The sweetest revenge

Forgiveness, Part II 

“Tell your brother you’re sorry.” Arghhhh!

I wasn’t sorry! He hit me first, but I got caught, and I had to be the one to say I was sorry.

I wasn’t really sorry about hitting my brother back, I was just sorry I got caught. I was sorry I wasn’t as skilled at being as sneaky as he was.

My anger grew as I was made to apologize, and the smirk on his face grew even wider. I wanted to seek revenge again, but even as a child, I could see where revenge had gotten me.

For many years, I thought forgiveness simply meant saying I was sorry, and didn’t understand there’s more to it.

Forgiveness is an active process that benefits me. I’m grateful about what I’ve learned, as it’s offered me the keys to my own freedom.

Many universities and health care institutions have conducted forgiveness research, and reveal myriad health benefits to forgiveness, as well as the personal cost of with-holding it.

When we hold a grudge, or stay angry, we are the ones who bear negative physical, mental, and emotional harm, not the perpetrator. 

We each have personal beliefs about what forgiveness is, arising from our families, religion, and the culture we live in. Not all of our beliefs about forgiveness are true and they can only serve to keep us stuck experiencing the pain of the past.

Becoming aware of our beliefs about forgiveness and getting clear about what it really is and is not, is important.

As I shared in last week’s column  forgiveness is not saying what happened is OK or that you ever have to reconcile with another who has harmed you.

Forgiveness is a process of freeing ourselves through letting go of our own hurt, resentment, and anger. It’s reducing our own suffering.

It takes a strong person to forgive. But when we do, we reclaim our energy from the past and empower ourselves. We take our power back.

There are many models for forgiveness arising from the research; there’s no one, single way.

First, it’s important we acknowledge our hurt feelings.

Often times, we’re led to deny or sugar-coat our feelings, but this is about being real with ourselves, and acknowledging our own feelings. It’s important to remember to breathe, and make space for our feelings; Simply experience our feeling, not to feed them.

We then consciously make a decision to forgive. We do this for ourselves, not for the other We’re not condoning behaviour, or seeking reconciliation here. We are deciding to free ourselves.

In this decision, we become empowered.

When we’ve been hurt, something is lost, and we need to grieve.

The challenge with grief, is many people won’t allow themselves to grieve, preferring to deny the hurt, or cover-up hurt feelings with anger instead. Anger often covers up other emotions.

Grief may feel vulnerable, and anger may feel like power.

Anger keeps us stuck in the stress response, and this takes a toll on our health.

As we grieve, it’s also important to not stay stuck in the grief for too long or to feed the hurt feelings.

It’s a balance.

I find balance when I consider how I’d support my own best friend who’s experienced pain. I wouldn’t deny it was there. I’d be compassionate.

I also wouldn’t egg them on, feeding the story to make them feel worse. I wouldn’t remind them of every past injustice or pain when they’re already hurting.

As we feel our hurt and grief, we hold ourselves in compassion and breathe.

For those big hurts, those things I’ve been most challenged to forgive, believe it or not, I find empathy to be the most powerful antidote.

As I wrote last week, hurt people hurt people. I pause to become curious about what might have happened in the life of the ‘villain’ to have caused them to act the way they did.

This curiosity creates an opening for me to develop empathy toward them. Some people perpetuate their own pain by inflicting it on others. They may be unskilled.

Considering this perspective causes me to shift from feeling the victim of another’s behaviour, to one of personal empowerment.

Often, for me, this dance of feeling my emotions, deciding to forgive, grieving, and shifting perspective to empathy is done in layers for the bigger hurts.

I used to think it was once and done. I wish this were so. If hurt feelings arise again, we haven’t failed. There’s just another layer of healing being made available.

What I’ve learned is, each time I make the choice to forgive, I feel lighter and happier. I sleep better, and it is much more pleasant inside my head and body.

With a big hurt, it may be helpful to seek the support of a caring, wise friend, or a therapist, to help guide us through the process.

Forgiveness is a very big topic but one worth exploring, and it’s a good investment of our time. The benefits of growing our personal capacity for forgiveness are many.

As we practice forgiveness, starting with the smaller hurts first, we grow our capacity to free ourselves from hurt. We are empowered.

While it may seem unfair that the injured person must take time to practice forgiveness to heal, those who choose forgiveness benefit the most.

The freedom forgiveness offers and a life well lived may be the best revenge.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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