In Eating Disorder Recovery Coach
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Forgiveness – Impact on Mind, Heart, Body

We all have a garden in our hearts, and we get to decide what grows and what goes. Pain is certainly inevitable and part of our human experience. Yet, misery is a choice. When we cannot forgive, our garden becomes a field of prickly weeds; our hearts blocked from flourishing.

Before we can talk about unforgiveness and how it can play out with food and our relationship with the body, first we must ask what forgiveness is and is not.

When it comes to others…

  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean letting them off the hook.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean letting them back in.
  • Forgiveness means letting it go for you.
  • Forgiveness means allowing yourself to be free.
  • Forgiveness means learning a lesson.

When it comes to yourself….

  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean you don’t care about your mistake.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean you don’t take responsibility.
  • Forgiveness means letting it go for you.
  • Forgiveness means allowing yourself to be free.
  • Forgiveness means receiving grace.

Forgiveness is a deliberate decision to let go of negative feelings associated with some harm caused to you. This decision is not contingent on the other person or party asking or even deserving such. It is based on knowing that the way to true healing is to release the pain, anger, and other emotions. To hold on perpetuates the damage in a new way, creating additional layers – new weeds. If these weeds continue to grow, the attempt to self-soothe becomes more demanding as our earthsuit (our bodies) are filled with uncomfortable emotions that seem to take on physical attributes.

For some, that means and leads to controlling the emotions (ex: food restriction, excessive exercise, an over-emphasis on food science). For others, it means zoning and numbing out (ex: overeating, binge eating, not caring at all about nutritional needs). And then, for some, they swing both ways, an array of restrictions and compulsions (ex: the restrict, binge, purge cycle). These attempts make it seem like the sun is shining in your garden or like the torrential rain has stopped; however, only for a moment. The dark clouds of unforgiveness are still there.

Forgiveness of oneself is a subject that comes up frequently in my work with eating disorders. Many are plagued with some kind of shame, guilt, and-or regret. The critical voice that yells, “you are not enough,” loves reminding us of each flaw, imperfection, misstep, and mistake. Just like in the practice of forgiving others, forgiving yourself is a deliberate decision.

(Permission to anonymously share) I remember one beautiful client I worked with for a year and a half. I loved working with her, yet the unforgiveness of herself plagued her. She was filled with shame and felt it was not possible to let go of one specific situation. And by not allowing herself to let go, she was in a continual place of regret and self-punishment that she felt she deserved. At times she couldn’t even talk about the situation, and we would just call it “the mistake.” I am proud to say she had the courage to finally face this and give herself grace, knowing that she is only human. I bring up this story because her unforgiveness was one of the roots of her eating disorder. Her thoughts are now focused on other things in life that bring her purpose and sunshine.

You may be asking…but HOW? I want to forgive…but HOW?

Well, as a Recovery Coach, that is my specialty…THE HOW! 😊

Here are four steps that can help:

  1. Pay attention to your thoughts:
    • Do you keep playing the situation over and over again in your mind, like a bad movie on repeat?
    • Do you find yourself obsessively trying to figure out the why?
    • Do you secretly wish for vengeance?
  2. Challenge those thoughts:
    • Can replaying the situation change anything?
    • Can you ever possibly know the true why, and if you do, how does this bring you peace?
    • Can vengeance ever bring true freedom from the situation?
      • If you answered “yes” to any of these, consider that your garden is currently overrun by weeds and challenge some more.
  3. Reframe the story and make the deliberate decision to forgive:
    • How can I learn from the situation?
    • How can I accept that sometimes I will not know all of the answers?
    • How can I attempt to understand the person (or self) that caused the harm a little better, even if I can never agree or forget?
  4. Be patient and keep trying! Just because you decided to forgive, doesn’t mean it will happen overnight. It can take time, but is worth it. Feel the feelings, emotionally and physically, no matter how uncomfortable. Take extra care of yourself while holding onto knowledge that disordered patterns, even addictions, will never solve the problem. It is also my belief that God wants to hold your hand through it ALL. Ask for His help. He is right there!

And no matter how skilled you are, how many tools are in your toolbox, how much knowledge you have…you will never be immune to getting hurt and doing the work of forgiveness. Roughly four months ago, someone whom I mentored in many ways and who had become a very close friend hurt me. It was not too difficult for me to forgive her for what she did, but it was difficult to let go of her reaction to it all and what I perceived to be a disregard for me and our friendship. I found my mind stuck obsessing about the why and how could this be. Allowing words to exist outside of my body, then quieting my mind, and knowing it will never actually make sense to me, was a release and allowed me to forgive, fully.

Going through my own recovery, I learned that writing “cheesy” sonnets (poems) came naturally as a form of expression. My son jokes I should be a rapper. LOL! This innate skill was discovered after my resistance to journal entries and writing assignments were ongoing. Back then, I would get so wrapped up in grammar, spelling, and overall flow that it blocked me. Sonnets allowed me to dump all the writing rules. Now, this may seem like a paradox, because sonnets have a rhyming requirement. However, it was like a lever for creativity that I still use to this day.

All of this to say, this blog was inspired by this cheesy-freeing-unfiltered-forgiveness poem, that flew out of me in minutes!

The Garden in My Heart

It is hard to believe

That after all I helped you achieve

Then with the love I thought we shared

That in the end, I am left, wishing you cared

Not about what you did, you see

But about how you hurt me

There were times

That our chimes

Rang a different tune

Somehow twisting things like a loon

But I know what is actually true

We are just two different shades of blue

Seeing the picture from an unlike view

My heart still feels prickly

Like a weed be tricked by a bee

I let you in

But I should have been

More aware of the role I played

And simply stayed

In my lane, of mentor

Because at the core

That was my chore

To put my feelings aside

And just abide

By the laws of attraction

Minimizing my dissatisfaction

Knowing our time was for a season

And definitely a reason

Then to be split apart

So today I start

TO FORGIVE

So that I can move forward and live

Not paused

By the pain you caused

These prickly weeds must go

So flowers can continue to grow

I release this from my body and mind

And embrace this is an act of being kind

I chose not to see you anymore

So my heart can fully restore

I pray for peace

And a new lease

That can now come

With some

Or hopefully a ton

Of roses and sun

In my heart

Creating a fresh start

Ignited with renewed passion

Embraced in a dared fashion

I wish the same for you

In all that you set forth to do

-SL