The internet is filled with advice and definitions about forgiveness, some from very credible sources, like this excerpt from a Mayo Clinic article:
"Forgiveness means different things to different people. But in general, it involves an intentional decision to let go of resentment and anger.
The act that hurt or offended you might always be with you. But working on forgiveness can lessen that act's grip on you. It can help free you from the control of the person who harmed you. Sometimes, forgiveness might even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.
Forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting or excusing the harm done to you. It also doesn't necessarily mean making up with the person who caused the harm. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that allows you to focus on yourself and helps you go on with life."
We are told that in order to heal and to grow we need to forgive those who have wronged us.
Personally, I found this advice elusive. Not only was forgiveness a hard concept to embrace, but it was difficult to practice.
It's not that I didn't want to forgive people. I hated carrying the baggage of a grudge around. I wasn't comfortable with the anger that ate at me. Yet, every time I focused on forgiving someone for their errors I ended up dwelling on the wrong itself which brought those feelings of rage to the surface all over again.
It was a vicious cycle.
There is a multi-million dollar cottage industry of books out there dealing with love.
The message is always the same: "In order to really love someone you must love yourself first."
Let's back that powerful message up just a bit and touch on the step that quietly proceeds it.
To experience love you must practice forgiveness.
I suspect that many authors avoid mentioning this step, because they, like me, found it to be a catch-22.
But maybe we can unpack it just a bit.
It has been my experience that in order to forgive someone else you must first forgive yourself. I can hear you already; "Eric, I'm the victim here what did I do that needs to be forgiven?!?!?"
I'm not arguing that. You were wronged and are absolutely entitled to every emotion you experience.
I'm talking about a separate event, something that may be completely unrelated to the wrong you've endured.
If you're like me the grudges you hold against yourself are far more crippling than the grudges you hold against others.
If you're like me a familiar environment can drudge up memories from long ago which have long since been forgotten by everyone but you.
If you're like me you'll cringe at the recollection and begin the process of beating yourself up all over again.
Over the next week or so we're going to take a daily look at different steps we can use to learn from those events, to grow from those events, and to heal from those events.
We're not nearly as bad as we've led ourselves to believe.