Yesterday, on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), I had the privilege to facilitate one of the learning sessions to members of my community. My topic was “Dealing with Difficult Emotions.”
I tied my class into The S.T.U.C.K. Method and spoke about the natural tendency for all humans to get stuck and the freedom we have to get unSTUCK.
In these workshops I typically read a part from my book to help people understand and learn the 5-steps to The S.T.U.C.K. Method, and I usually do so with self-deprecating humor.
But, yesterday I did something entirely different.
Instead of reflecting on a story of the past, I brought up a current situation that I was stuck on.
In fact, it’s a story that I’ve been carrying around with me now for 3 years.
Stuck on anger and resentment towards someone in my community.
I had no clear intentions of where my workshop was going to lead, but the one thing I did know, was that if I didn’t admit to being stuck and unable to forgive this person, I knew I wouldn’t be practicing what I was preaching.
And so, instead of sharing a funny story that would make people laugh (which seems to have become a new forte of mine), I said in all seriousness, “I need to forgive someone.”
And as I walked the participants through the steps and they processed through their own stories, I came up with my own CONSIDERATIONS:
- I can consider that this person was in a distressful place when she wrote those harmful words to my husband;
- I can consider this person is not evil;
- I can consider that I’m holding onto anger and resentment which is probably affecting me in negative ways: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually;
- I can consider that she did ask for forgiveness 3 years ago and she did recognize her wrong-doing;
- I can consider forgiving doesn’t necessarily mean condoning;
- I can consider forgiving doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting;
- I can consider forgiving her.
And so, I chose to forgive her.
And then I held myself in self-compassion and told myself “It’s OK” that I not only got stuck on anger and resentment, but that I held onto that anger and resentment for 3 years!
I thought the difficult part was behind me, but it wasn’t. Because when I went to the computer to write her an email explaining how I have chosen to forgive her, I froze.
“Do I really need to let her know that I forgave her?”
“Why does she even need to know?”
But, then I thought twice and realized if she doesn’t know I forgave her, she will never expect me to behave any differently when I see her – and the truth of the matter is, I want to act differently when I see her. I want to be able to say a simple, “Shabbat Shalom” to her or offer a smile in passing – rather than what I’ve been doing over the past 3 years which is avoiding her like she is air.
I want her to know I forgive her, not because I need a pat on the back, but because I want things to change.
So, last night I wrote the following:
I wanted to let you know, it’s taken me quite a while, but I finally found the courage today to forgive you for the hurtful and damaging words/threat you sent to my husband (and towards me and my children) 3 years ago.
And this morning, while taking a walk up to the mini-market in our community to buy milk for my kids’ cereal, I checked my email on my phone and saw I had received a response from her.
Thanks for writing this.
Yes, indeed, my holiday was meaningful in particular as well.
I don’t condone what I’ve done either and have tried to forgive myself for letting my pain hurt others who weren’t the cause of it.
I hope saying a simple ‘shalom’, or a smile would be ok.
Wishing you a good year and a good day.
And when I looked up from my phone, she was standing right in front of me.
Coincidence? Divine Providence?
Whatever it was, I was grateful.
Seeing her made me realize what happiness and relief I felt for the forgiveness work I did.
Seeing her made me feel grateful to God for giving us these holidays which remind us to reflect on our thoughts and behaviors and encourage us to be bold in taking actions which are not always necessarily so easy for us.
Seeing her gave me an opportunity to give her a hug.
Which I did.
And even laughed.
And then we went on with our days.
That moment was an indescribable release for me – like the feeling you get at the end of a yoga class – feeling like all the weight you’ve been holding in your body (which you weren’t even aware you were holding) has now been taken off of you.
And you feel 20 pounds lighter.
And ready to do more of this work.
Because you realize the incredible benefit and value it offers not only you, but to those around you.
Now it’s your turn.
Are you willing to consider forgiving someone today?