A website visitor from Georgia asks:
My sister did something that caused me a lot of pain, emotionally and financially. We were so close growing up, and I miss the closeness with her, but I can’t forgive her for what she has done. I don’t know if I will ever be able to speak to her again, and it breaks my heart. What can I do?
We’re glad you reached out to us. Losing a relationship with someone you love is a difficult thing, and even though you didn’t specify any details, it’s clear that there are challenges on multiple levels. Let’s address each one, and see if we can help you find some perspective to help you through this.
First, let’s acknowledge the emotions of this. You clearly have strong feelings about this, and you have every right to feel the way you do. You are grieving a relationship you cherished. It’s like experiencing a death – not a physical one, but certainly an emotional one. We’ll work through this as we address some of the other things.
Second, let’s address the words you are using. Words and phrases like “breaks my heart,” and “caused me pain” are words of creation, and when you use them this way, you are solidifying your perception of what has happened. What do I mean? You have decided, and thereby created, pain and heartbreak. This is not something your sister did, but something you have done to yourself in response to what she did. It’s two separate things that can be difficult to distinguish when emotions start kicking in. More later…
Finally, let’s deal with the F-word. Forgiveness is something that is widely misunderstood. We have been raised on the idea that forgiveness means the same thing as exoneration – that we have to accept that what someone did was okay, and release them of their responsibility for their actions. That is not forgiveness. Forgiveness is not about the other person at all!
Really? Yes. Forgiveness is all about you. It’s about giving yourself permission not to punish yourself for someone else’s (or even your own) actions. It doesn’t mean you don’t have a part in what happened, or a part in moving past it, but it just means that you don’t have to keep carrying the burden of it once it’s done.
That is quite a different way of looking at it, isn’t it? Now let’s go back to the other two things and try to put them in perspective in terms of forgiveness.
The first item was your emotions. When you spend time in your mind thinking about what happened, you are re-living it. Your subconscious mind can’t tell the difference between something that happened decades ago and something that you just thought about it. Every time you think about it, your mind is living it in the present tense – hundreds or even thousands of times. The same goes for anything else you worry about. You are keeping your emotions alive like it just happened a moment ago.
A wise young woman once said “Worrying is like praying for something you don’t want.” What are you willing to let go of that isn’t serving you well?
The second item was your words. It is said that “I AM” is one the most powerful phrases we can use. They are words of creation (even in the Bible! – Exodus 3:14 ), and whatever you say following “I am…” is what you are creating for yourself! An easy way to remember is “Whatever follows ‘I AM’ follows me.”
The same goes for other words, especially those of judgment. Just like it does with your thoughts, your subconscious mind takes your words literally. When you say something “breaks your heart” or “causes you pain” (forms of I AM statements) your subconscious mind believes it, and your body reacts accordingly.
Another thing we teach is that nothing can harm you unless you allow it. Your sister didn’t hurt you. Sure, she seems to have done something pretty thoughtless, but unless you left out a significant detail, your pain isn’t from what she did, but rather your reaction to it. Your thoughts can cause physiological reactions that are very real. It may be difficult to accept, but much of the pain you are experiencing isn’t coming from your sister, but it’s coming from you because you are allowing yourself to be hurt.
That brings us back to forgiveness. Forgive yourself! Just as you have given yourself permission to be harmed, you can give yourself permission to be free from harm. Your sister can’t hurt you unless you allow it. Your heart can’t break unless you allow it. You can give yourself permission not to bear this burden, which may have had nothing to do with you to at all. (making an assumption here…) You didn’t force your sister to do what she did. You don’t need to punish yourself for it.
Once you allow forgiveness to take place, not only does it relieve you of the burden you put on yourself, it opens the door to reconciliation. Does it mean that things will be like they were before? Maybe, or maybe not. But burying yourself in a hole isn’t going to make it any better.
Use that power of forgiveness to give you the strength to reach out. It’s okay to tell her you don’t like what happened. It’s also okay to tell her you love her anyway, and that you are willing to give her a chance to earn her trust. Over time, you might build an even stronger relationship than you had before. There are no guarantees, but doing nothing will bring nothing, right? If it doesn’t work out, give yourself permission to walk away with a clear conscience.
It may seem awkward at first, but trust in it. Even if you don’t consciously believe it is possible, your subconscious mind will, and your whole perception will change.
Does your sister owe you an apology? Yes. Should you accept it? Yes, if she is really sincere. You will feel it if she is. Do either of you deserve to be banished to misery forever because of an outcome that’s too late to change? That’s on your shoulders.
Everything happens for a reason, otherwise it would not have happened at all. Look at the reasons rather than the emotions that follow. It will help you to appreciate the lessons that you have learned from it. It will help give you insight and understanding as to why it happened in the first place. More importantly, it gives you the freedom to move past your grief so you can find a new path and new possibilities, whatever they happen to be.
You can’t go back, but don’t let that stop you from moving ahead.