Let's talk about the one thing that can help keep you healthy spiritually, mentally and physically. Did you know that there's one skill you can do, and if you master the skill, you can have profound impacts on your health physically, on your health, mentally, and on your health spiritually? And when we don't do this, we can experience a lot of physical symptoms.
First of all, well, let's talk about the symptoms: heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, higher blood pressure, who wants that? Raise your hand, if that's something you're looking for. Many people spend a lot of money and go to a lot of effort to lower those risks in their lives. There's something we can do that will have a profound impact on lowering that. How many of you want more anxiety and more depression? We go out of our way and spend money to lower anxiety and depression in our lives.
How many of you would like a hardened heart? We do that sometimes in life, we close ourselves off. We think of it as a protective measure; if we harden our heart a little bit, it'll keep all of the bad and hurtful stuff out. Well, it doesn't do that. But it does keep all the good stuff out. We close off our hearts, sometimes, when we have been hurt by others. We does this to heal a little bit. But, we still have all that negative stuff that was in there. Somehow those hurtful bad things still find a way in, but we close ourselves off to all the good things.
What is it that we can do that will turn all of this around? Forgive. Forgiveness can turn all those things around. But let's be clear on what forgiveness is and what it is not. First, let's look at forgiveness and reconciliation. Those are two different things. Reconciliation is the restoration of the relationship. That may, or may not, happen after forgiveness. After forgiveness happens, reconciliation is possible if the risks of being hurt again are low enough to take that chance. Reconciliation is a different process and may, or may not, happen after forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the emotional toll the event has on us.
To get your head around that let me show you an illustration. You have a person that you have a grudge against. You walk into a small diner, small restaurant and there that person sits. You are in a good mood heading in there and then you see this person. How does your mood change? Now you sit down and order. You notice that this person is having a great time. They're laughing those deep belly laughs. They're experiencing a lot of joy. What does that do to you and your joy, your happiness? Yeah, that. Your stomach knots up thinking about it, right? Are your neck and shoulders getting stiff?
This is indicative that we need to forgive. When we have feelings that control us from past hurts, then we know that there's some forgiveness work that's necessary. Forgiveness is not letting telling the other person that they get a 'get out of jail free card,' it is not saying, 'hey, everything is fine.' It's a freeing of yourself from that emotional prison that you've locked yourself into. There are different levels of hurt and clearing out some of those may require the support of a counselor or another professional. If that's true for you, then get that help and support, because your health depends on it.
This occurs, not only with people we know, but also it can be with total strangers. Do you have a politician you're angry with right now? What happens inside your gut when you see that politician or those politicians? Does anger or even rage rise up? When you see it across your newsfeed on social media, or in the paper what do you feel? Does it bring all of those negative feelings up? Does it make you angry? Yeah... sometimes we need to forgive complete strangers. To be clear, it's not condoning what they have done, it is saying, "I will no longer be imprisoned by the negative emotions of you, or what you did that hurt me."
How do you do this? It takes some time and practice, but it's a muscle and a skill set that you can develop. Start small, make a list of five people that you could forgive. Make these little things very easy things. For instance, I might start off with the 1984, San Diego Padres. They kept my Cubs from going to the World Series. And I was a little bit upset about that! I could put them at the top of my list. There was also a kid that was mean to me in grade school, maybe I'll put him next. Continue to make a list of some things that you can do, knowing you don't have to interact with the other person to do this. You certainly can. But, this is work you can do within yourself.
Second, spend time with the event and person you seek to forgive. Make the inner choice to let it depart. Speak it to yourself. Write it down. It's not going to happen in that instant, more than likely, but when you keep focusing on that, and focusing on letting it depart, and picture the pain of it departing from you, it's going to happen. The pain will depart. Start with the small and easy things. You're going get good at it, you're gonna get a little better, and you're gonna build up those muscles. As you work toward the things with more significance with higher stakes, you will have have some momentum on your side.
When I was a kid, we had a lot of snow. We would go outside and pack together a little snowball, and then we would start rolling it, and it would get bigger, and bigger, and bigger. Soon we had the building blocks for a good snowman (or snow woman). That's what you're doing here. You're starting small with the little things, getting some momentum, getting some wins for yourself, getting some confidence, and some of the benefits that come from letting this stuff go. Begin the process of building up your forgiveness muscles in yourself.
And don't forget put yourself on that list. That's probably going to be the hardest one. But, it will profoundly change your life.
Our world becomes small when we hold grudges. When we go to places and they are there, it shrinks ourselves, it shrinks our joy and we want to leave. Our world gets small. Get rid of the grudges and learn how to forgive. Make it a daily practice and work at it. And if you need support, click here to do the 21 Day Forgiveness Challenge!
Your Partner In Spiritual Health,
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Hi, my name is Melissa Ebken, and I'm so glad you found your way here.
I am at home in the difficult spaces of peoples’ lives, willing to listen and to support those who work to grow themselves. I am a trained coach and have consulted with churches in conflict. Not your stereotypical minister, I embrace the Gospel with joy and laughter as I seek to help those around me grow in faith and understanding, always striving to leave people better than they came. An agent of wholeness, I create a safe space for people, especially those who have been marginalized, where they can understand how ridiculously loved and valued they are by God/Higher Power/Spirit, and to experience the difference that makes in life.
I started the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast to share the stories of people who have faced life's most difficult challenges, to inspire you to lean into and overcome your own. It's helpful to know that you're not alone in your struggles and to see how others have navigated similar circumstances. You can listen to it here.
Here's what I can do for and with you.