Justin W Atherton
The Hardest Thing I've Had to Do
In my career as a law enforcement professional I have dealt with some difficult situations. I've been dragged down the street by a car, I've broken bones while having to fight with individuals resisting arrest, I have had my life placed in threatening situations and put myself in harms way to protect other people. I have also witnessed the aftermath of horrible events, dealt with people that have been assaulted or robbed and people dealing with emotional crisis and breakdowns.
After all of that and more, I know what the hardest thing in my life was. The hardest thing I've had to do was forgive....
I will include both forgiving others and forgiving myself. Forgiving people for how they acted or didn't act. Forgiving people for things they did and said or things they never did or said. This has proven to be the most difficult thing to approach.
I have reached out to others with the intent to forgive them or admit my own transgressions. In those moments before making that phone call or starting that conversation, the anxiety and anticipation I have felt was immense. Worrying about how the conversation was going to go, making assumptions of what they were going to say. So that moment right before the conversation started or right before I dialed the phone, that was the scariest and hardest thing I have had to do in my life.
Once you start that conversation, once you enter the present moment and immerse yourself in your current task of forgiveness... the fear is gone. You're no longer worrying about how things will go, what they will say or what could happen. You are in that moment, and most of the time it doesn't go exactly like you feared. Especially if you are being different in that interaction and not coming into it with those expectations of how the conversation will go. If you hold a space for the interaction of no judgement, then you can let the other person respond how they see fit. You can also accept whatever response you get, even if it was not exactly what you wanted to hear.
Forgiveness is necessary. Sometimes it's necessary to forgive someone multiple times and on different occasions to get it all out. We tend to hang on to a small piece of resentment or judgement about the past. It's our brains way of trying to protect us from future emotional harm. You can ask yourself this question. Does it benefit me to prolong this emotional state and to relive the past? I know that I have had to forgive certain people in my life multiple times, in order to truly be free from those emotions.
We have all heard the saying that "time heals all wounds." Most of us also know someone (and it could be you) that is hanging onto an event that they are still angry or sad about from years ago. I personally know people in my life that have been holding grudges for over 30 years. Time does not heal all wounds. We can only choose to heal in the present moment. That is the only moment we ever really have. You get to make the choice whether to forgive right now or in 30 years. You get to make the choice to live with emotional pain or to forgive them and let it go.
Deal with your life in the present moment. Living in the past or future does not make you happy. The hardest thing to do is forgive and it is the most necessary thing of all.