Forgiveness is the most CHALLENGING thing for me in my relationships with friends, family members and my husband. I have ALWAYS had issues with this topic of forgiveness and have found that I am not alone in my struggles.
I remember when I was a teenager, I used to brag about the length of time I could hold grudges as though it was worthy of a gold medal. I would brag about not speaking to a former friend for 2 years or 5 years with pride and joy. I almost expected a standing ovation for my actions. In my mind, only tough people could keep malice for years. I proved my toughness by how long I could hold grudges and reveled in my unforgiveness skills. I used to have no qualms about cutting people off like King Henry VIII famously beheaded people.
The older I have gotten, the less I have engaged in this behavior, but I continue to struggle with the issue of forgiveness. My experience with forgiveness is that I still struggle despite my decision to forgive. All it takes is a trigger to take me back to that memory and I am fuming and foaming in the mouth as though the experience just occurred. I have listened to many messages, read books and blogs on forgiveness, but they all made me feel good about forgiving until something happens that takes me back to that issue.
After many years of struggling with forgiveness, and working with many clients in counseling on this topic, I decided to write this blog about my personal experience, and observations on forgiveness and I hope it blesses someone who is struggling with this issue.
I believe that the biggest myth about forgiveness that has ever been told is that forgiveness is an act we do once. It is something that we decide to do and it automatically happens. My Clinical and personal experience dispels that myth. I have discovered that forgiveness is not just a decision, it is a process. Making a decision to forgive is only the beginning of this long, arduous process.
Once we decide to forgive, the next process is to continue to consistently forgive the issue until the sting is completely gone. As a matter of fact, once we make the decision to forgive, life will bring us a series of tests to really give us the opportunity to CHOOSE forgiveness over and over again.
Forgiveness is an ongoing act. When a person hurts us and breaks our trust, we might feel heartbroken and the weight of that pain can be very difficult to bear. Choosing forgiveness is always the HEALTHIEST decision that we can make.
Choosing to forgive helps to lighten our load, but it does not vindicate the perpetrator of our pain. However, it does set us free from the chains of pain. Our forgiveness will be tested whenever we are reminded or triggered by events that takes us right back to our pain. And each time we choose forgiveness, our wound moves from scab to scar.
There will always be a scar. Whether it is an unfaithful spouse, a painful break up, divorce, abusive parent, or broken friendships, we will always have the scars from the pain, it is a reminder of our story.
Choosing to forgive over and over again stops us from constantly pulling off the scabs and allows the wound to heal and scar. Choosing forgiveness means that over time, triggers will no longer have the power they used to have.
Forgiveness takes time. Time is an essential ingredient on the forgiveness journey. With time and the ongoing choice to forgive, the pain dulls until it is no more.
So the next time you are confronted with a trigger of despair, and feel yourself starting to drown in the sea of sadness from the painful memories of 'the hurt,' remember that you DECIDED to forgive. More importantly, remember to choose forgiveness AGAIN.
Here are some helpful tools that you can use when triggered after you've decided to forgive
1. Remind yourself of your decision and commitment to forgive
2. Remember how far you have come on this forgiveness journey and hold unhealthy lingering thoughts captive. If you allow your thoughts to continue to drive you to that pain and re-live and feed those emotions, you will re-lapse
3. Pray about your feelings, journal and/or read encouraging articles about forgiveness
4. Talk to a trusted friend about your struggle (not a friend that will encourage your unhealthy behavior, but one that will validate your feelings while helping you navigate through this ocean of feelings to the path of forgiveness and remind you of how far you have come)
5. Remember that forgiveness is an ongoing process of choices. Put one step in front of the other and choose forgiveness again and again.
6. Be patient and kind to yourself…Forgiveness takes time and Rome was not built in a day.
7. Remember why you’ve chosen forgiveness. Forgiveness is for you. This is about YOU.
The more you practice these steps, the easier it will get until one day, you reach the scar forgiveness destination where your wounds don’t bleed or hurt anymore. The scar is only a geographical reminder of your pain, rather than a direct experience of the pain.
Forgiveness is not easy, but what is even more difficult and poisonous is unforgiveness. It robs you of your joy and peace and keeps you negatively attached to the event and the person that caused the pain. Unforgiveness has the opposite desired effect. You may desire not to have anything to do with the perpetrator of your pain, but unforgiveness is the umbilical cord that continues to feed that situation and keeps you linked to that person and situation.
If unforgiveness is the chord, forgiveness is the scissors. Cut it off!
1. Write Down your goals
2. Have a Timeline for Your Goals
3. Pray Over Your Goals Often, then execute.
2015 is almost here and I hope you have your goals and plans written down even if it is a rough draft. Having your goals and plans in your head is not enough. You must write them down.
Research suggests that people who have their plans and goals laid out are more successful than those who do not.
Going into the New Year without your goals written down is akin to an architect building a house without a blueprint, plan or drawing of what the building will look like.
When you write down your goals whether it is about working on your relationship with your spouse, improving yourself as a parent, taking your business to the next level, starting a new business, or returning to school, you are living INTENTIONALLY.
Having your goals written down makes you accountable to yourself and your goals and begins the process of creating a physical manifestation of your vision. Writing down your goals is only the first step, the second step is giving those goals timelines.
Having a timeline for your goals/plans is not just an accountability tool, it is also a helpful tool in determining what is viable within that time frame. As the year progresses, you can make adjustments to the goals you set for yourself.
Make sure your plan is somewhere you can see it often. Having it by your bedside is great, put it near your bathroom mirror, in a drawer you use often, Make sure it is in a visible place where you can see it often. Lastly, pray over it, and meditate on it. Soak your plans in prayer. Praying is an anti-anxiety medication. Use it often. Great ideas that have transforming power can also be dropped into your spirit during prayer. Do it often!
Writing down your goals, having a time line, and praying about your goals mean nothing without proper execution. This new year, start working actively on your goals, become intentional about them and each day, make sure you do something towards achieving them. Goals without action is day-dreaming, faith without works is dead.
I wish you a prosperous and happy new year!
The year 2015 is going to be a year of divine resurrection. God will visit and breathe new breath into every dying situation in our lives. Our marriages, our relationships, businesses, ministries, visions, and goals are going to be re-awakened. Everything that we have deemed impossible, untouchable, dead, and that we have given up on is going to be resurrected.
2015 is going to be a year of divine resurrection. Be hopeful, be expectant. Everything that the enemy has stolen from you will be restored!
Happy New Year! See you at the top!
In the last few weeks, I have been on a mission to getting myself back in shape and to a healthy weight. It has been a very difficult process for me as I have to get up early in the morning to work out while most people are still sleeping.
My workout partner aka coach aka trainer is also my husband and no one pushes me like he does. Usually after each work out I am worn out, have no energy or desire to talk and many parts of my body sing choruses of pain.
I was having a conversation with a work friend of mine who is also on the same journey. I shared with her that I did 6o burpies that morning and felt great because I was able to complete my sets without giving up, I also shared with her all the different weight lifting exercises that I have been doing and how sore I was.
During our conversation, I told her that I was getting fit on the inside. I said, I might not look fit on the outside but my insides are getting ripped. We both laughed hysterically at my statement and she looked at me and said, you know, “That is how God transforms us.”
When we focus so much on the end goal or the place of perfection, we sometimes forget the process, which is the work that God is doing in us RIGHT NOW. The idea that our walk with God is not a final destination, but a journey holds true.
Living a disciplined life, and walking our faith-talk with integrity is not an easy thing to do. But, God is our coach; he coaches us on the inside. While people might judge how we look on the outside, we must remember that we are getting ripped internally. You might be judged for getting divorced, failing a class, losing a business, putting on weight, getting pregnant out of wedlock, losing your home, being a single parent, etc. But, you know that this journey is not about anyone, it is about you and God. You’re not running anyone’s race, so focus on you!
We all have things in our lives that we want to change, we might want our marriages to be different, it might be our parenting, or even our attitudes. We must not lose faith or hope. We must keep going back to the SOURCE, our life coach. Draw strength from God, knowing that he is the one that transforms.
Don’t allow what people say make you lose hope; every journey starts with a single step. Whatever you want to change, whether it is losing weight, starting a business venture, returning to school, strengthening your marriage, walking away from unhealthy people and relationships, or becoming a more present parent. Know that it is a journey.
On some days I do not feel like getting up to workout. Some workout days I feel very accomplished and other days, I feel frustrated at how unfit I am. All days are not great and fun days. But I am learning to enjoy and embrace the journey.
There will be days filled with disappointments when I step on the scale and my weight in pounds is not affirming. For you it might be someone saying no, receiving a letter of disappointment, failing an entrance exam, not being able to raise capital as quickly as possible, or even the knowledge and awareness that your relationship isn’t what you hoped and planned it to be.
I encourage you to hang in, hang on. Rome was not built in a day. Keep at it, do not give up, keep pursuing, keep praying, keep hope and faith alive and PUSH yourself. People might not see it now, they might judge your current outward state, but you know that you are getting ripped on the inside!
Your affirmation is that you are getting stronger and stronger with each challenge, with each no, with each disappointment.
I know that in the next 6 months, if I do not give up and I keep working out and eating right, my inner ripped self will show itself on the outside, the scales will reflect my cumulative hard work, and I might not have reached my goal yet, but will be able to confidently declare “I’m not where I need to be, but I am no longer where I used to be!”
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6).
On March 23, 2012 I received the best birthday gift ever, I found out that I was pregnant. At my first Ob/Gyn appointment my doctor informed me that I was doing well but expressed some concern about the size of my thyroid. She ordered a blood test which came back normal but she wasn't satisfied, so she ordered a thyroid ultrasound and referred me to a specialist. The ultrasound revealed that I had some weirdly shaped nodules.
The specialist informed me that he wanted me to have a biopsy to rule out thyroid cancer. He explained what thyroid cancer was, it’s prevalence and shared some information about treatment options. He also gave me brochures on thyroid cancer to take home.
The entire time he spoke to me, I felt numb. Could this be real? I am at the happiest place in my life, I finally got pregnant after a few frustrating months of trying to no avail and NOW I might have cancer? The timing could not be worse!
On my drive back to work from the doctor’s visit, I went through all possible outcomes in my mind. I felt deflated, worried and sad. On the outside I appeared calm but my thoughts were far from being calm, I experienced a roller coaster of emotions that were overwhelming, drowning my mind with conflicting possibilities. It was at this juncture that I came to the conclusion that life's trials are never devoid of lessons, one can choose to be a willing student or become a frustrated one repeating the same class over and over again.
Many things in life might momentarily create a phase of happiness, a euphoric sensation that is both fleeting as it is hypnotic and it carries us away until the next wave of issue hits. For me, the momentary happiness was pregnancy which was quickly derailed by the news about having a biopsy to rule out thyroid cancer. For you, it might be learning about a devastating illness, struggling with a lifelong diagnosis, loss of employment, difficult family situation, and the list goes on.
The biggest lesson I learned during this experience was that my happiness was my choice alone to make, it was not based on external circumstances and it certainly did not emanate from being pregnant and it won’t be snatched away by the possibility of having cancer. I realized that I needed to snatch myself from the grips of thoughts and feelings that were threatening to take away my peace.
Fact is that over 90% of what we fear and ruminate over do not actualize, what is even more startling is that over 90% of our worries are also repeated worries. That is, we mostly worry about the same thing we did yesterday, last week, last month, etc. it never stops. Our minds have amazing abilities to fixate on negative thoughts and emotions and remind us often, several times a day, every day, every month and every year. It feeds on itself and grows. The more we worry, the more worried we will become. Yet the worries do not solve problems, in actuality, they make our problems appear bigger.
In order to put a break on my worries, I made a conscious decision to live in ambiguity, to radically accept that worrying would not change the result of that biopsy and at the end of the day, whatever the result may be, I will make it through.
What kept me sane was focusing on the things I was sure of, things that were concrete and true. I have life and as far as I knew it, I had good health. I have a loving son, I have a roof over my head, my daily bread is provided for, I have a sound mind and I have great friends and family of support.
There were two parallel narratives running through my mind. The first and prominent one was scared of the 'C' word and was not particularly interested in reality, it was fear-based. Despite being told by the doctor that thyroid cancer was treatable and that I might not have it, I was incredibly aware of death and what would happen to my husband, son or this baby in my womb if she/he makes it. This narrative was filled with worry, rumination over things that have not happened and conjectures.
The second narrative acknowledged reality as is. The reality was that I did not know what the biopsy result would be and my life was full of so much wonders to be eternally grateful for. When I chose this narrative, I became more grateful, happy and at peace.
The truth is happiness is not found in what happens to you, it's not found in achievements or disappointments, it's not found in compliments or critiques, the home of happiness lies in the depth of gratitude and a forgiving spirit.
When we choose to stop wrestling with life, when we stop attempting to change things that we have no control over, then we open the door for gratitude and in the room of gratitude we will find our happiness.
Happiness is not found in books, blog posts, 7 easy steps, in people or relationships, money, food, drugs or alcohol, happiness is found in you and in your journey. Every day you get to make a conscious or unconscious choice to choose happiness or despair. In your thought patterns, in the choice of words you use to describe yourself or others and in your actions.
You cannot put others down and be happy, you can't be jealous and be happy, and you can't be pretentious and be happy. You can't think badly about yourself, or put yourself down and be happy.
Happiness is a journey and gratitude is the vehicle. Gratitude removes you from the baggage and burdens of your histories, the worries of your future and keeps you focused on the here and now. Your marriage might be falling apart, your health suffering, your finances might be in the gutter, you might be struggling to get pregnant, all these things are real and they are capable of making us all feel hopeless, BUT being thankful, shifts the focus.
If you do not find a space of gratitude in your life, the storms of life will overtake and overwhelm you, if you don't make a choice to be happy, life will make a choice of despair for you.
Your circumstances do not determine your happiness, money will not make you happy; happiness is something you actively choose every day in spite of the circumstances surrounding you. Life is full of experiences that will buttress our thoughts, validate our feelings which will eventually dictate our behaviors.
There are three essential things that I have found helpful in maintaining and choosing happiness.
1. Practicing gratitude daily - In our home, every night with our son, we have a gratitude circle where we share what we are thankful for. You could try gratitude journaling or gratitude video journaling. Just hit record on your cell phone camera or voice recorder.
2. Get rid of toxic waste in your life. Emotionally hoarding toxic people will drain your happiness and peace. Rid your life of emotional vampires, studies show that bad friends are not good for your health or life expectancy.
3. Forgive - yes, this is the one I find to be the most challenging. I Have a hard time accepting and letting go of bad things that have
happened to me. I expend energy wishing and hoping those experiences never occurred. In life, we don't get to undo experiences. Radically accepting what happened is a great start, next step is letting it go. Holding on to resentments only keeps us faithfully married to the hurt. It's time to move on, letting it go doesn't exonerate the person that hurt you, but it frees you from the chains of resentment. Forgive and clear your emotional house while creating space for new and better experiences to occur.
4. Lastly, be gentle on yourself. It's a journey and you will find yourself back in the old patterns of complaining and resenting. Remember that life isn't really about what happens to you because something is guaranteed to happen, it's about what you do in response. So when life happens and the narrative of worry and concern fills your thoughts, remember that you have a choice to choose happiness via gratitude.
When I finally got the result of the biopsy, my doctor informed me that I did not have thyroid cancer. He also informed me that I'd have to complete bi-annual ultrasounds to check on the status of those nodules. I have had 3 ultrasounds so far and there have been no changes, I'm clear! I also gave birth to my daughter and she just turned 1.
This blog was written by me for my friend Rebecca Black as a guest blog for her website www.rebeccarefined.com
The biggest trials that I ever faced that produced the deepest pain have given me the biggest gains. I have had more thrusting forward movements, grown emotionally, spiritually and gained the most out of the most difficult and painful experiences. I strongly believe that our spiritual and emotional growth and victories are directly proportional to the intensity of the painful experiences.
Just like the challenges of pregnancies, childbirth, returning to school, getting a degree, starting a new business, starting a new life in a new place, all of the these experiences can engender tensions, struggles and challenges, but these challenges are not wasted. Eventually, there is a sweet harvest after the difficult period of sowing, shedding, refining, and growing. The rewards might be the sense of accomplishments in graduation, the safe delivery of a baby at the end of a pregnancy or the comfortable resettlement in a new place.
Life was never meant to be easy but no one wants to be on the receiving end of life’s challenges and curve balls. I have found myself many times on the difficult, lowly and lonely road where it feels like everything failed me. I have been in dark places where I felt God failed me; scripture failed me and all my life philosophies, and the comfort blankets seemed to be useless. Nothing worked to dull the pain; no one could climb the seemingly insurmountable mountain for me. I felt all alone in the misery; I loathed life, God and myself in those days.
What I found true of those experiences is that the more I fought the pain, denied it, and tried to avoid it, the more painful it became. No dulling, no clichés, no hiding, no pretending worked. But, the problems did not change. I had to change.
I had to decide to walk and break through those stumbling blocks, go over them, go around them or die under them. So when I was able to finally garner up the energy to DO SOMETHING, that is when I started seeing forward movements.
When I stopped wasting all my emotional energy despising, hating, criticizing, judging and being angry, and started using those same stumbling blocks as stepping stones, that’s when I began to get it. One second at a time, one minute at a time, one day at a time, slowly but surely, I moved toward the pain and then slowly started walking and sometimes barely crawling past it until I was able to say, alas! I did not die under the pressure, I made it!
The ability to surmount the insurmountable mountains taught me that I was strong yet vulnerable, I am not as easy to crush and decimate as I thought. The confidence I got from knowing that I could rise up again and again and again was truly energizing and as such has been more of a driving force in how I approach life, challenges, goals and visions.
No experience is wasted, even bad experiences. Scripture (Romans 8:28) says that “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them…” For me the working out for good did not mean that the problems did not occur, that I did not experience heart ache, and that there was a time machine that erased the painful memories.
The work together for good for me meant that I had a change in perspective, learned something, grew, and had the courage to press on. There were no real changes in my circumstance but there were significant improvement in my attitude and response to them. I admitted that my situation SUCKED and I pressed forward.
The work together for good for me meant that I was able to use those experiences to connect to others, generate empathy, it helped me to be less judgmental and more accepting and it humbled me greatly. There’s nothing as filling as when life hands you a humble pie. The working out for good did not just end with me, it became a ripple effect.
So in the end those experiences were not wasted, they’ve been used time and time again to open great doors for me, to connect me with amazing people, to create platforms that I could never have had if not for those experiences. The same painful and difficult experiences have brought validation to some, healing to others, hope to some, affirmation to others, sign to some, and inspiration for others. Never wasted, never wasted.
So whatever you might be going through, no matter how difficult, painful, indescribable, unbelievable, unfathomable, unforgivable, I want to venture as to say that those experiences are not empty. Even if you are not consoled by those words right now, there will come a day when those problems will slowly move further and further from your rear-view mirror. A day will come when those experiences do not consume you and trigger as much pain as they used to, there will come a day when you will smile again. And beyond that, there will come a day when you will take what you need from those life experiences to thrust you forward in life. That is when the scab experiences have turned to scar experiences. The scar says there has been some trauma here but it has healed. It is a geographical reminder of a specific experience, time and place. It does not bleed when touched, it can’t be peeled off, it is just what it is, a scar.
Pain is real, fear is real, anxiety is real, depression is real, uncertainty is real, betrayal is real, heartbreak is real, and so is COURAGE; courage to press on, courage to walk, courage to crawl, courage to take wings and fly. You will make it, I know you will and those experiences will not be wasted. You will make it, you have to make it, someone is counting on you to make it, and someone needs you to make it.
I am reminded of a phrase in my son’s favorite animated movie (NEMO) when he was 3yrs old, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming...” You will feel overwhelmed, you will feel every wave hit you, take over you, toss you around like a lifeless fish but keep swimming, dry land is on the horizon.
Change comes once we realize that we are worthy of better. Then, we can ask from life what we have concluded in our hearts that we deserve or are worth. Many of us are stuck and miserable because we have settled, we play tapes in our heads that act as a constant reminder of our failures and inadequacies. Until we push the eject button and rid our minds of that negative self talk, we will continue to find ourselves trapped in the cycle of serial pathological relationships, jobs, and attract exactly what we have so erroneously believed that we deserve.
You are worthy of a better job/career, you're worthy of a college or graduate degree, you're worthy of that great new business you've been wanting to start, you're worthy of a partner that will treat you with respect and dignity, you are worthy, you are worthy, you are worthy! I read this poem a while ago and I think it buttresses my point.
“I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening
When I counted my scanty store.
For Life is a just employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.
I worked for a menial’s hire,
Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have willingly paid.” Author Unknown
Marriage issues are common but in my community, it is taboo to talk about them. It is almost as though everyone is expected to be married and live happily ever after even though many people are not. The fact is 51% of marriages end in divorce and less than 20% of marriages are actually thriving.
Many of us struggle in our homes with spouses that are unfaithful, addicted to porn, gambling, have anger issues and or even struggle with alcohol and other drug addictions. For some of us it is the pain and shame of domestic violence and for others our struggles come from having different parenting styles or living with a spouse with mental illness or chronic disease or sexual dysfunction.
Instead of us to seek help, we cover up our struggles because we are ashamed. We personalize things and we tell ourselves that we must be bad spouses, bad parents and are too embarrassed to actually make the tough decisions that may be required during the tough times, which to some, is for most of the duration of their marriage. For many of us, we stop attending functions with our spouses and others even go as far as to cut themselves out completely from their community of support because they are afraid of what people will say or think. We are ashamed!
Marriage is not easy, people do cheat, people lie and hurt each other; people come into marriage with their own personal, sometimes very deep rooted issues that we cannot cure or even change. Marriages do undergo difficult situations and some make it while others do not. This has been like this from the beginning of time and will always be.
I want you to know that you are not alone in your pain, you are not alone in this misery; you are not alone in this dessert of struggle. In the dessert of struggle, there is an oasis and it is called “community.” I hope you can feel and hear my sincere words when I say to you, take away the veil of shame and sorrow. You need not walk around with your head buried in the sand, you need not worry about what people are going to think or say. You definitely should not keep those problems to yourself because they have the ability to make you physically sick.
First find a trusted friend whom you can share your burdens with, preferably someone of the same gender (I will be writing about safeguarding your marriage soon). Make sure the friend you are sharing with is someone that can be objective not negative. Seek out advice from someone whose life is a testament of health, because not every trusted friend is a healthy friend. If that does not work, find a pastor, a spiritual leader, an elder, or a therapist. In the midst of this, draw closer to God, pray because these moments have an uncanny habit of zapping your spirit and leaving you feeling like the walking dead. Make sure you get spiritual nourishment, it will sustain you. Whatever you do, do not abandon your spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation, reading scriptures etc.
Do not be in denial about your issues, talk with your spouse about it, we are truly only as sick as our secrets. Rather than ignoring your issues, create a plan of action. If this issue requires medical attention, go to the doctor with your spouse, if it requires other interventions, follow through with them. Shame does not produce change, courage does.
Your peace and the happiness of your family is germane. Sometimes we have to make difficult decisions to leave or stay, neither of those two decisions are easy to make. They both take courage. I have heard many people say that it is easy to walk away from a relationship. Actually, the opposite is true. It is extremely difficult to walk away and it is equally tough to stay.
Know that you are not alone except you choose to be. Find a community, church, support group, a counselor, a coach. Whatever you do, don’t do nothing!
Take off the Shroud of fear, shame, unworthiness, inadequacy, and put on the words of God that says you are loved, you are wonderfully created. Understand that sorrow may last for a night (and it might be a long night) but joy comes in the morning. Learn from your struggles and live! Be encouraged.