It’s windy and cold, and you’re sheltering under the meagre plastic roofing of the bus stop, waiting for the number 7 bus to take you home. The number 9 bus approaches. You image how warm and dry it will be inside the bus – far more comfortable than the dank cold of the bus stop. But the warmth and comfort of riding on the wrong bus comes at the cost of knowing you are getting farther and farther away from home.
Dr Amy Johnston uses the analogy of buses to describe our thoughts. We have between 60,000 and 70,000 thoughts each day (that’s a lot of buses) and according to research, most of them take us in the direction of negative emotions or pointless worrying.
For example, when you ride on a ‘thought bus’ of anger and resentment, playing old wrongs over and over again in your mind, you’re on a dead-end journey to rumination. When you refuse to let an issue go until you receive an apology, you’re letting the wrongdoer determine the direction of travel in your life.
Learning to forgive and forget sounds easy, but it’s not. When researching what makes us thrive in life, I learned that reflecting on whether and when to forgive is what sets us free, and that it’s not always necessary to go all the way to ‘full forgiveness’. It’s really about reclaiming control, instead of waiting for the other person to change or apologise.
One of my ‘Thriver’ interviewees, Kim Honeycutt learned to cope with her mother’s abuse by turning to alcohol at the age of eleven. She became increasingly reliant on alcohol and eventually, she had to drink just to feel normal.
When Kim was a teenager, her mother told her that if she lost 10 pounds, she’d raise her curfew. Kim was already underweight, but she did speed for a week and lost enough weight to get her curfew raised. Kim was later accepted to law school but her mother hid the letter from her so that she wouldn’t find out she’d been offered a place. Kim eventually went to college and when she called home her mother told her that no one wanted to talk to her, and not to call home again. Kim described to me what ‘forgiveness’ meant for her,
“For me, forgiveness was realising that I didn’t want to hold on to the anger any more. I used to think that if I held on to the anger and hurt, it would cause my mum to change. Forgiveness allowed me to decide to change without that depending on her. I stopped waiting for an apology. My expectation of what she could give me changed. I didn’t need her to change, I didn’t need her to apologise. I was able to forgive on my own.”
If you hold on to resentment, you’re allowing someone else to control your sense of wellbeing. What I learned from my research on resilience is that forgiveness is a path with many pitstops, and you don’t need to complete the whole journey to feel the many benefits.
If you’d like to explore how to leave some unhelpful ‘thought buses’ for good, I will be hosting a Thriving Force Forgiveness Masterclass with author and ’50Thriver’, Shannon Moroney who speaks and writes extensively on the topic of forgiveness. Shannon will be running a really practical workshop that will enable you to understand what forgiveness is and how to engage with it in a way that enables you to thrive.
The Masterclass is at 4pm BST on 7 June 2022 – and we won’t be making a recording…..so don’t miss it! You can register to attend HERE.