"In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain the old pain."
-Mary Manin Morrissey
There are inevitable times life is going to hurt us. There are undeniable times we are going to hurt others. There's never been a person on this earth who has gone through life unscathed or without causing some form of pain to someone else. It's not possible. Intentional or not, it's going to happen. We may not have a choice in this pain, but we do have a choice in how we respond to it.
It's so often when we're caused some kind of pain we hold on to it and allow it to dictate how we move forward. This can be in situations presented to us, the people we allow in our lives, how we treat others - the list goes on. The past is the most defining factor of the future. It isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as we remain conscious of the impact it has on us.
If you stand too close to a fire, you're very likely to get burned. What did we learn from this? We learned that getting too close to a fire can hurt us. It's a great lesson, right? It's important to learn from the things that hurt us so we don't let it happen again. The problem is that we tend to dwell on the pain we received, and ignore all of the potential good from whatever hurt us. Fire can keep you from freezing to death. Fire can cook food and keep you from starving. Fire can be a light in the dark when all other lights go out. Even though fire has the ability to destroy an entire mountainside, fire can clear out so much dead and rotting material, making room for new, beautiful life.
This is how we need to perceive the pain of our past. It's meant to teach us something, not to remove the good completely. It is so important to let go of that pain and focus on the good in every situation. Much like the fire removing the dead and rotting material and creating new, beautiful life. It's much easier said than done, but cutting loose that dead weight allows you to move forward and heal the way you need to. When we dwell on the past, we tend to develop repetitious cycles and habits that keep us there, in the illusion of safety, rather than allowing ourselves to process the pain and move forward. I know this has held so true in my own life. I've spent a lot of time dwelling on the things I've been through, but mostly the negative. I struggle with seeing the silver lining. I struggle with letting go. I lived so many of my teenage years focused on revenge and numbing the pain I felt that I carried it well into my adult years, and allowed it to hold me back from so many potentially good opportunities. I'm speaking from experience when I tell you it's absolutely liberating to JUST LET GO! You'll be amazed at what happens if you stop letting the fear of getting hurt get in your way. To quote Babe Ruth (and one of my favorite movies A Cinderella Story): "Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game."
It takes practice. It's extremely hard. There are wounds that go so much deeper than the surface. There are scars that will never go away entirely. You may think to yourself there are situations that never had any good in them. They were nothing but bad. You know what? You're probably right. The situations themselves were devastating and catastrophic while they were happening. Probably for a while after they were over, too. However, did you learn something from it? Even years later? If someone treated you a way you most certainly did not deserve, did it make you tell yourself "I'm never going to treat anybody like that"? THAT is the good that came from it. And in that instance, you deserve to let go of that pain and take pride in the fact that you treat people better than you were treated.
You're going to slip up. You're going to hurt somebody else, too. It's human, and humanity is inevitable. This is where it can be even more difficult to let go. It's hard enough to forgive somebody or something that caused you pain, but when you're the one who caused it for another and you have to carry the guilt around, forgiving yourself can feel next to impossible. But you HAVE to do it. You've got to learn from your mistakes and move on. I know I've made more mistakes than I'll ever be able to count, and I'm definitely not done making them. That doesn't mean I'm going to give up on trying to do things better the next time. It may take making the same mistake several times over before you learn the lesson life has in store for you, but understand that is why we make mistakes. That is why others make mistakes. It isn't always fair, but there is something to be learned from every situation. This is why it's important to let go of the pain and move forward with your lessons learned. Something my brother taught me that I'll never forget is "Always moving forward, never falling back." I believe this comes from his experience in the military somewhere, but it's applicable to life in general.
Forgive others. Forgive yourself. Forgiveness doesn't mean you have to forget. Forgiveness doesn't negate or justify the things that were done to you. Forgiveness means you've stopped letting it hurt you. That will give you more power than you can imagine. I'll say it again: JUST LET GO! There's a force in the universe that will make everything right in one way or another. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but it's going to happen. If you're out there doing your best to apply the lessons you've learned, regardless of which side of the pain you've been on, this force will recognize and reward you for it. I truly believe that.
I'll rearrange the original quote and leave you with this:
"Refuse to entertain the old pain. Release the hurt. Release the fear. We must learn how to let go in order to be free."