Let it Go = Forgiveness
You know you should let it all go, and you try, but there it is—that same old stuff still getting rent-free space in your head.
Hot shot kid in a too-fast car cut you off this morning; it’s noon and you’re still seething?
Clerk at the grocery store wouldn’t let you in his express line because the guy behind you ratted on your 11th item?
Husband had an affair 15 years ago and even though you’ve been divorced for seven, your stomach still knots up when you think about it?
You moved to a new city for a great career opportunity but long so much for your old home and your old friends that you can’t find anything to like about the new place?
Your son stays home to care for the kids while your daughter-in-law works at her law practice and this just doesn’t seem right to you?
Just exactly how does one let go, so that the residue of the past is put away, forgotten, or transformed into memories that can be called upon at will, rather than those that show up like telephone solicitors at dinnertime and demand attention?
Forgiveness has to do with living in the present moment rather than the past. It happens when the past isn’t projected into the future, but is left behind where it belongs. It is about making amends when called for, taking care of that which needs attending to, forgiving rather than re-living.
Forgiveness: Steps to Try
- Try this: next time a thought about something that happened in the past floats into your mind, let it pass through without jumping aboard and going along for the ride. If you focus on it, like a weed that gets watered it will grow. Try acknowledging the thought, then, with a deep breath, letting it go.
- If the thought that comes along is about something that’s left undone, you may need to take some action before you can let go. Do you need to make amends to someone, clear up some misunderstanding, write a letter or make a phone call? Perhaps you need to make a list of the actions needed to clear a situation, and set some goals. Begin with a small, manageable step, but, whatever you must do, begin. Taking action sometimes precedes forgiveness.
- Stay in the now and appreciate the circumstances of your life. Make a gratitude list of what you like about wherever you are, not just your living arrangements, but other parts of your life, too. Get rid of what is no longer appropriate in your life, and create more space for new parts of yourself to show up.
- Write letters that you may or may not send to people you need to release. (Caution: always wait a few days and check with someone you trust if you have any doubts about the appropriateness of actually sending a letter.) Write unsent letters to situations from your past or to people, even those who have passed away. Write what you feel, say what you need, and say goodbye.
- Let go by putting away pictures, memorabilia, clothes, gifts and anything else that keeps you actively connected with someone who’s no longer with you and whose presence you keep alive when it would be more beneficial to move on.
- Make a ceremony of forgiveness. Burn old letters or journals. Dig a hole in the earth and bury what needs to be buried. Write a letter or vow for the occasion, read it aloud. Light candles, sing songs. And weep, if need be. Include others in your ceremony to witness or assist you.
- Let go of old ideas. People, lifestyles and cultures change. Talk to others, get other perspectives. Focus on what’s good about change, find the ways it benefits you and others. Holding on to how it used to be keeps you from participating in the present.
- Release thoughts and words that categorize people, that measure or evaluate or that judge or condemn or hold others with expectations. Eliminate words like should, ought, can’t, if only, however and impossible.
Forgiveness and Letting Go Sets Us Free
Gerald Jampolsky, M.D., author of Love is Letting Go of Fear, wrote, “When we cherish or hold onto grievances, we cannot let go. We become imprisoned.” Perhaps the highest level of letting go is to practice forgiveness.