Ellis: The act of forgiveness is a gift to yourself

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If we are in fact made in the image of God, then our relationship with ourselves and others constitutes a direct connection with the all-powerful. To forgive, therefore, is truly divine.

But how to forgive?

Acts of personal injustice are so hurtful and impactful on our lives that the resulting emotional baggage can be back-breaking. Personal injustice can create the most confusing and conflicting emotions – it is easy to feel at fault, guilty, deserving and, as a result, alone. A crippling sense of emotional inferiority may develop, sabotaging your potential, leaving dreams unrealized and talents under-utilized.

Ultimately, the act of forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.

Forgiveness does not mean that you excuse the actions of those who have hurt you. Indeed, the vital realization that releases you from a cycle of pain is that the injustice is not about you. Recognizing you have been wronged is what demystifies the victimization and allows you to take back the power over your future.

A precondition for forgiveness is to relinquish the obsession with grieving. When we are unable to reconcile what we’ve experienced, we return to the injustice over and over again. Worse, over time we may even start to take a sort of unconscious pleasure in returning to an obsession that wreaks havoc on our lives, neatly storing our injustice collections in our emotional closets for review when we fall short of reaching our potential.

Recognize your hurt. You were wronged and what happened to you was unjust and undeserved. It is important to acknowledge the effect this injustice has had on your life. Allow yourself to feel angry, or vulnerable, or sad. By allowing these emotions to surface, you recognize that you are entitled to them. In doing so, you can take back the control that was lost when the injustice occurred.

Find a trusted person who will allow you to tell them your story of grievance. It is important to be able to vent and talk about our feelings and emotions. As social creatures, we gain strength and perspective from our interactions with others. But a point of caution here: stories of grievance have a shelf life. If you repeat them too enough, you risk becoming a broken record. Don’t become trapped in this cycle.

You get a limited number of passes before your story of grievance needs to evolve into a “hero story” — this is the story you can tell over and over again. No one gets tired of hearing about a hero! It is motivating and positive, a story of overcoming hardship that gives strength to others. As you recognize your ability to overcome adversity, you unleash your creative potential. A positive story is a huge confidence-builder.

Forgiveness unlocks your potential for personal greatness by releasing the blockages that impede your emotional health and creativity. Don’t relinquish that power — as soon as you give it up to someone else, they are back in control and you are once again codependent and a victim. You must own your power in the same way you get to own your forgiveness.

As we go into these holy days with a reflection of where we have been, we also focus on where we want to be in the year ahead. Finding forgiveness is for you alone to achieve. As we are made in the image of God, forgiveness is in our faith.