Set Yourself Free - Forgive!

By Barbara Goosen Shelby

Sometimes you may feel so furious at someone it seems almost impossible to find the willingness to let go of that anger. It's at those times, particularly, that you need to make every effort to turn over your negative emotions. The main reason for this is not just because you'll have a more spiritual focus if you do, or that you'll be a bad person if you don't do it. The most important reason for letting the anger go is much more practical.

Anger is a chain which binds you to the person or situation against whom you feel it. You will drag them behind you for the rest of your life, unless you're willing to forgive them.

Forgiveness is the only thing which can dissolve the chain of anger. It also seems to be one of the hardest things a human being can do. This is mainly because of something we discussed in Chapter 1 - "righteous" anger. In the case of forgiveness, righteous anger says, "Why should I forgive that so-and-so and let him/her off the hook? After all, he/she's the one who hurt me!"  It's even tempting to believe that holding on to anger and resentment somehow validates our pain, even lessens it.

In reality, all that refusing to forgive accomplishes is to bind us to the person or event we feel so angry about. In other words, holding on to our anger actually gives ongoing power over us to the very person we dislike so much. Often that person is unaware of our feelings, or has forgotten the incident (which may make us even more angry). We, however, keep the pain fresh in our minds through our rage, resentment, even hatred.

And we are the ones who pay the price. Yes, we may have suffered in the past because of something that other person did or said. But refusing to let go of our anger, to forgive, condemns us to a life of constantly renewed suffering. And this suffering may not be only emotional. Recent studies indicate that stored anger often shows up physically as a variety of unpleasant illnesses.


How can you forgive and not feel you've sold out or become a doormat? Mainly by understanding what forgiveness does and does not mean.

Forgiveness does not mean ever agreeing that what was said or done was good or acceptable. We don't ever have to condone what caused the pain.

Forgiveness also does not mean that we necessarily ever want anything further to do with the person we forgive. We may never want to see or hear from them again, and that's fine.

What forgiveness does mean is being willing to let go of our anger and resentment for our own sake.

Forgiveness means understanding that we forgive first of all for our own benefit, to free ourselves from the bondage of anger. This has virtually nothing to do with the other person! You don't ever have to tell them about your decision, or they may even be dead by the time you decide to forgive them. The person you forgive will benefit, of course, because you've withdrawn your negative feelings. However, the sense of freedom you'll experience will probably make it so you don't even care. (If you find it hard to let go of the idea of wanting to "get even," it's important to understand that the best way you can do this is to reclaim power over your own life. And this comes only through forgiveness.)

Don't worry about trying to "forgive and forget." We can't really forget. What we can do is forgive, so that we can remember without the pain. Only when we are willing to forgive are we able let go of the pain and move forward, free of the terrible burden of anger.

As long as we refuse to lay it aside, this burden of anger taints every aspect of our lives and keeps us from being able to truly love. Until we forgive we can't really love ourselves, God, or anyone else. And don't forget; whatever applies to forgiving others also applies to the one who may be the hardest person of all to forgive - yourself! So, choose to lay aside your burden, to move forward, to love. Be willing to let go of the anger that binds you to the past.

Set yourself free - forgive!

Barbara Goosen ShelbyBarbara Goosen Shelby began her career with a Master's degree in Latin, Greek and Archaeology from the University of Cincinnati. She has been a Latin teacher, a piano teacher, co-owner of an advertising and printing business and a stained glass business, and a massage therapist. Barbara has been a spiritual counselor for the past twenty-five years and is also a Rapid Eye Therapist.

This excerpt is from Barbara's new book, How To Transform Your Life: Six Steps To Lasting Happiness. For more information or to order the book, it is available at this link on as of July 03, 2013

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