Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is a classic holiday story known and loved by many, but are you familiar with the inspiration behind it?
When Dickens was 10, his parents could no longer afford his schooling costs. He was sent to work in a London blacking factory where they made polish for metal surfaces. The conditions at the rat-infested factory were horrible and his co-workers bullied him.
When his father John, his mother and younger siblings were sent to debtors’ prison, 12-year-old Charles stayed with an elderly family friend so he could continue working at the factory which he hated.
Throughout his life, Dickens harbored anger and bitterness at his father over their family circumstances. When writing “A Christmas Carol,” Dickens used his bitterness toward his own father as inspiration for the character of Scrooge.
It has been said that the chains of relationships go with us to the grave.
Whether through complicated family circumstances, divorce, deception, business dealings gone wrong, betrayal by a best friend, abuse or some other situation, many struggle with ushering in the holiday season because they find it hard to forgive those who have hurt them. And, what’s really crazy is that while bitterness, resentment and lack of forgiveness have a stranglehold on the offended party, the other person has often moved on.
Although there are tools to help people get past hurtful incidents, it can be hard to move forward. Refusing to let go of grudges, they replay grievances repeatedly and allow negative thoughts to dominate their thinking. This type of behavior is destructive on so many levels. While seeking justice, they are essentially drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Lack of forgiveness casts a shadow over every aspect of a person’s life, and viewing life through the lens of unforgiveness can make life look like a black and white photo instead of living color.
Many fear that forgiving someone lets that person off the hook for their behavior. The truth is, forgiveness sets you free to move on with your life. Even though you can’t control another person’s actions, you can control what you do. You can choose not to be held hostage by a situation or someone’s behavior. Forgiveness is really not about forgetting, it is about moving on.
If you are struggling with unforgiveness as you approach the holidays, these suggestions can help you move forward:
Start out with some self-examination. No one is perfect, and everyone has regrets. Some people who are very hard on themselves are also hard on those around them. Recognizing that everyone is capable of making mistakes can help you move on with your life.
Stop waiting for an apology. Often people say they will forgive when the other person apologizes for their behavior. They spend their whole lives being bitter and resentful, basically allowing themselves to be held captive over an apology that never came. If you want to be free, you can make an intentional decision to let it and them go. This doesn’t mean you are excusing the other person’s actions, but that you are choosing to get on with your life. You may or may not want to let the person know you have forgiven them.
Consider what you have learned. What did you learn about yourself? Do you need to do anything differently as a result of this experience?
Forgiveness is more for you than it is for the other person. The ability to acknowledge what happened and choose forgiveness takes power and control away from the other person and places it squarely in your lap. Instead of being tossed to and fro based on what someone else does or doesn’t do, you can decide to be in the driver’s seat.
Writing “A Christmas Carol” became a very cathartic experience for Dickens as he dealt with his feelings toward his father. Perhaps this is the year where you give yourself and someone else the gift of forgiveness this holiday season. It may also be a great time to seek forgiveness from others and restore fractured relationships in your life.