"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."
How often do you regret something that happened to you in the past? Whether it’s a bitter breakup, a surprise layoff, or words we regret someone said, the consequences of the past are already here. Constantly wishing we could magically change the past only keeps us stuck, and brings us a lot of pain to boot.
A few decades ago, several American companies authorized by the U.S. government attempted to bury toxic-waste products underground. They filled large metal containers with chemical waste and other life-threatening products, sealed the drums tightly, and buried them deep down below the topsoil. They thought that was the end of it. Within a short time, however many of the containers began to leak and the toxic waste started seeping to the surface, causing all sorts of problems. In some locations it killed off the vegetation and ruined the water supply. People had to move out of their homes. What went wrong? They tried to bury something that was too toxic. They never dreamed that the materials they were attempting to bury were so powerful that they were too toxic for the containers to hold. They never dreamed that one day those contaminants would resurface, and they would have to deal with the problem all over again. But this time, the toxic materials would be dispersed and much more difficult to deal with Had they disposed of them properly in the first place, they wouldn't have had this issue.
Sadly, we do the same. When somebody hurts us, somebody does us wrong, instead of letting it go and trusting God to carry us, we bury it deep down inside. We attempt to cram unforgiveness, resentment, anger, and other destructive responses into our "leak proof" containers. Then we seal those lids tightly, but they do resurface frequently. We can't live with poison in our lives and not expect it to harm us.
The picture many of us have in our heads is that forgiveness is for weaklings. We think that forgiving is giving in to a bully who has no business pushing us around. We may also believe that by forgiving, we condone the perpetrator’s harmful behavior and give him or her the green light to keep acting that way. Those are no more than myths.
Forgiveness does not require that you approve of another’s outrageous behavior or foolishly subject yourself to it again. You can forgive and still take steps to protect yourself. You can forgive and still be clear about what you will not accept in your life from now on.
If you can’t seem to let go of an incident from the past, these three tips can help you move on more quickly. As you put them into action in your life, remember this: by learning to release regrets, you are honoring yourself. By forgiving, you are affirming that you are greater than what others think of you or do to you.
Write a new story
“He hurt me, she betrayed me, he cheated me”—those are all snapshots of what may have happened at one moment in time. By retelling and reliving that story, we are telling ourselves and the world that what happened during one segment of our lives is the whole story of our lives. But the story of what happened to you, or what you did to someone else, at one moment in time does not have to become your life story. You always have the power to create a new story—one where your role is not that of victim, one where you honor yourself. When you catch yourself talking about or dwelling on past events, stop and ask yourself: What new choices do I commit to making right now that will give the next chapter of my life story a new, uplifting turn?
See endings as graduations
Many endings in our lives are really promotions, although it may not feel that way at first. When we have outgrown a situation, a job, or a relationship, life has a way of propelling us out of that environment to more fertile ground for our own good. When you are tempted to fall into a funk or feel sorry for yourself because of what seems like a bad ending, ask yourself: Why is life beckoning me to move on? How will I benefit from a change of scene?
Create your own ritual of release
One of the most effective ways to let go, once and for all, is to create a physical ritual of release. For instance, you can hold a shell or stone, mentally pour your feelings about a past incident into it, and then hurl it into a stream or off the side of the mountain. Or you can write down your feelings on paper along with a simple statement of surrender asking for help in letting go and finding peace. Then safely burn the letter, watching it and the issue dissipate in smoke. Let those ashes remind you of the phoenix, who at the end of its life ignites its nest and is consumed by the fire. From the ashes of its own ending, a new phoenix emerges. Know that you, too, have the phoenix inside of you.
You maybe thinking right now, "I just can't do this. This is much too hard! I can't forgive with the few words you just offered me. They hurt me too badly."
Hold on a sec! You are not forgiving for their sake, you are forgiving for your sake. You are forgiving so that poison doesn't continue to contaminate your life. If somebody has done you a great wrong, don't allow them to continue to hurt you by hanging on to it. Relinquish their power! You're not hurting them at all. You're hurting yourself.
This Week's Meditation:
God's light has come.
Meditate on this for several minutes a day. Allow various thoughts to come into your mind. If you are especially upset state:
The light has come, I have forgiven the world.
The light has come, I have forgiven you.
Remind yourself of healing each moment. God has you in his arms always.