During this Fourth of July weekend, I know a lot of people have freedom on their minds and in their hearts. There are so many ways to experience freedom, and we most likely each have our own definition and experiences of what freedom is.
I find that how free I feel often relates to how much I'm willing to forgive.
The definition of forgive in my Oxford Pocket Dictionary states:
"Cease to feel angry or resentful towards; pardon."
As much as we can say we forgive others or even say we forgive ourselves, if we still hold anger and resentment in our hearts we haven't truly forgiven, and thus aren't really free.
Young children embody freedom because every moment is fresh. They can be outraged to the point of tears and moments later it is all forgotten, all released, all forgiven.
As adults our lifetime of experience and fully developed egos put up a wall between us and this freedom. Self-forgiveness is entwined with the ability to forgive others and as a result, it's the missing link to breaking down that wall.
We all have inner critic voices - or one really loud voice - telling us what we should or could be doing throughout the day and when we are not living up to our own standards these voices literally beat us up internally.
They tell us messages like, "You are lazy, stupid, slow;" "You are a bad parent, teacher, friend;" "You are a failure;" "I can't believe you aren't working right now;" or if you're working, "I can't believe you aren't with your family right now."
We all have different versions of these messages, but bottom line, if we want them to stop and truly be free to do whatever we're called to do moment to moment, we have to forgive ourselves.
We can't continue to hold these messages against us.
Even if the messages have some grains of truth, we cannot begin to change if we do not first cease to be angry and resentful with our own behavior. The moment we do, the change comes so easy we can't even remember what was stopping us in the first place.
The voices will arise again and again, but if we can forgive, nothing will stop us. Only then will we have the freedom to be ourselves, to grow and to flourish.
If you're not sure where to start with forgiveness, then get out paper and a pen or pencil and complete the following activity.
Forgiveness Free Write
1. Write "I forgive all those who have wronged me, real or imagined." at the the top of the page.
2. Set a timer for 3-15 minutes and choose one or all of the following prompts:
- I let go of ....
- I am free to ....
- I forgive ....
Feel free to include all the prompts in one go or separate them into different sittings over time. You may need to stay with one prompt longer or for more sittings than the others. Be gentle with yourself and follow what seems most appropriate to you.
3. Write as fast as you possibly can. If you get stuck, return to the prompt and start over. If nothing comes to mind just keep repeating the prompt.
Even if you spend 5 minutes repeating, "I let go," without adding specifics you will begin to create the space needed for it to become a reality.
If you feel inclined to share any of your new-found freedoms or other discoveries that came about during this activity, share in the comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need any additional support, contact me anytime.
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To your freedom,