“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” ~ Brene Brown
It’s that time of year many of us reflect. All of us hoping the next year will be better than the last. How can we each personally guarantee the next year actually will be better? By following the hard-hitting advice above, being courageous and staying true to our values we set. It doesn’t have to be a giant mountain of a goal, it may be simply choosing to be kinder, more honest, authentic, giving, happier or forgiving. The main point is to work at being who you want each day and live the life you can feel positive about. I love the above photograph and its a reminder how unexpected problems can bring new perspectives. I was on my way to Europe and the interstate was shut down from an avalanche. The road was closed for hours and eventually we were diverted over a desolate pass I’d never driven on. As I reached the summit I glanced out at this view and was taken back by this beauty. I had to document this moment in time for the fact that if things had not unfolded the way they did that day, I would have never seen this gorgeous scenery. Lesson learned that we can find a positive in any day.
Brene Brown has truly become one of my favorite authors and speakers in that she’s all about accountability and making positive changes to better anyone. In her book “Rising Strong”, which I highly recommend, there is an amazing chapter on being brave while brokenhearted. Sadly, as a sensitive and giving person, this has happened way too many times in my life. Her research and reasoning have inspired my next goal; why I must forgive. Forgiveness is a very hard thing to do when we are deeply hurt. But, Brene states perfect truth, “forgiveness is not forgetting or walking away from accountability or condoning a hurtful act; it’s the process of taking back and healing our lives so we can truly live.” Wow. This process takes work and is by no means easy, but in doing so, it can bring us self-love, wisdom, and clarity.
An interesting concept I never really pondered on before is that forgiveness requires grieving. When thinking of the word grief it’s usually associated with death, but the truth is that to forgive our family, friends, co-workers or anyone in our lives, something about our expectations or feelings has to die. If you make the choice to forgive, you have to face the pain and be hurt. You have to work through feelings, sadness, bitterness, and pain, but if you put in the work, in the end, you will be freer. It might even involve an idealized version of ourselves or who you thought someone close to you was. What’s most complicated and hard about this concept is that it means by forgiving someone, you are responsible for your growth from this point on. They have no control over your life and can’t take up valuable space in your brain. It allows us to make space for better relationships, connections, a place for authentic individuals who too are doing their best to live true to themselves. We must teach ourselves that connections worth our time require emotional safety and vulnerability and openness must be earned.
As a parent, within our families or any relationship, we all constantly try to put on a smile and work at trying to shield those we care about from pain. But, as Brene points out when we struggle the truth is that it affects everyone around us. We have to own up to this fact and that this is alright. We have to let go of the idea that we can’t always shield those around us from pain and that mistakes are part of life. All we can do each day is acknowledge hurt, provide a safe space to discuss it and teach our children how to fall and get back up stronger. As Brene concludes, it takes compassion, empathy and sympathy to be a decent human being and when we show understanding to ourselves and others its a true blessing. One of the ways to work at not being resentful is to make sure we have boundaries. It’s easy to blame others when things aren’t going well in our lives, but the fact is that if we hold ourselves accountable for asking for what we need and want, in the long run, we will be happier. Work at taking responsibility for our happiness. Yes, life is unfair, but being angry about it will not make it any easier.
So be brave and chose to forgive others and also yourself. Life is a journey that isn’t easy, leaves us with scars and can sometimes be too complicated to put into words, but it’s ours. Daily look for small nuggets of joy, make time to laugh, be your best version of yourself each day. Follow Brene’s excellent advice, “chose curiosity and connection rather than walking away or shutting down, while painful, is choosing courage.” All research proves that writing down our own experiences of heartbreak is most helpful in helping us see clearer and get to the root of our feelings. Whether you do this on your own in a journal, with a professional, a trusted friend or chose to share it with the world, doing so can help us heal and might just help someone else in the process. Speak your truth. Dig deep. Forgive freely.