At the staff meeting my eyes shot across the room to someone I didn’t like, someone I had never liked, and I felt my expression change as I leaned back in my chair, eyes moving to the ceiling. I took a deep breath, paused, and tried to remember, “When did it start?”

What caused the hard feelings in the first place? I had been on the staff six years; the person must have said or done something early on to make me angry. I was certain my feelings were justified but, surprisingly, all these years later I couldn’t recall what it was. And then it struck me that I could be comfortable holding on to my feelings without even remembering how they began. The thought stayed with me — that I carried around negativity and couldn’t put my finger on its cause. Does that eventually become negativity for negativity’s sake?

I drifted further from the meeting and considered the amount of my life which goes on inside my head. I wasn’t exactly being intentional. Harboring hard feelings seemed like a reflective act, but now that I thought about it, I had to admit that holding on to those feelings was a conscious choice. Honestly, the negativity was a weight, one I carried willingly.

People say your strength can be your weakness. My strength at work is determination, persistence and follow through. I’m someone who doesn’t let up. That also means I keep a grip on things — like hard feelings — and that’s my weakness. It’s possible to carry hard feelings around indefinitely, until they simply become an ingrained, unexamined part of who I am.

The staff meeting ended and I went back to my office. At my desk, I made the decision to set the weight down and let the feelings go. I shut my eyes and silently said, “Whatever was said or done, I forgive you, it doesn’t matter anymore.” The whole thing took a few seconds. I opened my eyes, breathed deeply, and got to work.  

Mentally saying I forgive you was such a small thing to do, such a simple act, but it caused something to change inside me. Subtle, but perceptible. Laying down that weight gave me a sense of ease, a tiny measure of freedom. Would it change the other person? No, it wouldn’t. But it changed me, and I was surprised by how easy that was to do. And if I had been able to recall what caused the negative feelings in the first place, would I have forgiven them? Would it have been as easy? Maybe … after all, it’s my decision, it’s up to me.

I drove home reflecting on the act of forgiving: Usually you set someone else free when you forgive them, but this time I managed to give myself that little bit of freedom, without the other person even knowing about it. How many other weights was I carrying around? I freed myself from one, and the process worked so well I started looking for other people in my life to forgive, other weights within myself to lay down.