So much of our society and culture at this point in time stresses the preservation of self. We encourage each other to prioritize our own personal comfort over everything else--cut off people who treat us poorly, feel no pressure to make amends of any kind, just go our own way by doing whatever makes us feel good in the moment. When we are hurt or slighted, we become selfish. We lose sight of the humanity of the people around us, even our abusers. When we are hurt, we can convince ourselves that the best course of action is to harbor hate and bitterness, and to simply survive.

But today, I want to encourage anyone reading, to pause, and consider forgiveness.

Friends, bitterness is not a shield. Hate and scorn are not suits of armor--they are chains. And sometimes, our bitterness can dress itself up in skin like self-preservation. Sometimes bitterness looks like survival, but I promise you, they are not the same.

As someone who has suffered abuse and neglect from loved ones, I want to assure you that I know the difference between being forgiving and being foolish. You can forgive your abusers and condemn their actions. Forgiveness does not say, "I am excusing your actions and allowing you to continue to hurt me." True forgiveness says, "What you did has hurt me, but I will not let the pain you caused me breed any ill will in my heart towards you." You can distance yourself from abusers for your own safety, and still forgive them.

As a person who has experienced a heaping handful of the pain this world has to offer, I can assure you of this: forgiveness is the most radical and powerful form of healing I know. Regardless of whether they meant to hurt you or not, regardless of if they are sorry or not, forgive them. And I'm not saying that it's easy. Believe me, forgiveness is hard work. To forgive is to deny the selfish reflexes in us that encourage us to just write people off as unworthy of our time and attention. Those reflexes want us to never be able to separate the thought of a person from the pain they caused us; they want us to be haunted forever by malice and spite. But those impulses are wrong, and they are not acting in the interest of your safety. When you cut off everyone who has ever hurt you, that isolation becomes the perfect breeding ground for depression and hate. An attitude built on those impulses cannot produce anything healthy.

As I said before, you can escape abusive situations and distance yourself from abusive people, and still forgive them. But in this life, we will often encounter smaller acts of negativity, and have to tend to smaller wounds. Forgive the small things, too. Forgive people who talk about you behind your back, or ignore you, or insult you. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Talk to them. Work to make amends.When you're not held down by the ache of old wounds, you'll be able to live more vibrantly, and radiate more positivity and love. Because forgiveness is freedom.

In conclusion, I want to share a quote by the poet Beau Taplin,

"I forgive you. Not for you, but for me. Because like chains shackling me to the past I will no longer pollute my heart with bitterness, fear, distrust or anger. I forgive you because hate is just another way of holding on, and you don’t belong here anymore."

Friends, I want to encourage you--the next time someone does something insensitive, instead of meeting them with scorn, try to forgive them. Let them have a clean slate with you. Because to be forgiven is just as freeing as to forgive.

Let's try to make the world a brighter place this way--with more love, more grace, and more open arms. You won't regret it.