Emotional baggage comes in all shapes and sizes and affects different people in diverse ways. Despite this, everyone agrees that baggage is a weight needing to be jettisoned. Is it so easy?
I used to get annoyed when people would tell me to forgive. My response had always been, “I’ll forgive when and if I feel like it.” Of course, these forgiveness freaks always had a comeback for each of my comments.
They would tell me the forgiveness wasn’t for them it was for me. OK, I can understand no one wishes to trudge around through life with a great big sack of resentment. It’s heavy. It’s painful, and adds a distortion of darkness to life that colors everything in view.
But what about serious crimes such as rape and murder? Is it really reasonable to expect someone to forgive in these cases? Forgiveness poses a hard challenge as the infractions become more damaging to our lives, our hearts and perhaps, our souls.
After many years of contemplating this matter of forgiveness, here is where I arrived: I never insist anyone forgive anything. I only ask, “How would you feel if you no longer had to carry that hate, hurt, fear, anger, or loss around with you? How would your life be different?
Here are some other thoughts. Forgiveness never means what anyone has done was right. It doesn’t mean forgiveness can happen immediately solely by proclaiming it. Forgiveness is a process. Anyone who has undergone this process understands you may be able to one day wake up and realize whatever the matter requiring forgiveness had been resolved. At that point, you let it go. Of course, forgiveness would be much easier if the perpetrator of your trust asked for your forgiveness. You’re lucky if that’s the case. Most of time, you will be on your own.
Don’t underestimate the healing power of time. Time truly heals wounds. Does it heal all wounds? I am unsure.
What time allows is distance and growth to occur from the moment of the painful incident to some point in the future where your perspective has changed. Perhaps without any awareness on your part, the situation resolved naturally and the negative feelings simply no longer exists. You let it go.
Holding onto guilt, pain, loss, anger and the past is human. Holding on for too long begins to define your existence. For example, someone could believe, “I can’t love again because I will never love anyone as much as I did my husband.” That thought can define choices and limit opportunities if left unchecked.
In my case, I left a job that was OK and went to one that was worse. I regretted that decision for a long time. Regretting my choice didn’t change my circumstance, or make me happier. That was a suitcase of regret packed tight with remorse that served no earthly good in my life. In perspective, it was a risk I took that ultimately led me to pursue other dreams and opportunities.
Moving into our future can be daunting, frightening and uncertain. We can’t know the future. We can only know the past, and that provides security because it’s familiar. The future is risky, but it is everyone’s destination. We can arrive there laden with suitcases of baggage to manage, or we can arrive ready to create anew.
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