The number one key I have found to bring more happiness into life is forgiveness.
Everything I have ever read and heard about forgiveness pointed firmly to just how important it is in promoting more happiness in life. How was I to forgive? This question finally has an answer for me. The most difficult part of forgiveness I have found is I need to do it over and over again until it sticks. Forgiving all who harmed me no matter how horrific and traumatizing their behaviors towards me is an on going process. However, the frequency and intensity of having to focus on forgiving them in order to free myself from hate and resentments has greatly diminished. This is because this forgiveness thing is working, and I am more and more free from the pain and anger that once en-snarled me.
What I learned to do first was honestly come to the belief that I deserve to live a happy and safe life. I reached a point when I realized I had to work on my own inner self before I would attain more of the joy I now believed I deserved. It was at this juncture that I clued in I would need to learn how to grasp forgiveness. In my research of the literature and speaking with other people who had acquired much more happiness in their lives then I yet had, forgiveness kept coming up as one of the keys to happiness. In time I learned this included forgiveness of self and of all others no matter what went on between us. Yes, even when they were clearly in the wrong. I was only doing a disservice to myself if I chose to hold onto old residual pain and resentment. Forgiveness frees me from anger and brings more joy into my life. It was also quickly learned that forgiving does not mean condoning ill behaviors.
When I acknowledge that it is my own self that needs to be forgiven, I need to place myself in the position of being completely honest with myself about my actions and motivations. This honesty creates more self awareness and opens up space to learn and internalize how I may behave better in the future. Moving forward, I go out into the world and search for a number of ways I can do better in areas of my life I have become aware of needing more progress in. Once I find solutions for my behaviors and life then all there is left for me to do is consistently put those solutions into action. I have quickly found I have less to forgive myself over when I am behaving in ways that have increasingly more positive outcomes for me and all others. Mindfully observing one’s own thought patterns when taking time alone to quietly look inward is a way to get honest with what is truly going on in one’s own mind both consciously and subconsciously.
How I have learned to forgive is through positive affirmations for those who harmed me to be well in all areas. Example: May _________ be well mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. At first I said it with less meaning and truth behind the words, but eventually I understood that I truly do want all those who have harmed me to be well. If they are well in their thoughts and emotions, and with their physical and spiritual sense of self they are not causing more harm to others. They will have changed for the better, and I do want that for them and all who come into contact with them. In this way I now honestly mean it when I ask that those who have harmed me be well in all areas of their selves and their lives.
It is not up to me to change anyone other than myself, and one thing I can change is my attitude. When I have a forgiving attitude with the understanding some people are more ill than others and I wish them all well, then I become free from identifying as either victim or survivor. Instead I can see that just like every other I too am a spiritual being on a human journey. I learn from experience as I go, including how to better keep myself surrounded by healthy and safe relationships.
As human beings we are all imperfect. We all have more to learn day-by-day. Some of us are currently sicker than others and have much more to learn along the way. Some of us go from being wonderful, loving, forgiving, and compassionate people to being abusive and cruel people. I have personally seen people go from better-to-worse and worse-to-better. What I know from experience is:
- We choose who we keep around in our lives, and have to live with ourselves.
- We choose to train our thoughts and learn how to regulate our emotions with the help of others to increase positive behaviors and genuine happiness, or we choose to let our reactive thoughts and emotions run our behaviors and lives for us.
- Forgiveness is definitely one of the keys to happiness.