Cleaning Out the Trophies with Forgiveness

I recently had a new client start the Life On Purpose Process through the Virtual Video Coach only to get stopped in her tracks, frozen by fear, as the thought of childhood issues arose. She wrote to me and asked if such a reaction was normal to which I responded:

Your question, ‘is this reaction common?’ I wouldn’t say it’s common but it’s also not unheard of. Many folks have ‘stuck meaning’ — things that have happened in the past that were very upsetting and/or traumatic and from those things, what they made them mean became ‘stuck’. The meaning isn’t true but it often appears true because you’ve been stuck with it so long.

So, traveling the Purposeful Path does take courage. Transformation isn’t for the weak of heart or spirit.

Today’s article is about one of the most powerful and I believe misunderstood spiritual tools for unsticking the stuck meaning of life — forgiveness. Thanks to fellow Life On Purpose Coach, Jeff McFarland for giving me permission to run his article in this two part series.

And I’m extending the Virtual Video Coach Introductory Special to September 27th since a few techy issues slowed the process of sharing the video series and getting the ezine out in a timely fashion. Learn more here.

Living On Purpose: Cleaning Out the Trophies:
How Releasing Your Grievances Will Change Your Life

by Jeff McFarlandJeff McFarland

Have you ever participated in a discussion of one-upmanship over how badly you have been treated? If you do a good job of describing a dreadful experience, you can actually relive it in your mind. And if you do a really great job, your listeners will experience some of the awful feelings with you. Hey, nice work. Or is it? Does it lift your spirits? Do you feel more capable and confident? Of course not. So, how happy can you be if your relationships involve conversation and empathy on the level of your pain?This is the unfortunate victim and trophy syndrome that many of us experience. Unless we do something to reverse this pattern, we will never be truly happy. In some instances, over a period of time, such behavior may also keep us from being truly healthy. If we do not stop putting trophies on the mantel, we will choke out all of the peace, love, and joy in our lives. The world will look like a cold, hard, hostile place.

People will appear uncaring and inconsiderate. We will talk a lot about Murphy’s Law. We will seethe with resentment at each additional thing that goes “wrong.”We will envy (and even resent) people who seem to “get all of the breaks.”Our lives will feel completely out of control, and rather than thriving, we will be merely surviving.

Practicing Forgiveness

The solution is the wonderful but frequently misunderstood practice of forgiveness at does forgiveness mean to you? Do you view it as pardoning someone who has done something really lousy to you? Have you ever thought, “Hey, Iwas the victim. It was their fault. Why should I have to let them off the hook?”

Well, let us be clear about who the beneficiary is. Forgiveness is not for someone else. It is for you. Imagine for a moment that your mind (both the conscious and subconscious parts) is your desktop computer. Each trophy (i.e., wound, resentment, or grievance) that you keep is like a computer virus. You cannot see it on the screen so it may not be obvious to you that it is even there. And yet, it is taking up memory, slowing down your hard drive, and making it hard or impossible for you to execute certain tasks.

Similarly, your unresolved “issues”may be consciously forgotten, but stored in your memory. They magnify your anxiety, anger, or pain when similar issues arise in your daily life. They hurt relationships, erode joy and peace, inhibit your abilty to love, and frustrate understanding and communication. They are toxic to your mental and physical health. They ruin your todays and threaten your tomorrows. But, the good news is that forgiveness, effectively and persistently practiced, will clean out these trophies.

Before I discuss “how to”, I’d like to look at what forgiveness is, as well as what it is not. Here is a definition: Forgiveness is the self-loving, psychological/spiritual process of releasing emotional blockages to the experience and expression of love.

In other words, it cleans out the trophies so that new experiences are not poisoned by our old, unhealed wounds and perceptions. It is the ultimate in self-care. It says that we deserve to love, to be loved, and to be joyful, highly functioning persons.

Here’s what forgiveness is not:

  • Forgiveness is not pardoning unacceptable behavior. You are not expected to condone or approve inconsiderate, hurtful, or abusive behavior. Forgiveness should not prevent you from taking steps that you feel are reasonably necessary to prevent such behavor from reoccurring. What you are doing is reaching a level of understanding that enables you to freely give up your negative feelings about the occurrences.
  • Forgiveness is not putting a smiley face on something that still hurts. Authenticity is a critical part of this process. Grievances must be freely released. And you must feel that you deserve to be free from these feelings. If you do not, or you still feel a significant amount of pain, you may be well advised to seek professional assistance. Remember, this is for you-not for any- one else. If you find yourself thinking that you “should”feel any particular way, beware! Forgiveness-like other forms of love-must be freely given.
  • Forgiveness does not require you to become friends with someone that you’ve forgiven (unless that person is yourself). You do not even have to communicate with that person directly. You only need to release the negativity within yourself.
  • Forgiveness is not an excuse for feeling superior to the person you have forgiven. Arrogance and judgment have no place in this process.
  • Forgiveness is not an opportunity to get someone else to change. In actuality, forgiveness has nothing to do with anyone else. It is about releasing the hurts, anger, grievances, and shame that we harbor within ourselves. Self-forgiveness neither excuses nor condemns you for whatever you feel badly about. You are recognizing that, whatever the issue was, it is in the past and deserves to be left there.

This is an internal “truce”, meaning that you are ready and willing to stop flogging yourself and move on with your life and your personal growth.

Stay tuned to part two next week.  Want to discuss this online? Leave your thoughts and comments here.