“As long as you don’t forgive, who and whatever it is will occupy rent-free space in your mind.”
~Isabelle Holland

I was bit by a dear friend’s dog a few weeks ago. One might say I deserved it, but I don’t think so. Yes, she is a flighty dog, but we had made friends already, and so when she rolled over on her back for me to rub her belly, I obliged. And she bit me. (And it got infected and my doctors were all concerned about rabies, but that’s a whole different story.)

Now, you may wonder what this might have to do with Isabelle Holland’s quote, and fairly so. I might come clean and say, “not much,” or I might come clean and say, “it took me a wee bit of time to forgive the dog.” (It was a Scottish dog.) And certainly, that lack of forgiveness bothered me more than it bothered her.

That is clearly a somewhat lame example of how forgiveness – or lack thereof – can eat at us, and yet, lack of forgiveness can – and does – eat at us. We may have many, many understandable and undeniable reasons why we shouldn’t and don’t forgive someone, and yet, lack of forgiveness can – and does – eat at us.

The work colleague who threw us under the bus. The boss who took credit for our work. The family member who acted in ways we don’t want to talk, much less think, about. Those all may be, in some ways, unforgivable acts. But when we hold onto our anger and justifiable resentment, unfortunately we are the one who suffers. We are the one who keeps running the endless loop, who offers the person and situation rent-free space in our head.

So, what do we do with this quandary? How do we, as they say, forgive but not forget? Here are a few simple and effective, steps:

  • Talk – it often helps to purge something when we purge it out loud by talking it through with someone who can help us process and move on.
  • Journal – another great way to release is to write it down…with the intention to let it go.
  • Commemorate – as strange as it may seem, intentionally acknowledging the act that angered you – and your decision to forgive – can help you forgive. Light a candle; release a balloon; offer some kind of blessing. Do whatever helps you let it go (and if you have to punch a few pillows or throw a few eggs at a tree first to release your anger, have at that too!)
  • Reframe – look for another way to look at it. Search out whatever positive you can in the person or the situation. Offer yourself another perspective that feels more self-empowering to you.
  • Protect – if the person or situation is truly toxic for you, find a way to stay away. You can forgive but again, not forget. You can move on, but you don’t have to move on with the person.

Holding on to resentment and anger can poison us, and finding a way to forgive can set us free. Find your way – and stop giving that person or situation rent-free space in your head.

How have you forgiven the unforgivable?
Please leave a comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.


To find more ways to “get them out of your head,” contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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