This blog is even better when read while listening to this song.
Today, I want to talk to you about one of my favorite F words - no, it’s not fuck (though there’s a post on that f word coming soon, so stay tuned!), but instead that word that’s so often talked about in the spiritual community: forgiveness.
How many times have you heard the phrase “forgiveness will set you free?”
Likely, a ton. But if you’re really honest with yourself, how tapped in are you to the feeling and practice of forgiveness?
For so many of us, not very tapped in at all.
And there’s a major reason why: forgiveness requires vulnerability, and it also requires you to release your victimhood and own your power.
And that’s scary af.
The other fear around forgiveness is around anger - see, anger is actually an AMAZING emotion, and it’s so helpful. Anger allows us to keep ourselves safe from people or situations that hurt us.
But then, when we release our anger through the practice of forgiveness, we’re suddenly exposed once again to the possibility of pain. And way too many of us... well, we suck at boundaries when they aren’t fueled by anger.
Because see, there’s a way to keep yourself safe without the anger, but it requires you to be really tapped into your truth and your needs, and it then requires you to set and enforce firm boundaries around your needs.
Which, truthfully, is difficult.
But ultimately, you’re faced with a choice of continuing to live in fear - which blocks you from fulfillment in your life and relationships - or practicing love - which opens you up to the magic this life has for you.
For me, the choice is easy - as challenging as walking the talk of that choice can sometimes be.
And today, I want to share a story with you - a story that is very close to my heart, and one that I’ve never shared publicly.
This story is about one of my greatest forgiveness practices, and it truly makes me cry every time I think about it.
This story takes me back about 8 years - when I was 19. I had recently moved home to Florida, and was in a very unhealthy state mentally and emotionally. From that state, I started dating a man who was a decade my senior.
We worked together at the local pizza joint where I’d taken a serving job, and truthfully I was having a blast. The “in-crowd” there felt so sure of themselves, and so deeply cool in that way I’d always desired to be cool.
We drank together. Partied together. Slept together. Everything that seemed to be important at the time. But truthfully, everything it took to make me numb from the dull ache inside of me.
Fast forward a few months, when I’d moved about two hours outside of my hometown, and was back in school.
My boyfriend and I were still doing the long distance thing, and things were progressing fast. We got through the I love you’s, I met his family and spent thanksgiving at his parents’ house, and we were talking already about a future... kids maybe. I learned he had a son with a former girlfriend, and met his son, exchanging Christmas presents with him and my boyfriend’s baby momma.
All in all, a lot to have on my plate at 19, on top of a full college course load.
And truthfully, I realized a couple months in that it wasn’t right for me. But I was afraid to leave. The relationship felt like a lot of the things I thought I was supposed to have or want. Commitment. Proclamations of love. His family adored me. He loved to spoil me. Talks about owning a home and starting a family.
Wasn’t that what I was supposed to want? To work towards?
Unfortunately, a combination of my own energy and my partner’s own struggles caught up with us. And a few months after I moved and began school, our relationship got violent. Emotionally abusive at first, but things escalated quickly to physical violence.
I distinctly remember so many of those moments - once when my boyfriend and I were fighting in his apartment. My sister and I were visiting him, and when we’d started to fight she went down to the car. When I got downstairs, she was perched with eyes wide, phone in hand, and told me she was ready to call 911.
“I wasn’t sure you were going to come out of there...” she told me. Alive, was tee unspoken fear on her face.
I laughed it off, dismissing her fear, but in my core I knew that she was right. I was afraid, too.
Fast forward again a few months, to the point when our relationship ended. Things had gotten extremely rocky, and there were some very dangerous and violent situations in between my sister nearly calling 911 and our breakup.
I don’t want to dive into the details of the violence for two reasons: one, I would never want to trigger anyone; and two, diving into the story feels like perpetuating my own victimhood. And the truth of this story is that I get to decide - to decide whether to be a victim or not. And years ago, I chose not.
Our relationship ended early in the hours of a morning in late January. It ended with police intervention, a restraining order and a court case.
It was ugly. My apartment was trashed. But I made it through - and am so grateful for the beautiful friend who picked me up from my apartment, and another friend whose home I stayed in that night.
And now, we get to the intention of me telling this story.
I’m sure it’s not hard to imagine that I’d hate the man who did this to me. The man who harmed me, made me question my safety and feel in danger in my own home.
And to be sure, I have hated him.
But now, and for several years now, I have forgiven him. And while telling this story brings emotions for me, there is no sentiment of rage or resentment.
As crazy as it may sound, I feel grateful to tell this story.
I feel grateful to have learned firsthand the TREMENDOUS power of forgiveness.
Forgiving my ex has set me free. It allows me a beautiful story to teach the power of forgiveness. It allows me to release that trauma, and to live my life free from those fears.
I think it’s important to note, this forgiveness did not come with any communication with my ex. We haven’t spoken since I was 19, and I don’t anticipate speaking with him in the future. Forgiveness does not require you to allow someone to return to or remain in your life.
Forgiveness is for you. It is a practice you can employ completely by yourself.
Forgiving my ex took work, to be sure. But working at that was above and beyond worth it. And I can promise you, that when you start to truly embody forgiveness, it brings incredible relief, lightness and power into your life.
I truly, truly hope this story and this post serves you. Please share your comments, stories or questions with me in the comments.
I love you so much.