Forgiveness is powerful medicine and for me, it’s necessary for my health and well-being. Until recently, I forgot that people have such strong feelings about forgiveness. The other day I posted a short video online touching on the power of forgiveness, and while some folks enjoyed this message, some did not. Someone commented something like, “Unless they’re undeserving, THEN NO FORGIVENESS will be granted.” There were several messages along these lines.
Why am I surprised? It can be annoying to hear about forgiveness, especially when we aren’t ready to forgive or believe that someone isn’t deserving of our forgiveness. I, too, have attempted to hold the past over someone else’s head. But little did I know I was actually carrying that anger over my head and heart at the time.
I’ll probably do it again, too, but hopefully, this time, I’ll learn a bit quicker and manage to help myself along. I am human (and so are you), and we’re along for this ride that can induce some anger, bitterness, and resentment, along with the other emotions of the rainbow, and luckily for us, we get to navigate them along the way.
A few years back, months after leaving one rough relationship (then another), I felt my chest grow tight, achy and stuck. It felt energetically hard.
It was a frustrating experience. I had the desire to crack my chest open so it could flow again. It felt like a brick wall had constructed itself to prevent anything from moving in my body’s heart and breast area.
Interestingly enough, my breast was growing achy, itchy, and felt enlarged at the time. The left side of my body was in sheer discomfort, from the neck to the belly. These weren’t all of my symptoms, but they were some. It was undeniable that there was a feeling of blocked-ness in my chest that was distracting and uncomfortable.
I wasn’t exactly sure when this feeling arrived, but it wasn’t there before. I was sure I knew life before this feeling. Where did this come from, and when did it develop? Was it a slow build, or did it happen overnight?
Somehow when I was looking for a deeper understanding of the body so that I could offer myself some relief, I ended up on the youtube channel of CHRIS BEAT CANCER. I became obsessed with videos of folks telling their stories of healing cancer. Now, I didn’t have cancer and was never diagnosed with anything, but I knew I needed to address what was happening in my body. The lessons I learned from these teachers on this youtube channel were profound and so applicable to my life, and I believe many lives, whether diagnosed with cancer or not.
After hours of watching these videos, I discovered a common theme through many of the healing stories: FORGIVENESS. Of course, these stories also include taking a complete inventory of one’s health: diet, exercise, and lifestyle. But it was through watching these videos that I began to understand that our emotions play a role in our health.
There was a common thread woven between many of these individuals that consisted of holding onto anger, resentment, bitterness, and hate for many years. This idea that the body could hold onto emotions in this way and it could interfere with the body’s ability to heal with ease was new-ish to me. I had heard of emotions getting stuck in the body when I took yoga classes, but I never met a teacher who could expand on the subject. This talk of forgiveness excited me. It struck a chord with me because I knew while listening to these stories that I, too, was holding onto a lot of anger and hate, specifically around the topic of rape and men.
I was fucking angry.
And the world knew it because I talked about it often and lived this anger throughout my days.
I was angry that I had experienced rape more than once, and I was bitter that sometimes people in my community couldn’t help me or didn’t know how. I was resentful that I didn’t understand the world we live in or why this cycle of trauma and pain was continuously repeating in my life.
So, I gripped onto this anger for years. Over time it only intensified and grew stale in my chest. That stale-ness turned into bricks that built themselves a wall right in front of my heart, or so it felt. I knew this was something I needed to address. In many ways, I was a prisoner of my anger. I thought about my anger and all the reasons I was so mad all of the time. In many ways, it ran my life.
It wasn’t just the rape but also anger over lost relationships and family pain. I felt like a victim, but I didn’t always realize it because in many ways I was happy and grateful, too. I suppose we can be many things at once.
Often it can feel like holding anger over someone else’s head will let them know where they stand with you and that they deserve to feel terrible over what they have done. “If I suffer, so must you for all you’ve done to me!!!” Does this sound familiar to anyone?
But at the end of the day, who feels that anger and resentment? Which body is experiencing this story that is on repeat?
I know that it can appear safe to continue feeling resentment towards someone. Sometimes, it can feel foolish to forgive someone who has done something terrible. “I wouldn’t want to look like a chump and forgive someone who hurt me. I would look weak to offer up my forgiveness. They haven’t even apologized, and they probably never will!”
But as they say, and as I say, forgiveness is for you. (and honestly, it’s for the world as well. Your forgiveness helps the world to heal, but let’s start with you) Working through the anger (or whatever lingering emotion) and choosing to forgive can mean freedom. It can deconstruct the wall over your heart and allow more love to flow.
It can mean freedom from the memories, from the past, from the pain and the prison.
Of course, forgiveness is appropriate whenever you are ready. There is no rush or force required. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. Forgiveness does not mean condoning what has occurred but accepting it and maybe even understanding how and why. The past has happened, and we are all human beings living the human experience. We all do our best and make mistakes and sometimes we hurt people. Sometimes it’s atrocious, too, but at the end of the day, each of us gets to decide how we live and whether we forgive. Choosing to forgive doesn’t make someone better for doing so; we are all along for our rides, but as I said, it can mean more freedom (and maybe even improved health) for the person who chooses to forgive.
So how did I personally find forgiveness and help to move stagnant emotions?
I sat in Meditation and played with these emotions. This approach felt natural for me, so I went with it.
I developed a new awareness of my emotions and experiences, and I approached them (gently).
Looking back, I wish I could remember the healing moments like a movie because they were powerful, but mostly it was time spent with my emotions, exploring forgiveness, and attempting to understand how I could forgive. What would that feel like? Why would I do such a thing? Is it even possible for me? The experience felt like a lot of observing and exploring what anger feels like and resentment and bitterness, too. Where am I holding onto these emotions? What stories are attached to these emotions? There was no force or rushing or insisting. I gave myself plenty of time to sift through everything. I couldn’t tell you how much time, but it was enough time for me. It was just playing and experimentation with my body and energy, and learning a lot along the way.
I had a soft mat and blanket set up near an altar I had built. It was small, but it was my designated space to sit quietly. The brick wall in my chest was deconstructed mostly in this quiet, soft corner of my home. Over time I have learned that forgiveness is an active choice that can occur any time and anywhere, but it began for me in this quiet place where I could focus and become aware of myself.
It was like moving the emotions right through me. I remember them shifting and sliding away and eventually my heart opening up and breathing again. It took time but not too much time, and more than anything, it took intention. Intention to explore, feel, observe and be.
This experience was the first time I realized that we could move emotions through us and that forgiveness is powerful, and sometimes anger can get stuck.
I know that forgiveness can be an upsetting subject for some people. I have felt upset by the idea of forgiving some people, too. Depending on the circumstances, I might feel this way again. Who knows. Many believe that not everyone deserves forgiveness. But luckily, each of us gets to decide if and when we forgive and under what circumstances.
Nothing is required, and there are no rules here.
But I know that forgiveness has helped set me free, not just from physical but mental and emotional blocks too. The rage I attempted to hold over people’s heads ended up being a cage I constructed for myself. When I believed I needed to hold others prisoner, I became a prisoner myself.
None of this is to say that anger is not valid. Of course, it’s valid!! We get to feel, sift through, and express it as it continues to come up through this lifetime.
And this is not to say that I don’t need to remind myself of the power of forgiveness. Of course, I do. Forgiveness is an action, and it requires conscious engagement. It moves, and so do we, so we get to check in with it as need be. Sometimes we can lose sight of it, and sometimes it’s ever-present. So it goes—the winding paths of our lives.
Honestly, I am surprised that I was able to forgive some people and find understanding over certain moments of my life. In hindsight, I did it out of necessity for my health, but perhaps that was divine intervention as I was heading down a bitter path. I am grateful for whatever led me to a deeper understanding of forgiveness and emotions. It led to a more loving and intimate relationship with myself, my life, and the world. It wasn’t (and isn’t) always easy, but damn when I learned that forgiveness was medicine and capable of supporting the body, mind, and spirit in living more freely, my life changed. Who couldn’t share this power with others?
I am grateful for this story. It’s evidence of what is possible for me and anyone looking for a story like this. Furthermore, I am thankful for folks who shared the power of forgiveness on their health and life journey. They gave me a medicine that changed me forever, first through awareness, then again through application. It’s an honor to add a tiny part of my story to this medicinal pot for others to apply to their lives if need be.
May we all remember: Forgiveness is for you, and it’s for the world, but start with you. You deserve to be free.