In August 2008 I received the most disturbing phone call of my life. I had called a very close relative, Annie, to let her know that I would be in Guatemala for 3 weeks. I was taking a team of volunteers to a small village called San Juan de la Laguna where we would start transforming an old, unused church into medical offices that would serve the community. We would be there one week. The next two weeks I was going to live with a Maya family in the small town and take Spanish lessons.
After we hung up, my phone immediately rang. As I answered it I heard, “You are not welcome at Thanksgiving or Christmas this year.” Click. I was stunned, confused and hurt so badly that all I could do was sit down and cry. What could I have done to Annie, a woman who had helped raise me, that she would reject me, would not want to spend time with me, would be so mean as to not even want me at the family holiday get-togethers? The pain of rejection was excruciating.
It took a couple of months but I finally realized that I had a lot of anger against Annie that I had held onto for years and years. I had blamed her for so much that wasn’t going well in my life, making her the ‘bad guy’ when, all along, what was really happening was that I was projecting my anger onto her. Because the rejection was so deep, it finally forced me to take a good, hard look at myself and ask, “Do I want to hold onto this anger any longer or am I ready to release it by forgiving her and myself?”
For the next two years every time I had a memory of something unpleasant that Annie said or did to me, I forgave her. Eventually I started forgiving myself for all the ugly words that I had thrown her way, for everything that I had blamed her for. It wasn’t an easy process but I kept at it. I wanted all the anger I held in my body to be gone because it had held me prisoner for way too long.
When you are angry at someone, holding onto it just makes you unhappy because you are the one remembering and reliving it. You are the one continually causing yourself to feel bad. It’s really only keeping you in a prison of your choice. It’s always only about you and what you do with your anger. People think that they have reasons to be angry, and they are right. But continuing to keep anger in your body eventually starts to break down your cells. Holding onto any negative emotion will only hurt you. Science has proven that as thoughts cross your mind they instantaneously travel to all your cells. Happy thoughts give your cells life and vibrant health. Angry, negative thoughts eventually cause your cells to break down into illnesses and disease.