Forgiveness = Freedom

THE FORGIVENESS JOURNEY: On the 15th of every month I publish a post about forgiveness. This is the 8th post my yearlong attempt to learn about and institute practices of forgiveness in my own life. I’m not a forgiveness expert. I’m a novice learning as I go. The objective of these posts is to share my learned lessons with you.


Eight months into my Forgiveness Journey and here’s my made for a t-shirt conclusion:

Forgiveness = Freedom

Not for resale–at least not yet.

I’ll explain:

We’ve been hurt. Maybe the hurt was caused by a soul-bruising blow. Maybe the hurt was the work of a thousand little insults. Or maybe, like me, you are your own worst enemy. You’re the source of your own hurt. Your hurt was and continues to be self-inflicted.

No matter the cause–we all have or continue to feel deep pain. And most likely, we have carried that pain for years like a wheel-less suitcase into every setting and relationship we’ve ever been in.

Wheels were fashioned to a suitcase in 1970. This is amazing. As I understand, Bernard Sadow was schlepping his way through customs with his wife as he wrestled with two heavy suitcases on their way home from Aruba. He spotted a man with a hand cart and said to his with, “That’s what we need. We need wheels.” She laughed at him, maybe rolled her eyes, maybe even said in a Long Island accent, “Oh Bernie,” pulled out her passport and lit a cigarette. Now, I can’t confirm if Bernie’s wife lit a cigarette or spoke with a Long Island accent but in my imagination she has a Long Island accent and everybody smoked, especially in an airport, especially in 1970.

Me after reading the paragraph above and wondering where this post is going.

Anyway, back to forgiveness.

How do we reconcile this pain we carry? How do we drop our Unhappy Suitcase? (Which might well be an 80’s synth-pop band. Like The Cure— but only sadder and more awkward.)

How do we stop replaying the same scenario–the hurt, the grief, the guilt, the anger over and over again? How do we let go of the feeling that hold us down?

Let me remind you (and myself) what you/I already know:

We cannot change the past.

There is not a “past-changing” tool down at the Home Depot. And Bernard Sadow is not coming back from the dead to invent one. But the good news is that forgiveness is not about erasing the past. The past is as permanent as a leather luggage tag. And forgiveness certainly is not forgetting. However, forgiveness is a personal decision to not let past infractions affect future actions.

Forgiveness = Freedom

Forgiveness is the foundation of self-improvement. If we want to move forward to enjoy a happy future and find peace we must have courage to accept and strength to let go.

The courage to accept. The strength to let go. Also t-shirt worthy, is a personal maxim I’ve been turning over lately.

But what if you can’t forgive? What if you like carrying your suitcases?

So I will ask– what has holding on done for you?

Holding on to hurt only strengthens and tones anger and bitterness. And this type of holding on feeds resentment for other people’s happiness–“If I’m not happy, no one can be happy, and we should all just sit in These Uncomfortable Chairs* and listen to Unhappy Suitcase together.”

(*another potential 80’s synth-pop band name)

We live in a time of grudges. Of Facebook fights. Of defriending and unfollowing. We hold on to ill feelings until those ill feelings make us ill. We must realize it’s impossible to live the happy life when shackled to pasts pains. Pains that only gain strength and power if we allow those pains to flex in the present.

We all want to get better however, if we want to self improve we must attempt to live suitcase free in the present. Plain and simple. Living in the present moment is freedom from the past. But if we can’t live in the present because of the past hurts—than we can never improve. It’s like being stuck in customs without your passport.

“The weak can never forgive; forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Make no mistake–choosing forgiveness and working to forgive is really hard work. Work that will test your mettle and resolve. Like carrying heavy suitcases through an airport.

But by choosing forgiveness you harness the power to accept the situation–for what it is or was–to let go, move pass anger and pain and bitterness, so you can travel to a better and healthier place– like Aruba.

Be well,


If you like this post, you may also like:

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Need some encouragement? Some perspective? This hardworking, almost-handsome, suburban soccer dad can help. Subscribe and, like a pizza, get my posts delivered to your door (your email inbox). No spam. Just posts.


Jay Armstrong is a writer, blogger, speaker, and an award-winning high school English teacherDiagnosed with a rare neurological disease that resulted in a hole in his brain– Jay presses on. He hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:

1. Reading
2. Writing 
3. Exercising
4. Hearing his children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents and a beer with his friends)

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