Forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person deserving or wanting forgiveness. It is not even contingent on whether or not they apologize. Forgiving does not make you a door mat. It doesn’t mean that the other person shouldn’t face the consequences of their actions, that you don’t believe in justice or that you have to keep them in your life.
Forgiveness means that you care and love yourself too much to continue carrying the burden that it is to hold grudges and detrimental emotions. Ruminating over the same situation has never changed its outcome.
You can’t forgive others if you have never forgiven yourself.
Acknowledge and accept your part in the situation. Take responsibility for anything you said or did that may have contributed to the incident. You cannot make any changes from a position of shaming or blaming others.
Being under the impression that we are punishing others by clinging onto pain is foolish. The only miserable person is ourselves as we perpetuate a cycle of unnecessary suffering. We cannot change, undo or take back the past. The only person we have any control over is ourselves and the way we choose to react to others.
You do not need to have a conversation with the person in order to forgive them if you don’t feel ready to do so. This is a process that can be done completely on your own.
Meditation and visualization are great ways to help you in the forgiveness process.
Imagine yourself as a prosecutor in court. Allow yourself to fully release what you feel towards the person and what they did to you. Once you have said everything there is to say, allow them to defend themselves. This isn’t excusing their behavior, it is a way for you to see the situation through a different perspective.
Another way is to envision the person on a stage. See them looking joyful as you picture only great things happening to them. Imagine them accomplishing all of their goals and full of life and love.
I learned this next technique from Louise Hay. Visualize the offender as a child. See them feeling scared, ashamed, sad and unloved. This helps you to remember that they are human just like us, and that we are all doing what we think is the best at that moment in time with the knowledge we have and the understanding and awareness we have of that knowledge. Our behavior is learned from our environment and when we hurt others it is because we are hurting inside. All everyone wants is to feel safe and loved. This visualization prompts us to have compassion towards others, despite the way they treat us.
Affirmations are also a great way to help us forgive others. I like to use them in the kindness meditation. Sit in a quiet place, focusing on your breath without judgment. Bring yourself to stillness. When you are ready, begin to recite; “may I be happy, may I be safe, may I be healthy, may I feel love, may I see light, may I be at peace.” Afterwards, say the affirmations for someone in your life whom you love, followed by a person you have neutral feelings about, and finally for the person who has hurt you.
Another option is to write a letter to the person. Let out all of your feelings towards them, making sure not to hold anything back. Once you have finished, you can rip up the letter and burn the pieces, flushing them away in the toilet. You can also take the pieces of paper to a sacred place in nature. Dig a hole in the ground and place them in the ground. Then, place either seeds or a plant on top. Finish by covering the hole with soil. Soon you will literally see your pain absorbed by mother earth and turned into something beautiful; love.
Turn to your spirituality.
In my Buddhist practice, I make sure to chant for the wisdom I need to overcome obstacles, the strength and courage to forgive myself and others, and for the love and happiness of those in my life- especially people who have hurt me. I make sure to pray to turn all poison into medicine in each of my relationships so that I may live harmoniously with myself and others. Turning to spirituality or a religion of your choosing can prove to be beneficial in the forgiveness process. It reminds us to look at the big picture, rather than having small picture thinking. This big picture thinking can help us see the reality of the situation and let us determine whether it is a big deal for us or not. Spirituality can also remind us that we are all one in this universe, and you are just as worthy of love and happiness as the person who has caused us pain. It is as if we are looking in the mirror and saying to ourselves, I am sorry or I forgive you. Sometimes when we chant or pray we ask to be pardoned for things we have done that have hurt others and our faith allows us to believe and feel we’ve been forgiven. Try to have the same faith for them.
Forgiveness can be a difficult, painful and active process. In certain cases, it can take numerous attempts before we are able to fully forgive someone. Regardless of the difficulty, it is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves that directly effects our quality of life. Feel free to seek professional help if you are having difficulty forgiving or if the action has led to any mental health concerns like PTSD or depression.
The aftermath of forgiveness.
You know that you’ve forgiven someone when they no longer trigger overwhelming emotions in you and when you aren’t irritated by everything they do “wrong.”
The next step is to determine if you want them in your life. Once you make the decision to pardon them, you are saying that you’ll leave the past in the past and want a clean slate. There is a difference between forgiving and simply sweeping something under the rug to avoid dealing with it. Ignoring your feelings will always cause them to resurface stronger and can lead to built up resentment that will deteriorate your relationship. Throwing someone’s past faults in their face every chance that you get proves us to be cowardly and a smaller person, as pettiness has never helped anyone to improve in life. Because our intentions are not loving through this behavior, we are creating bad karma for us in the future.
Sometimes after forgiving, we realize that we no longer want this person in our life. Some of us may be in a place in our lives where we choose not to tolerate or have people in our life who don’t want the best for. I know for me personally, there have been people whom have had to face the consequence of no longer being in my life, especially when their offenses are reoccurring. You may find that you only want people who have good intentions and who contribute to your happiness and that you will no longer settle for half friends or frenemies just for the sake of numbing your loneliness. This isn’t an easy decision, but it is an act of love for us in the end.
We all hurt and get hurt in life so it is not in our best interest to turn ourselves into victims because that will only result in attracting similar people and situations. To help transcend your pain into medicine, try to view the situation as a teacher. What can you learn from what happened and how can you better yourself as a result?
Be sure to take the time to fully understand and learn about the forgiveness process. I hope that reading this has helped you to feel a little lighter. Let us walk together and further our progress with a smaller load on our backs.
Please leave any comments or questions below. Let’s keep this conversation going!