ‘You don’t get to trap me in the past. I am worthy of a future.’ ~ Jodi Picoult
Forgiveness Is A Gradual Process
First, we must acknowledge that another has harmed us and how it’s affecting us. We have to be aware of our suffering. For several years, I didn’t remember that my mother was in the corner of the room watching three men take away my innocence so she could have drugs. It took time for my 11-year-old mind to see the whole situation.
Once I was aware, I needed to promise myself that I would do what I needed to overcome this traumatic experience. This commitment was where I was taking responsibility for my future- I was empowering myself.
Staying aware as outside situations trigger us can be difficult. But when we are triggered, we need to recognize that much of our distress is caused by our thoughts, not the actual circumstances we find ourselves. We can deal with this because our thoughts we can control. We can calm ourselves through breathing techniques or other stress reducers.
Finally, changing our self-talk makes it easier for us to release the negative energy the ego uses to keep us stuck in the past. When we alter our story from victimhood to survivorship, we adjust the self-talk away from disempowering chatter.
When we put our energy towards ways to live the life we desire instead of wasting it by reliving our pain, we increase our happiness. Forgiveness frees us from staying trapped in the negativity others caused us.
Let go. Why do you cling to pain? There is nothing you can do about the wrongs of yesterday. It is not yours to judge. Why hold on to the very thing which keeps you from hope and love? ~ Leo Buscaglia
Moving Forward By Forgiving
None of us want to be imprisoned. But when we hold on to our pain and suffering, that is what happens. We imprison ourselves. The good news is that we also have the key that releases us.
Forgiving means we are surrendering our justification to be angry, resentful, or bitter towards our abuser despite the fact they may not deserve our benevolence. We intend to no longer have the past harm our present or impede our future. We are empowering ourselves and disempowering the past.
Are your coping mechanisms helping you move forward, or are you stuck? Are you trying to numb your feelings through food, overworking, or other substances? Is your anger impeding your happiness? Maybe it’s time to let go of the past by forgiving those who harmed you.
We can choose to forgive, even if we don’t feel we can. It’s a mental decision. It’s our attitude put into motion, and our intentions are powerful. Let’s decide to forgive others and allow our hearts to follow when they can.
Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ~ Corrie Ten Boom
Do you need support to help you forgive others? Do you want a strategy to help you overcome the ego’s limiting beliefs and live a successful life? If so, please reach out to me at TerriKozlowski.com, and we can put together an action plan for you to create the life you desire.
Don’t forget to check out my book, Raven Transcending Fear, which is now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle! The link is in the show notes, or you can go to www.RavenTranscendingFear.com!