Ep. 34: How to Forgive

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You know we’re all about Freedom here at the Rebel Buddhist – inside and out.

One of the things I’ve found that we can do to give us the most emotional freedom in the next year is to partake in the courageous act letting go of things that no longer serve us, and one of the most radical acts we can do to let go, one of the things we can do for ourselves that can truly help us feel more light and free…is forgiving.

So that’s what we’re talking about in this New Year’s Eve podcast episode: how to forgive.

I believe that the lack of forgiveness and the need for forgiveness are some of the biggest challenges many of us face.

One of the most powerful things I ever did was forgive my mom for abusing me as a child.

You see, I had a lot of anger about my childhood for many years. I was uber-pissed, and for objectively good reasons.

I won’t go into details, but you can imagine the myriad reasons people feel wounded and broken.  Many of those things happened as I was growing up, but regarding my mother specifically, I was so angry that she hurt me physically and emotionally.  I was resentful that I didn’t have a mom I felt safe with, and that I was this angry person walking around, blowing up at my boyfriends, feeling defensive, and easily losing my shit.

“What a bitch for making me so angry!” I’d think to myself.

And it was weighing me down.

It was also impacting my relationship with her…with her as an older, gentler, less angry woman who wanted to be close to me.

While I was angry and bitter, for a long time, in the end I knew that deep down, despite her mistakes, she was doing the best she could in the moment with what she had available to her.

So, as an adult, I had a choice to make:

1) I could keep reminding myself and my mom that things really sucked growing up and about how much she hurt me, and that I was all sensitive and defensive because of her, and that she really screwed up royally with some things.

Then she’d apologize and feel shitty about herself and I’d feel guilty and all upset after re-hashing all that crap. And we’d do this over and over, as I strived to get back at her for hurting me the way she did through guilt-trips and passive aggressive behavior and not-so-passive aggressive behavior…

OR – I could stop thinking that I was deeply wounded and broken, wanting to make those feelings go away until I allowed myself to move forward…wanting to “understand” everything and have it make sense – and have everyone else understand and agree that I was wounded – before I allowed myself to be happy…

I could stop all that and instead

2) Say, “Well, that sucked. Royally. But now it’s time to create my new life.”

Needless to say, after years of the first, victim-mindset option and hanging out in therapy wondering why I was still having panic attacks, I decided to try #2.

And it changed everything.

I can’t completely describe the shift that happened when I stopped thinking that in order to heal, I had to wallow in the past until some magical moment when things would feel right.

I realized that insight and understanding don’t fix everything. They feel good, sure. They’re useful, sure.

But what created a real shift for me was changing what I DID. How I thought, how I responded, the situations I created. How I FELT.

It was ACTION that allowed me to grow and change…and ultimately, heal.

It was me taking ACTION that allowed me to see myself as whole, and perfectly resourceful and creative. That I was indeed perfect as I was. Not broken. Not wounded to the core. Not in need of more therapy or days of crying to feel seen.

And the most courageous action I took was to forgive.

Of course, I found therapy helpful for some things, especially learning how to notice what I was feeling, and being able to share my story with someone who wasn’t going to try to explain it away or justify things.

It helped me make sense of certain memories and I felt incredibly safe sharing deeply with someone that seemed “qualified” for me to lose my shit in front of. 

But in hindsight, which is always lovely, I realize that maybe I just needed one round of that.

Then I needed to get off my ass and do things differently.

I needed to create a different relationship with my mom, or walk away. The latter wasn’t an option for me, because I do love her deeply.

So one day I said, “I’d like to talk.” And I asked her for what I needed to hear in order to be able to forgive her. I asked her to please try to say she was sorry, to acknowledge all the ways in which she had hurt me.

I asked that she reflect on it and come back to me if and when she felt she could say it with full sincerity.

Now, I was lucky, because eventually, she did. She told me how she didn’t know better, how she was one of 11 children and how her mom didn’t bother to explain anything or try to be patient – that she just hit them when they didn’t behave.

She’d seen the next generation raising their kids and how they took parenting classes and anger management classes and how she wishes she had been able to do those things.

Her apology was also imperfectly full of excuses…but it was sincere. I could tell.

And this made forgiving her more easy. But I also want to emphasize here that we can still forgive without the other person saying they are sorry.  Because I know that it’s sort of the dream scenario here – one where the villain says opps, I messed up. Sorry. I’ll never do it again – and they don’t.

Sure, it made it easier that my mom apologized.

… but it’s really important to remember that the other person’s remorse is not requisite to us forgiving and feeling more free.

Because ultimately the only person who suffers from holding onto resentment and anger is ourselves, and it is our wish that the past was different than what it was that keeps us from forgiving – not waiting for the other person’s remorse.

I know this, because years later my mom – that very same one that I had those transformative years with – denied that she abused me.

I reverted back to my old anger and resentment. I felt heavy again. Trapped in my own emotional prison.

Definitely NOT free.

Many years would pass before I learned to forgive without her apology, without her acknowledgement that she had hurt me so.

In fact, I wasn’t able to do it until after she had died.

I wish I was evolved enough to have processed it all before she died, but a Buddha I am not, and it took a minute.

Ultimately, I realized I had to let go of wishing the past was different than it was. And I had to let go of wanting her to feel remorse.

And this is the case with all things we don’t feel ready to forgive – it’s because we wish the past was different than it was, and aren’t ready to let go of that….

You see, I think a lot of people have had a big misunderstanding of what forgiveness is, myself included.

I think when most of us think about forgiveness, we think what it means is accepting someone’s apology or having a conversation with someone that tells them that what they did or didn’t do was OK.

But that’s not what forgiveness is.

If you look up the definition of the word “forgive,” it’s a verb that means “to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw, or a mistake.”

It’s not telling the person anything. It’s not sitting down with the other person. It’s not talking to the other person.  It has nothing to do with the other person doing, saying, or feeling anything.

The only thing forgiveness requires is that you stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone. 

At this point in the game, if you’ve been listening to my podcast for awhile now, you’ll know that the secret sauce to changing a feel in a lasting way is to change your thoughts. Today we’ll dive into exactly how to do that so you can forgive, once and for all, and set yourself free. 

In this episode you’ll learn:

:: Why forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person being sorry or feeling any remorse 

:: Some of the biggest misconceptions people have about forgiveness 

:: How to decide when you should forgive someone

:: How our “enemies” can be our greatest teachers


// In this episode I discuss “The Manual” and how it sabotages relationships. Learn more about it in this episode here, How to Improve Any Relationship

// Did you miss our on the New Year reflections episodes? Download the gorgeous REVIEW, REFLECT + ALIGN workbook by clicking here.

// If you’re new to the squad, grab the starter kit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll get access to the private Facebook group where you can ask me questions! Once you join, there’s also a weekly FB live called Wake the F*ck Up Wednesday, where you can ask questions that come up as you do this work – in all parts of your life.

// If you’re interested in a really awesome way to make the next year your best one yet, join Freedom School. It will set you up to live the best version of you in the year to come. This is an amazing group of rebel women committed to creating lives of freedom, adventure and purpose. You can even gift a Freedom School membership to someone that you know could use the boost and come together! You’ll dive into getting clear about: what you want, how to clear your life of the things you don’t, skills for living an authentic life so you are out there being YOU and not what other people want you to be, and more.

If creating the life you love includes drinking less in the New Year, Freedom School also gives you access to Drink Less, Feel Free, a 4-week program where you learn ways to free yourself from overdrinking. The tools here worked for me – and hundreds of others. You can also give it as a gift to someone you love that has repeatedly told you they wish they didn’t always overdrink. Life is too short to waste hungover or feeling guilty, right? Plus, saying you’ll do something and then not doing it screws with your self-confidence. This program is set up to give you the support and accountability you need.

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