As we move into the third calendar year of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are struggling with anger and frustration. There are many reasons to be angry right now: loss of loved ones, loss of income, loss of daily routines, and loss of familiarity and certainty around the world. It can be very easy to lose ourselves to anger, resentment, jealousy and hostility in these challenging times. One of the most powerful ways to move through painful emotions is to begin to reflect on forgiveness.
To stop feeling angry or resentful, we must turn our thoughts to love. We must focus on who loves us, and who we want to love. Only then can we be free. When people choose to forgive, they break their own mental chains and free themselves from a psychological prison of their own thoughts. Even in a situation where people’s health, livelihood, or relationships have been harmed or lost, they still have the power to choose their own attitude and how they will respond to the situation. Each moment we are alive presents all of us with a choice. No matter how difficult or painful or oppressive our experience might be, we can still choose how we will respond to it.
As Dr. Edith Eger writes, we can choose to accept ourselves with all of our flaws and be responsible for our own happiness. We can choose to forgive ourselves for what we did in the past, and make the best choices possible for ourselves in the present moment. We can choose to be useful in the world. Instead of running from the past, we can choose to face it, or come to terms with it, or make peace with it. In any of these ways, we can let it go.
While we cannot change the upsetting events, abuse or trauma that occurred in the past, we can do something for ourselves right now. We can choose to treat ourselves gently and respectfully, and to forgive reality and ourselves. We can recognize that painful events have happened, and that we do not want to add to them further. In the present moment, we can decide where to focus our thoughts knowing that what we focus on we will expand. We can decide (at least to some extent) how we want to spend our day, our energy, and our resources. We can choose self-care, and include productive and positive activities in our day. We can choose to engage with people who are compassionate, friendly and helpful, and want to support us.
We do not have to be victims of the past, no matter how horrible it has been. We can choose to move forward, one small step at a time, and create a whole new life. That begins with thoughts of love and kindness towards ourselves, others, and the entire world. This is the most revolutionary action we can take in these difficult days: to remember that COVID-19 and its fallout does not get the power to decide our disposition unless we give it that power. Open up your mind, shift your perspective from anger or regret or pain, release yourself, and draw on your creativity to create healing in your life. Exercising the tremendous power of forgiveness will transform your whole world one loving moment at a time.
Based on the ideas of Dr. Edith Eger