Yesterday we discussed “the list” …our guardian angel seeking qualities in an equal-opposite-other. Just as we are looking for a partner to compliment us, we should be in constant search of the best version of ourselves. So…where do we start? We must begin with valuing ourselves for who we are.

But first, there is acceptance.

We must accept pain will happen. We must accept some can be avoided, and some cannot. We must accept we will not be perfect, and people will not be perfect either. And when two non-perfect beings interact, there will be at times conflict, and pain may result. If we rationally agree to this, we should face pain with temperament, not anxiety or anger. Think about the last time someone caused you pain? Perhaps he did it in ignorance and without knowing. Perhaps he did so with indifference, and didn’t care his actions caused you pain. Or perhaps he intended to hurt you. How do you respond to the ignorant, indifferent or purposeful harmer?

To be clear, if you are in danger, you must respond with necessary force to protect yourself and others. We are discussing non-physical pain, based on how you may be treated with disrespect. For now, we must accept pain will happen, and pain is important to learn. If we live a life fearful of pain we will learn little. While pain is inevitable, we do not need to suffer. Suffering is when we let the pain continue to affect us after the harm is done. This is easier said than done, and no one can judge the measure of another’s pain without experiencing his or her hardships.

Let’s save us from suffering.

When a victim of cruelty forgives, there is a change in mindset about the act and the person who caused it. For this discussion let’s assume a cruel act is something that invokes inherit negativity, inwardly or outwardly, to bring about emotions such as self-pity or vengeance. These emotions attempt to “tip the scale” of the negativity brought to your doorstep, and cast it to another, typically the assailant. When we invoke self-pity, we harbor negativity. When we become vengeance, we breed more cruelty. Forgiveness is not excusing, condoning or forgetting the cruel act, as this allows negativity to live on. When we forgive, the cruelty of the act ends with you.

Isn’t it odd, how easy it is to hold onto hurtful memories? Perhaps it was a tragic accident that shook the fiber of your being, or a toxic relationship that wrongly abused you…for years after the pain has stopped, we still hold onto what caused us hurt, and we suffer. Rationally we know if something is heavy and if we have no use for it, we should let it go. This makes us weak, for we will never be as strong as we could be with such a weight. Yet somehow we forget how to drop a burden.

Why can’t we sometimes let go?

Is forgiveness another means of coping? No. Coping mutes the pain. Forgiveness washes it away. Remember for whom we are forgiving. Do we forgive for the person who caused the cruel act? Possibly…but we should forgive for ourselves. It allows us to drop the burden that weighs us. It allows us to acknowledge the pain, take accountability, make amends, and to treat ourselves more kindly.

Sometimes the people who are hardest to forgive are ourselves…we trick ourselves into believing we cause our pain by the choices we make. That we stayed in that toxic relationship too long, or stayed out too late with friends and were made vulnerable to a tragedy…but no one can tell the future. All we can do is make the best decisions in the moment. If your heart tells you to stay, and your brain tells you there is no danger, it is better to listen than to shut out all feelings. And if you do experience pain, once you process those feelings, it is important to forgive yourself. It is better to have experienced it and grow than to not have at all.

So, how do we become the best versions of ourselves? We must love ourselves, first. The best way to do that is to forgive ourselves for the pain we let happen to us. But this is only the first step. For the rest, we explore tomorrow.