Why write a forgiveness letter?
Yesterday, I had an argument with someone, and they refused to acknowledge my feelings, which left me feeling so angry! I left the conversation feeling unworthy of acknowledgment and an apology. I slept on those feelings and let them fester overnight which led to a restless night, bad dreams and feeling incredibly yucky this morning. Forgiveness was the last thought on my mind.
My commute to work didn't help the situation at all. Instead of focusing on my motivational podcasts, I kept reliving the fight over and over again. My feelings became even more negative, and by the time I made it work, I was ready to cry.
I couldn't cry, but I wanted to which shows you how upset I was.
When I finally sat down and settled into work, I started to check myself.
-Why would I allow this situation to ruin my entire night and morning?
-Why did I give my power away to someone?
-Will this argument even matter in a year?
When I was able to control my emotions and answer the questions above honestly, I was able to acknowledge some important realizations about my reaction to the situation:
1. I felt powerless
I expressed my raw emotions to this person, and they didn't want to acknowledge my feelings. I felt like I couldn't get this person to see my point of view. I couldn't convince them that my feelings are valuable.
2. I felt less worthy of respect
Since my feelings weren't acknowledged, I left the conversation feeling like I didn't deserve the respect that I wanted.
I was experiencing a legitimate reaction to the argument, but I was also allowing past experiences to confirm all the negative feelings that were coming up for me.
Has that happened to you? Where you are in the middle of a discussion and these high emotions, come up for you, but you realize that the situation you are currently in doesn't mean you need to react so strongly?
I knew I had to do something to get these emotions out of me and bring me back to center. So, I wrote a forgiveness letter.
In my letter, I wrote every single thing I was angry about. I wrote about personal feelings, judgments, and wonderings about the person I was mad. I wrote it in email form and addressed it to myself. I just put all my feelings out there. I wrote until I was exhausted. At the end of my letter, I wrote three lists:
1. I forgive you for...
2. I forgive me for...
3. I forgive us for...
When my letter was complete, I felt so at peace. It was as if I was bathed in a white light. My soul was calm, I was no longer jittery, and I started to feel better physically.
I realized that by writing this forgiveness letter, I let go of all the negativity I was holding on to. I was able to write out all the anger I felt for this person and separate them from my reactions to the situation based on the past (similar experiences with other people).
I was able to forgive them, myself and us.
This was the critical and most difficult part of my letter. Writing out my criticisms and emotions was easy. However, forgiveness was a challenge. I've written about the power of forgiving yourself before. I've discussed how powerful that process is to your emotional well-being.
When you focus on forgiveness, you decide to let go of the emotions tied to past experiences. I wrote this letter for myself and my process which is why I didn't send it to that person. My letter writing process was all about me.
ACTION STEPS FOR YOU:
1. Identify a person or situation that angers you. The feeling should be a type of anger that takes over your thoughts, and you can't seem to shake.
2. Find a space to write. This space can be a journal, an email or a notes tool on your phone. This letter is not meant to be seen by others; this is for your process.
3. Write without pause. Write all your thoughts, feelings and judgments about this person. Allow this to be your safe space and write freely.
4. At the end of your forgiveness letter, write three lists:
- I forgive you for...
- I forgive me for..
- I forgive us for...
You want to forgive them, yourself and both of you. The situation you are in took both of you to take place, and you want to acknowledge that in your process.
5. Keep the letter but no need to revisit it. It's time to keep moving forward.
Sit back and notice your feelings. How do you feel about the same situation? How can you move past this situation now?
Let me know how this process was for you.