Friday, November 6, 2009

Carrying the Baggage of Others

“Some people think it’s holding on that makes one strong- sometimes it is letting go.” ~ Author unknown

Recently, I have had the opportunity to talk to a friend who’s lived through such a series of ordeals that it’s hard to believe he has managed to maintain his sanity. Although he keeps a good face in front of adversity, he is suffering terribly under the cheerful mask.

The other night we talked at length about letting go of the pain. Since most of it has been caused by other people whose behaviors he couldn’t help, or prevent, he shouldn’t be holding on to the pain their actions have caused; yet, he can’t find a way to let it all go. In his mind, if he lets go, he’s going to completely lose the people he loves most, but even worse, he is afraid to lose himself. In clear terms, he believes that he has no control in the way he feels, and that he will have to carry this heavy load the rest of his life.

In reality, we are always in control of anything that affects our lives. We might not be able to change the way others behave around us, or some of the circumstances that unfold, but we can choose how much we are affected by it all. If we are not responsible for what happened, and had no way of controlling the outcome, holding on to the pain is like being punished for the acts of another. If someone robbed a store, and we were mistakenly charged for it, we would be irate and we would demand that all accusations are quickly dismissed, so that we can move on with our lives. Why should we continue to serve the sentence of another if we had no part in their crimes?

Embracing the past, and accepting it, does in no way mean that we must continue where others left off. We should accept that some things happened out of the sphere of our control, but we shouldn’t try to bring them forth into the future. If the abuse is suffered at the hands and words of loved ones, we shouldn’t feel guilty thinking that we are ungrateful simply because we are choosing to love ourselves. We can look at people who are part of our lives in two different ways – some are there to teach us how to become the person we want to be, others are there to teach us how to avoid becoming who they are. They both serve a purpose and should be honored for it, but in the latter case, at some point we must see that their role must come to an end.

By refusing to continue carrying the load of others’ mistakes, we are not cutting the ties of love that bind us to them, now or in the past; we are merely wiping off the emotional charge which is keeping all in an unhealthy form of bondage. Most of all, when we choose to let go we are not condoning the actions of those who hurt us, but we are setting ourselves free from an invisible rope which prevents us from moving forward. Once the extra weight is put down, it’s amazing how much faster we can walk.

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