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How to forgive and move on: Your power to choose

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Life happens. Hard. Situations come out of nowhere and upset our apple carts on a pretty regular basis. Daily we have the opportunity to let life happen to us or to put it into perspective and frame it however we choose to. Many, if not most people, live largely at the mercy of their emotions. After all, when the world is less than kind or even downright cruel, a natural response is to let that dictate an emotional response that typically doesn’t serve us well in the long run.

Life isn’t fair - yet we have these naïve expectations that it is supposed to be. We can certainly justify hurt, anger, revenge, and even a little self pity, but when we get trapped there, we can’t grow and we certainly can’t get the lesson. We all get knocked down, but we have a choice about staying there.

If we believe that someone “made” us feel or behave a certain way, we hand over our personal power to them. We are basically saying that we are helpless victims. Someone else is in charge of our emotions, and therefore, our behaviors. Blaming doesn’t help us get back up – it gives us an excuse to stay down. Down is the path of least resistance – gravitational pull. Uphill is always harder, but it’s where we learn the best of life’s lessons.

Most people are unable to master control of their emotions without a real belief in the fact that they can. Some will even verbalize how they “can’t” recover from some unbearable event; they “can’t” forgive the cruelty of another person. And yes, there are atrocious wrongs done in this world that we honestly don’t want to forgive. There’s no argument that life can be downright crippling – but what happens – including the choices of others that directly affect us - is not within our power to control. How we choose to respond is the only thing that is. Dwelling on the pain or regrets of what we can’t change, fix or re-do is a dead end. Our only power lies in our choice.

Sometimes forgiving someone for something truly heinous can cause us to struggle with feelings of betrayal. We’ve probably all read those stories of individuals who have chosen to forgive the criminals who have done unspeakable things to their children or other family members. Wisdom is revealed in the realization that forgiveness is not betraying the victim – it is freedom from the crime and often, some of the hurt that goes with it. Holding grudges and carrying around baggage becomes a personal prison and serves no one. It certainly isn’t restitution for wrongs. Holding on to the past will never, ever change it.

It takes practice to learn to think this way, and most people simply don’t. It sounds odd, and maybe even impossible. It isn’t. It’s just a matter of changing your mind set, being completely honest with the facts at hand, and knowing your true options.

I am reminded of the famous serenity prayer – in simple words – Fix what you can. Accept what you can’t and know the difference. Peace out.

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