I genuinely have never felt more inspired to write about a topic than I do right now. I just finished deep cleaning my space, turning all my fairy lights on, opening the curtain to my floor-to-ceiling window and letting the natural light pour in. I have eucalyptus mint essential oil behind my ears and a tall glass of green tea in front of me. I feel so physically uplifted, present, and light. While these tangible circumstances certainly are acts of self-care themselves, I like to think of them as complementary to the deeper, more challenging thought work that truly underscores the pursuit of self-love. One of the hardest but most important mindset shifts to invest in is forgiveness. The truth is that I can clean my room and diffuse essential oils all I want, but the real reason I feel so incredibly free is because I worked to intentionally liberate my heart from resentment.
To be transparent, I was raised Roman Catholic and now identify as a spiritual person and a Christian. My personal relationship with Jesus does inform how I think about forgiveness and practice it in my own life. But forgiveness completely transcends the confines of any one religious identity or practice. Whether you have very strong beliefs that conflict with mine or simply aren’t interested in religion, forgiveness is a universal human experience that invites freedom and peace into our lives. It brings transformation, even welcomes it. But authentic, profound forgiveness requires some of the deepest work in our hearts. Depending on the situation, true forgiveness can seem unthinkable. It seems so much easier on the surface to hold onto anger. Bitterness. Betrayal. To keep it so close that it starts to permeate into our hearts, to take hold of us and consume us. It can even seem more than easy. It can seem satisfying, even just, to let our anger burn red. In our heads, we justify this by saying, “Once they give me an apology. But not that one, a better one. Once they fix it. Once it stops hurting.” When we designate a “right time” to forgive based on the other person’s actions, we set ourselves to have that anger simmering beneath our skin for days, weeks, even years. Listen to your heart in this quiet moment. Is there anger simmering in your heart? How long has it been there? Have you accepted its presence in your heart forever, or are you waiting on the “right time” to purge yourself of it?
This topic is hard because life can be hard. This topic is painful because we feel pain, deeply and sometimes for extended periods of time. Forgiveness is not a switch you flip in your heart. Forgiveness is a journey you must choose to embark on. But why? Why do we have to forgive the people who have hurt us or the people we love? The truth is we don’t. We never have to forgive someone. But life is so much better when we do. If we are truly investing in our self-care, truly committed to self-love, we must embrace the journey of forgiveness repeatedly in our lives. Even if we never want to see, talk to, or have a relationship with the person we are forgiving, forgiveness is fundamentally an act of self-love. Forgiveness is fundamentally an act of self-love.
Forgiveness creates space in your life for the things that you love, that spark joy, that inspire you. Anger holds a part of our hearts hostage, leeches some of our emotional energy to sustain itself. When you liberate your heart through forgiveness, you take that part of your heart back. You rid yourself of the heavy weight of a grudge, that weight that you drag around with every step. Forgiveness creates a sense of emotional lightness that expands outward into all aspects of our lives—mental clarity, physical relaxation, and more. I truly have experienced the amazing power of forgiveness in small, everyday ways and also in life-altering ways. But how? How do we take that path to forgiveness? How do we stop waiting to forgive, especially when our hearts still hurt?
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what comes to your mind when you read this. I don’t know what pain you carry. I don’t know what anger or resentment is in your heart. But I do know that you would have so much more freedom to invest your heart into love for yourself and others if you work to slowly loosen your grip on that anger. Here are some things I’ve learned on my own journey to forgiveness:
- You aren’t a bad person for still feeling angry. This is honestly one of the most important things I can share with you. If you are still in pain, if your heart still has not healed, you are not a bad person for still feeling that bitterness, that resentment. This reaction is part of the human condition. Let yourself feel. Be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling, and be specific. How angry are you? How long have you been angry? Who are you angry at? What exactly are you angry about? Write it down. Let it bubble to the surface. Feel it.
- Identify what you would rather feel. Instead of anger, what would you rather experience? Joy? Freedom? Peace? Whatever it might be, get specific about what emotion could replace that anger. Now imagine yourself feeling it. How would your daily routine change? How would your interactions with others change? How would your relationship with yourself change?
- Identify what you would rather invest your energy in. No matter what the situation is, I am so confident that there is another part of your life that you would rather spend your time and energy on. Your family, your academics, your job, your fitness, your spirituality, your hobby. Now imagine yourself doing it. How would your daily routine change? How would your interactions with others change? How would your relationship with yourself change?
- Embrace that forgiveness is hard work, but you are worth showing up for. You’ve imagined how you’d rather feel. You’ve imagined what you’d rather do. Isn’t is so clear now that forgiveness is fundamentally an act of self-love? Isn’t it so clear that liberating your heart is a profound and radical act of self-care? If you’ve been holding onto this resentment for some time, it’s probably going to be a little bit uncomfortable. It might bring some buried pain to the surface. But confront that pain. Do the work to process it. You are worth showing up for. Your heart is worth healing.
There’s no step by step formula on how to let go of anger. There’s no manual that can perfectly fit your life. But once you truly realize and embrace the fact that forgiveness is a choice to invest in your freedom, in your heart, it becomes less about forgetting someone hurt you and more about choosing yourself anyways.
Remember that you aren’t alone. Remember that forgiveness often doesn’t happen overnight. Remember that you are loved, and to lean on those people. If this hits particularly close to home, consider asking for help. Consider how valuable it might be to make space in your life for a therapist to help you pursue forgiveness. Remember that you’re worth it.
I hope you’re doing well. I hope you are kind and patient with yourself today. Some things are out of our control, but we can always choose to show up for ourselves in love. Let’s show up for ourselves today, together.
Choose radiance. Choose fearlessness. Choose you.
With light and love,