Forgiveness is difficult. Let’s just get that out there. It isn’t for the weak, it is an attribute of the strong. Somehow we have gotten it into our heads that if we are good, spiritual people that forgiveness should be easy. That is should occur naturally as expressions of our enlightenment or “goodness” and when people spit in our faces instead of spitting back, we bow and say, “Namaste”. No, that has not been my experience and I have, like everyone else, have had some major things to forgive in my life.
Forgiveness is a process. It can’t be rushed, you must work for it. It doesn’t just happen magically and forcing it doesn’t necessary mean you have truly forgiven. True forgiveness feels like this to me: when I think of the person who hurt me, I feel light in my heart, I feel no pang of bitterness or resentfulness. I wish them peace. I feel peaceful. It’s what I call the “acid test.” Do you need to pop a Tums when you think of the person in question? Yes? You aren’t there yet.
Surprisingly, the first step in forgiving another is to forgive yourself. First, taking responsibility for your part in the whole thing, whatever that might have been. For me, sometimes that means seeing where I didn’t use my best judgment, where I didn’t listen to my inner voice with someone and let them have the opportunity to hurt or betray me. Or maybe I was being careless and inattentive to something and when I get “duped” or someone takes advantage of me, I wonder how this could have happened? I have to forgive myself first for being human before I can forgive someone else for being human too. Being brutally honest with myself and acknowledging my mistakes and my part I played in the situation is important. We can beat ourselves up pretty good about how stupid we were to do this or that which led to us being hurt and this stands in the way of forgiving the other party because what you can’t feel for yourself, you can’t feel for another. Seeing your own mistakes, faults and errors in judgement – giving yourself a break from being perfect, allows you the necessary freedom you need to forgive another their imperfections also.
Second, we are not angels. We have hurt others and have done things that others forgive or work to forgive about us – when we remember this, that we have been forgiven for our hurtful behavior in the past, we feel more able to bestow the same on another.
Acknowledging my feelings whether they be shame, embarassment, anger, remorse, distrust or revenge and then allowing them some room to breathe is helpful. Sometimes we can’t forgive because we aren’t really in touch with what we are feeling – what is the emotion that you feel that has been triggered by the event or situation? No one is really responsible for how you feel or how you react. Getting stuck in the emotion is what keeps us stuck in nonforgiveness. We relive the storyline over and over, and the emotions keeps going and going and we want someone to blame. Continually. We don’t want to take responsbility for our emotions so it is easier to blame another for how we are feeling. Of course, people do things that trigger all sorts of emotions that we would consider a normal response. If someone cheats on you, it is normal to feel betrayed. But how long you loop into that cycle of pain is up to you. Forgiveness to me is when you can let go of that cycle, realize it isn’t serving you and move on knowing that your goal in this life is to move through it as light and free as you can. Carrying around the baggage of negative emotions for months and years takes its toll. It is just plain bad for you – for your health, for your happiness. It is always helpful for me to remember that forgiveness is for me first and foremost. It is for my well being, for my peace. As Nelson Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison hoping it will kill your enemies.” Forgiveness certainly doesn’t mean saying what someone did was ok or allowing them room in your life anymore if that is how you feel, or escaping justice but forgiveness is always about you and your peace. When all you want for yourself is peace, peace is what you seek.
Forgiveness is antidote to the poison of resentment, anger and bitterness. It is the key to your peace. Don’t give your power away to another. Take responsbility for your life, your peace, your happiness. It may take some time and that’s ok, working towards your peace and happiness is always worth it.