iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Amanda Slavin

GET UPDATES FROM Amanda Slavin
 

The Importance of Forgiveness in Yourself and Others

Posted: 05/31/2012 10:52 am

This weekend, I was lucky enough to share a house in the Hamptons with nine truly remarkable people. While some of us were really close before, others never even met each other, yet we all decided to rent a house to escape. On a Saturday afternoon lying on the grass while others swung on a hammock, (it was just that perfect), I made everyone play the "one minute game" that I often use to bring people together and open up doors of conversation very quickly. The one minute game times people for 60 seconds to tell their life story. You have to include your family, your love life, your career, start with "I was born here" and end with "and that's how I got here." Generally this game does not let you deeply connect with the individual based on your 60 second story, but because of the time constraint, it forces you to stray away from the "elevator pitch version of your life," so it leaves a lot of room for questions.

After we all went through our stories of "how we got here" (here being New York), we all got into the conversation of what makes us love NYC, and I brought up my last article about how sometimes we let New York get the best of us. After speaking about what we loved and hated about New York, it made me realize how little permission New Yorkers give themselves to relax. We are so hard on ourselves for "missing out," that sometimes it's as if we are fighting with ourselves. We also become hard and frustrated and anxious and while trying to keep up, sometimes forget to forgive ourselves for making decisions to stay in, to miss an opportunity, and to date the wrong person. It is so important to forgive the fact that we make mistakes, and those mistakes are what make us who we are.

After this long bonding conversation, I started to evaluate what it means to forgive. It was very coincidental that I ended up running into someone that I had felt had done a lot of wrong to me that same day. They came up to me out of nowhere and told me and how much they loved me and how proud they were of me. It was truly shocking after years of frustrations and resentment, especially because we haven't actually spoken in months and it made me start to think about the importance of forgiveness. Firstly, forgiveness in others and secondly and (way more difficult), forgiveness in ourselves.

When I was a teacher (in a very progressive education program), we were never allowed to force students to say sorry to just fix a situation. We had to talk them through what they did and have them sort through why pulling their friend's hair or spitting in their friend's face was wrong, so that they could then apologize on their own accord. This dramatically differed from when I grew up, in which sorry was a word that fixed everything on the playground. "Say you're sorry" was commonly used to help make amends for arguments, insults and, as I got older broken, hearts.

As I grew up, sorry started to be used more and more as a band-aid. People in my life who hurt me used sorry as an attempt to convince me to reopen my heart to them after they wronged me. After analyzing my past mistakes as well as my present actions, I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that forgiveness is subject to what you feel is right for you at that point of time. It is not automatically letting someone back in that hurts you, it is about understanding that person for all they are, not resenting them for who they are not, and then evaluating whether or not their character aligns with yours. Sometimes, forgiveness is about letting go. It is about letting go of the resentment you feel when thinking about the person that hurt you, it is about letting go of the fears you feel inside when you took the wrong turn, it is about believing that the decision(s) you make to help yourself grow are the right ones.

I also think that in order to forgive, you need to be at a place where you love yourself. I am doing a lot of soul searching recently, and now looking back, I see a lot of people that I was so angry with and resented so much really shed light on how angry and resentful I was of myself at the time. In order to truly forgive someone else, you need to forgive yourself. Instead of hating the person that has done you wrong, ask yourself: what in me has drawn me to this person? How can these experiences shed light on what I need to do to better myself so that does not happen again?

Sometimes forgiveness will allow you to open your heart again. I am not by any means saying that to forgive is to forget, if anything, I am saying forgiveness is a choice. It is not a cause-effect scenario where sorry means opening yourself up to those who hurt you or walking away no matter what the circumstance. It is a time to allow yourself to reflect and say, if I warrant forgiveness onto this situation, what does that mean in the bigger scheme of things and what is the best decision to learn from this mistake? Sometimes when you let someone go or if you walk away from something that you believe is not right for you, and you then forgive yourself or that person, you will find that there will be another time to let that person/ opportunity in again, and it is up to you to decide if the time is right at a later point.

I watched a Ted Talk recently that really blew me away. It was about two mothers who found forgiveness in the most unlikely situation. One mother, (Phyllis Rodriguez) lost her son in 9/11 and the other mother, (Aicha el-Wafi)'s son was on trial for the attacks on US soil. Phyllis Rodriguez not only was open to connecting with Aicha el-Wafi, but forgave her and empathized with her suffering for her son who was about to be given the death sentence for his actions. They were bound together and embraced each other during this time of utmost pain and anguish.

This act of forgiveness is beyond powerful. In this instance, it was about seeing the opportunity to forge a relationship that not only deeply affected each individual but also helped each of them get through this absolutely traumatizing experience. Forgiveness allows you to see people for all they are, and see yourself for who you are, and through this clear understanding of humanity and this new form awareness, you can make the decision to let go or to let in. Aicha el- Wafi ends the Ted talk by saying, "your mind must be generous; your heart must be generous." Forgiveness is so hard because it has to penetrate hate, resentment, fear and frustration, and cut so deep that it paves the way for the individual to be generous to another individual and more importantly themselves.

At the end of the day, people make mistakes. I look back and think of all the mistakes I've made in love, work, school and life and I am finally in the process of forgiving myself for those mistakes. I forgive those who were my mistakes, and see that without those people, those insults, and the breaks in my heart, I wouldn't be who I was today, and that is what makes it all worth forgiving.

 

Follow Amanda Slavin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ajslavin

FOLLOW IMPACT