written by Lisa Magnusson, CECP/CBCP

In my practice I work with many who are struggling to move forward because they hold tightly to their past. It has become their memento of trauma. A tattoo of pain.

In such moments when this is apparent, I often ask the body what holds the person back from moving forward. The imbalances that are uncovered are all different, and yet the same. Most center on a person’s feelings about themselves. An image imbalance of being overweight. Or a trapped emotion of guilt they experienced in high school. Perhaps toxicity from a life of bad health choices.

I have found a person’s inability to forgive offenses against themselves is centered on personal perception of themselves and their choices, and it is usually negative. I believe they go to war with themselves over it. Basically, they are asking — consciously or subconsciously—am I a good person?

This tension is merely a lack of self awareness. The truth is there is a deeper, spiritual level where our innate nature is cradled, nurtured, and cultivated by the Creator of us all. It is beautiful and of infinite worth.

We walk through our lives in “…trailing clouds of glory,” largely unaware that we are made of divinity. Stardust. Emotionally, we sometimes feel so far from that. Physically, we may feel broken. Perhaps our pain has made us think we are worthless. But it doesn’t change who we are. And within this beautiful core of our being lie attributes that need to be developed. Refined. Used in a way to build, rather than destroy.

As we go about our divine walkabout, we accumulate baggage. The limitations of a world in pain are a buffet for our minds, which are starving for experience. We receive blow after blow. We no longer feel divine. We feel used, betrayed, and short changed.

So when someone comes along and reminds us of how we feel—whether intentional or not—we pour the pain out on them like syrup. Stress hormones release, trapped emotions irritate the body, and then comes chronic pain, headache, or other conditions. We refuse to budge an inch. It’s the principal of the matter! How dare they appear to confirm our worst insecurities about ourselves?

Once we allow the emotion to pass and are quiet and still, we may learn something about who we are. Not about our baggage. Our baggage teaches that we can be minimized, marginalized, and taken at a discount price.

The truth is our worth never changes, no matter if we are right or wrong, or made mistakes, or trauma we have picked up along the way. We can learn something and then heal. So, with that knowledge, wouldn’t it be easier to help someone else heal too by forgiving them?

Forgiveness is more about knowing who we are, and less about our baggage. We can all learn, rather than just be bruised. Knowing our baggage is an important part of knowing who we intrinsically are, but simply because we only have to carry it for as long as we choose to.

This same potential that we have, we soon realize that others have it to. And they have to find it buried underneath all their pain too. We release the imbalances or have someone else help us, and suddenly there is a feeling of lightness. Others have that capacity too. And with this understanding, our compassion grows for others. Forgiveness no longer sounds like an insurmountable obstacle to healing.

So if we are struggling to forgive others, it is likely this trauma is manifesting itself in excess weight, chronic pain, illness, or otherwise. Isn’t it about time to identify yourself by your intrinsic worth, rather than your pain? This is the art of forgiveness.

I have found that those who truly want to get better are the ones who want to be better.

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