When we are trying to beat depression, the weight of life can just seem too big to carry anymore. We may sincerely wish someone would lighten the load. But at the same time we may be holding on fiercely to old resentments from our past.
In the 1960s Paul Boese wrote, “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” And the future that expands does not necessarily belong to those we forgive. It belongs to us. For forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves
This is nowhere more evident than when we forgive people who have hurt us in the distant past. They may be gone from our lives, or they may even have passed away. But if we don’t forgive whatever injury we feel they did to us, we continue to carry it with us, weighing us down with depression and regret.
Acknowledge that we all make mistakes. Imagine the person who hurt you. Was it a real hurt, or just some slight that they were not even aware of at the time? If you are still mad at someone who shot you down in high school, get over it. Think of them, and wish them well. Admit that everyone has been thoughtless at some time, and let it go.
Consider that life may not have been kind to them either. Everyone alive has their share of hardships. You might find that the people you resent actually deserve your pity. And if you open yourself up to feel some of their pain, you can lessen your own. Send them thoughts of kindness, and hope that they find peace.
Send forgiveness to the world. If there just seem to be too many old wounds to heal, try releasing all the pain at once. You can repeat it as a prayer to God, voice it to the universe, but repeat the thought, “I forgive,” and send thoughts of kindness to everyone who ever hurt you, even those you don’t remember.
Ask for forgiveness for yourself. Whether you come from a religious tradition or not, ask for forgiveness, and allow yourself to receive it. As the Lord’s Prayer says, “forgive us…as we forgive.” When you have released others from the bonds of your resentment, you can release yourself and your depression as well.
Lastly, forgive yourself. If you have been harboring old wounds, then it is likely you have been carrying a load of your old mistakes right along with them. And chances are that many of your faults are as insignificant as those you held against other people.
Allow yourself to feel uplifted. Imagine all your old anger and sorrow drifting away, and taking your depression with it. You should feel lighter and refreshed. And if you are ever tempted to pick up your old baggage again, know that you are better without it, and let it all go.
A Course in Miracles tells us that “Forgiveness is the key to happiness.” Depression and forgiveness cannot exist together. Forgiveness always wins.