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May the world be kind to you, and may your own thoughts be gentle upon yourself. - Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Forgive and Forget? Can You Really Lift Your Burden of Resentments?

The questions keep coming... "How can I forget all the wrong things that have been done to me throughout my life. How can the thoughts that are in my brain be erased so that they do not keep popping up over and over again. It is not easy to forgive what my brain cannot erase. Who knows the secret? Please tell me!!!"

Complete forgiveness of everyone, including yourself, for all actions and inactions is the key to happiness, but... How to do it? It is one thing to pass the hurdle of agreeing in concept that forgiving would relieve your own tremendous burden of resentments, regrets, anger, and hatred, but it is quite another thing to accomplish that forgiving.

"I can forgive, but I cannot forget," is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a canceled note - torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one.
- Henry Ward Beecher

Wise words from Henry Ward Beecher, 19th century Congregationalist clergyman and social reformer, but still... How to cancel, tear up, and burn the burden of resentment that darkens our hearts and burdens our spirit?

Let me work from an example out of my own life. I was looking for a good investment and decided real estate was the way to go. I knew a real estate developer who appeared to be very successful and who was looking for capital to expand his business. After we had a handshake deal for me to invest in his company, but before we had signed any legal papers, I got a call from him that some land had become available at a very low price because of foreclosure, but the deal required immediate action. I loaned him what was to me a very large amount of money without proper legal paperwork. To cut short a very long and very painful story of mounting legal fees and disappointments, I never saw my money again.

From my point of view, what this man did was, and always will be, reprehensible. This episode will never leave my brain. So how could I gain peace and no longer be haunted by anger and hate?

1. I recognize that this was a very troubled person, financially, legally, and personally, and that he did not intend to do me personal harm. I just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

2. I consciously remind myself whenever resentments reoccur that my anger burns me rather than him.

3. I remind myself that the events are now in the past with, in some sense, no more reality than last night's bad dream.

4. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned. Yes, I have learned to be more suspicious of people, but much more important, I have learned that the true cause of my financial loss was my own greed. I invested without proper legal precautions because I hoped to make a lot of money quickly. Shame on me. While that lesson was expensive financially and emotionally, it was a crucial life lesson.

5. I have so much else for which to be grateful. While that financial loss has reduced my life style substantially, I am very grateful for my family, my home, good food, my health, and so much more. I am one of the most fortunate humans on this planet, and simply being granted humanity at all is the most amazing gift.

The key to achieving the freedom of forgiveness is reinterpreting your resentments so they no longer haunt you.

1. See the event from the other person's point of view. By this, I do not mean how you believe they should have perceived the event, or how you believe that you would have perceived the event standing in their shoes, but how you believe that they actually perceived the event at the time it occurred.

2. Although we know logically that the event happened in the past, we tend to feel as if we are being injured in the present moment. Concentrate on viewing the event as history, rather than as something that is occurring now.

3. See the event as a great, if expensive, lesson. Make a list of all the lessons you have learned from the event. Focus on the positive lessons rather than the lesson of not trusting people. Let the lessons include having more gratitude for everything you are blessed with each day.


  1. Your advice really works.

  2. This is good advise, I have been holding on to resentment because of past experiences and hurt and it is not a good way to live your life. We have to train our brains to let it go and move on. It is a slow process but it is working. So hard though to change your way of thinking.

  3. So true..
    Many years of holding on to hurt and pain caused by others.
    My heart and mind are so much more at peace since I have let go of the past.
    You can forget and forgive.
    It is very hard to change the person who you are if you love and care about other people..

  4. Wow, thank you so much for those words.


  5. These very wise and powerful words regarding forgiveness stand out to me in a big way. It took me a long time to realize how they can change your life immensely. My greatest gift to myself was releasing every bit of anger, hurt & resentment that I felt had caused scars to my emotional well-being. I forgave anyone that ever caused me pain & my scars instantly began to heal. My resentments were definitely not hurting the other person, only MYSELF. Now I feel so much weight has been lifted off my heart & I've gotten my life back! This change may not be easy in the beginning, but the rewards that you reap are incredible & life-changing!

  6. Forgiving mean people from the past is very hard even when that person is no longer alive. But it's worth it because we deserve a happy life! I'm grateful for being alive & trying to come out of the sadness this troubled soul caused me & my family. I thank God for my family, home, food, recovering health, & my spiritual awakening :)

  7. thanks again for the lesson learned...forgiveness is the way to happiness. altho it is hard to forget...keep trying and focus on other things that will make life wonderful. time will help erase the unpleasant to replace it with joy and peace at heart.

  8. Oh, i love your messages!!! I too have so much anger inside me from my past. The problem is that one of the "causes", my partner, is still with me. Fear is my best friend at the moment. I started to drink heavely in 2009 and in 2011 had to join AA. I am now sober for two years(thank God) but still dealing with the same problems(i am stupid) I am a slow learner looks like it, i feel that i still need to REALLY forgive a lot of things.

  9. I have the unfortunate luck of having to live very close to a neighbor whom, for various reasons, I have tremendous anger towards. Every time I see this neighbor it causes me to become upset. I have decided to change that...and, every time I see this neighbor it now give me pleasure and cause me to laugh..If it was so easy for that "anger/unhappiness" button to be pushed - why not just change that button to one of laughter....it is working!!!

  10. Iam almost 80. My father was very verbally abusive and my 17 year old brother woke me up when I was 6 and molested me a few times. They have passed away but I can't seem to totally forgive them because I have come to realize how much it has effected my life in so many ways.

  11. I AM A 75woman-I cannot forget how my parents treated me. my ex husband treated me like nothing and treated the children badly I cannot forget and forget.please help me to learn to forgive

  12. RE: "I cannot forget and forget.please help me to learn to forgive" Being addicted to anger is a lot like being addicted to alcohol or drugs. It is VERY hard to let go of the crutch. Focus on going just one day without being angry. If that is too much, focus on one hour, or even one minute. If you can do one day/hour/minute, then and only then go for the next little bit of time without anger.


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