Allow me to share how I learned to forgive Jersey. I don’t have any problem with New Jersey the state, per se, but it is the symbol of my frustrations from that time in my life. In the Tumbleweed post, I mentioned how we resigned from our jobs to move from Jersey to Florida. What you might not know is how inevitable my resignation was — even if we didn’t need to move.
It was a bleak situation at work. It is fair to say things were incredibly frustrating, even though my response definitely made everything worse.
A few coworkers wronged me in deep ways, and it left me reeling in despair. These were people I trusted and relied on. Soon after, my joy at work dried up entirely and I dreaded every workday with a constant horrible feeling in my gut. I became bitter and depressed, rotting away from the inside out.
Quitting was inevitable with a trajectory like that.
When we quit our jobs and moved, I was temporarily relieved. My bitterness continued, though, despite leaving Jersey, the symbol of all our frustrations.
Why was I still bitter?
I had moved on, but I was still clinging to my victim mentality. I hadn’t forgiven anyone yet. My offenders still had power over my emotions.
Two books, QBQ! The Question Behind the Question and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, changed my perspective from victim mentality to proactivity. It helped me realize the proactive man has control over every situation, whereas the victim is has no power of anything.
I finally understood why the awful feeling in my gut was still there — because I chose to harbor bitterness toward others and refused to forgive them! Meanwhile, they probably never realized how much they hurt me in the first place! Here I was, miserable even after quitting, while the people who wronged me aren’t losing any sleep at all.
Forgiveness was my key to enjoying life again. But how do you forgive someone when it’s too late to restore the relationship?
I was finally able to forgive Jersey through three exercises:
- I wrote letters to my offenders. I told them about the painful events which frustrated me. I explained my perspective, intentions, regret for how things turned out. Even though I never intended to send them, these letters were incredibly freeing to write.
- I verbally forgave them every night. I imagined the person and said, out loud, “I forgive you.” I did this many times over weeks and months. There is an undeniable power in speaking (and thus hearing) the feelings you want to have. (This strategy works for much more than forgiveness!)
- I prayed for my offenders regularly. It’s hard, if not impossible, to hate someone when you are praying for them. This softened my heart tangibly each time I prayed.
Now, I am free from the torment of bitterness. I no longer have a wretched feeling in my gut. I could see my offenders again and smile sincerely. As a result of this experience, I will be quick to forgive from now on, knowing it provides peace in my heart.
But why forgive? Am I suggesting you forget the offense or put yourself into a position to get hurt again?
NO! That is foolishness, not forgiveness.
You are allowed to be frustrated with your offender. But don’t stay there too long! You can free yourself from your own prison through active, intentional forgiveness.
And by forgiving others, maybe you’ll be forgiven one day, when you need it badly.
Do you have anyone you need to forgive? What good is it to hold onto the offense?