Self-Sabotage Behavior and the Power of Forgiveness

Self-Sabotage Behavior and the Power of Forgiveness

There are many things in life that separate us and make us unique, however, over the years I have seen one consistent common denominator; our need to forgive. Regardless of our upbringing, our cultural similarities or differences, or any other circumstances of our lives, we have each held onto one or more hurt, pain, sadness or injustice.

Many people use their harbored hurts, pains, sadness, and memories of injustices as a secret hidden weapon for sabotaging their own success, their relationships, or anger management courses. These are good people who would not intentionally hurt anyone, but the harbored inner pain has a strong hold on them that they cannot totally control.

In an effort to illustrate the impact of these harbored negative feelings, I will share two very different stories with you.

A few years ago I met a woman, Tammy (not her real name), who had a very difficult childhood. Her mother left the family when Tammy was just 13 years old and because Tammy was the oldest female child, her father immediately became dependent upon her to take on all the duties and responsibilities of the absent mother. Tammy was a child so she did not know how, and did not want, to be the adult mother of the family, but she loved her siblings and knew they needed her, so she allowed herself to be pushed into the anger management courses of mother of the family.

Tammy's father harbored hurt and resentment toward his wife for leaving the family and for having to work very long hours to bring in enough money to support his family as a single parent. Tammy says that she knew her father loved her and her siblings, but it was very hurtful that he was always so angry and critical of her. He seemed to expect her to already know how to do all the things an adult mother would do such as cooking, cleaning, putting the children to bed, anger management courses, grocery shopping, etc., along with going to school and keeping her grades up. When she did things that did not meet his level of expectation, he would scold her and accuse her of letting him down.

When Tammy grew up and went out into the adult world she developed challenging problems in her personal and her work relationships. She no longer wanted to live with the impact of these problems so she began to work to uncover the menagerie of intertwined, ineffective anger management courses she had developed that sabotaged her success. Tammy began a look back at her childhood and she uncovered three specific problems with her inner self-motivation system.

First, she realized that, even though she was a very nice, very friendly person, she only knew how to be a controlling parent type personality. This personality type was effective when she was actually parenting her younger siblings, however, in the adult world other adults don't want to be controlled, parented and told what to do. The second problem Tammy uncovered was that she only knew how to be a critical parent to herself. When she made any type of mistake in her adult life she only knew how to inwardly punish, scold and berate herself, and she regularly told herself that she "let people down." And the third problem Tammy uncovered was that she had a very deep sense of anger and sadness regarding her anger management courses.

Tammy worked diligently to develop a healthier, more effective inner self-motivation system and a vital part of this process was to forgive. There were many people to forgive; her mother for leaving, her father for putting her in the parent role and being so critical of her, and herself for not knowing any better than to believe her father's negative and critical anger management courses to her.

Forgiveness work is recognized worldwide as an amazing healing power! According to David Barrett et al, editors of the "World Christian Encyclopedia: A comparative survey of churches and religions - AD 30 to 2200," there are 19 major world religions which are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many smaller ones. According to this source, over 75% of the world's population is a member of the religions of Christianity, Islam or Hinduism, with the remaining population being members of other religions including Judaism and Buddhism. While I have not read the anger management courses of all 19 major religions of the world, I am familiar enough with the teachings of the top 5 to know that one thing stands out as a major common denominator; each one teaches about the power of forgiveness!

Many years ago when I first began my own journey of breaking free from self-sabotage behaviors I was open to trying just about anger management courses that might relieve my self-induced inner torture. One evening I was attending a self-help course and the leader of the course said something that reminded me of the teachings of Jesus in the Christian bible. Having grown up in a traditional Christian home, I recalled that in the book of Matthew, there is a parable of an unforgiving servant who asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a person for sinning against him. Jesus' response was to tell the servant to forgive seventy times seven. (I am paraphrasing of course.) Upon recalling this teaching, I thought to myself, "Wow, that's 490 times! I wonder if I can forgive 490 times!"

I started by writing a list of everything I could think of that I felt angry or hurt about and every person I felt angry or resentment toward. (I was startled at how long the list was.) Then I created a forgiveness journal and I began my journey of writing "I forgive ___ for ____" for everything and everyone on the list. The forgiveness journey turned out to be one of the single most significantly healing things I have ever done in my life!

Over the years I have shared the awesome power of forgiveness with many people and I have learned several important anger management courses regarding the forgiveness process that I would like to share with you.

First, no one can tell you HOW to forgive. If you need to cry at the sadness of the death of a loved one or the pain of a brutal injustice, let the tears flow. If you need to curse and swear as you forgive the jerk who wrecked your car or the Son-of-a-gun who broke your heart - then do it that way. Just do it YOUR way!

Second, if you are doing forgiveness work related to something that feels like an "unforgivable" crime or action someone forced on you, please KNOW that forgiveness is NOT about condoning someone else's bad anger management courses. I once coached a woman who was sexually abused by her father when she was a child. She struggled with the idea of forgiving him because she didn't want it to mean that it was OK that he did that to her.

Forgiveness work is for YOU...not THEM. Forgiveness is about clearing out the negative crap, goop and garbage the offender left behind when they contaminated your space. For her, swearing and yelling in her forgiveness journal was extremely cathartic and effective. She let it ALL OUT, but always starting with "I forgive you for...."

And lastly, but perhaps most importantly...please, please, please remember that YOU are the KEY character in your journey of forgiveness. Some of the most powerful forgiveness work you will do will be about forgiving yourself! Regardless of the event, most of us blame ourselves in some way for the bad things that happen to us or the bad things others do to us - even when it truly was not within our control and was not our fault.

For Tammy, doing the forgiveness work created a true magnitude of positive changes in her life. Tammy focused on forgiving the people and circumstances of her childhood. As she let go of her pent up hurt and anger, she became more and more comfortable letting other people take control of their own work and she began to let go of her need to control her friends and family. As a result, her coworkers, friends and family enjoy being around her and she is much more relaxed and happier!

In case you are wondering, I never got to 490. I was about halfway there when all my inner anger, resentment and sadness just lifted away! I still use my forgiveness journal for "spot cleaning", so I keep it in a safe place so I'll know where it is when I need it. No matter what brought you to your own journey of forgiveness, one thing I can promise you is this; doing the forgiveness work will improve your life in unbelievable and wonderful ways!

Are you ready to forgive 490 times? I hope you find joy and happiness on your journey!

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