Forgiveness is such a loaded topic. I bet when you clicked on this post (or Googled it), you had a particular person in mind. Someone you’re mad at. Someone who’s apologised.
Or maybe you’re tired of bearing the burden of your anger and resentment any longer. You’re tired of the drama, the conflict, the energy drain that comes with being resentful of, or angry with, somebody.
There has to be a better way to do this. There has to be a better way to live.
But how are you supposed to forgive somebody when you’re so angry? How can you turn a blind eye to what they’ve done?
How do you let go of the anguish and bitterness that comes with being so hurt by someone who shows no remorse?
And why should you, anyway? Why should it be you to hold out the olive branch?
They’re the one who hurt you! You’re done with being a doormat. You’re expanding into your worth.
Forgiving someone who treated you like you don’t matter can seem like a step backwards, doesn’t it?
Now, I’m not just someone preaching from the pulpit about forgiveness. I’ve lived it. I’ve forgiven people who to this day don’t think they’ve done anything wrong. People who are never going to be sorry.
People who felt their actions were justified and my anguish was over-sensitivity. People who have brought physical and/or emotional harm to myself or someone I cared about. People who have done all of the above.
I forgave them not for their sake, mind you. Not for their peace, not for their benefit, and not for their freedom from the consequences of their actions.
But rather, for mine.
Because, my friend, I promise if there’s one thing that’s going to drain your energy daily, simmering away in the background bringing down your good vibes, affecting your relationships and resourcefulness and just about everything, it is holding onto resentment.
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Why forgiveness feels so difficult
Conflict is an unfortunate and necessary part of the human condition, from which no one is able to escape. At one stage or another in our lives, each of us has been in a position where we were hurt or wronged.
Maybe it was done to us by a stranger, maybe we got back stabbed by a friend, betrayed by a lover, bullied at school, harassed by a boss, had our buttons pushed by a family member, or got trolled online.
It hurts, honey, I know. And the suckiest part of that suck fest is that as common as someone hurting us is, it’s rare that people will darken our doorstep to ask for our forgiveness.
Most of the time, the other person is never going to so much as apologize to us. Sometimes they don’t even feel sorry, or they don’t even know that they’ve hurt you, or they think they haven’t done anything wrong, and sometimes they even think that they are the ones who should be mad at you.
As hard as I know this is to hear, waiting for an apology that will never come is only going to fuel your anger and animosity toward the person who wronged you. And so even though forgiveness feels counter-intuitive and difficult: it is, in fact, the most graceful path to peace.
What forgiveness isn’t
Remember when you were little and your playmate snatched a toy off you, and your caregivers made them say sorry, and then you had to hug and kiss and say it was okay, and then pretend like it never happened?
And also remember how I said in an earlier blog post that our subconscious begins to form beliefs about the world when we’re little and we carry those through to adult lives?
Yeah, we’ve all kind of done this with forgiveness.
Now this isn’t throwing shade on our caregivers at all: we were learning some important lessons that day about forgiveness that still stand.
But some of us made little incidents like that mean things that formed beliefs like:
Forgiveness means it’s okay that the other person hurt me
Forgiveness means I have to forget that the other person hurt me
Forgiveness means the slate is wiped clean
Forgiveness means I have to pretend like nothing is wrong even though I’m still hurting
Forgiveness is a resumption of trust
We have to forgive someone right away
We have to forgive someone as soon as they say they’re sorry
When I’ve forgiven someone it means I have to resume being best friends with them again
Maybe it’s because in that moment, when our friend took our toy from us and we felt hurt, and we were told we had to forgive them, we felt a sense of injustice or unfairness. Maybe it’s because we learned that forgiveness is conditional i.e. first you say sorry, then I forgive, and therefore we feel like we can’t forgive someone in adulthood until they’ve apologized.
Whatever our innocent little minds made moments like that mean, we learned some beliefs about forgiveness in those moments that aren’t necessarily true and they may be holding us back from forgiving someone in our lives, because we think forgiveness is contingent upon the above conditions.
In reality, forgiveness is none of those things.
Here is what forgiveness is NOT:
Condoning, supporting, or “being okay with” the other person’s actions or behaviour
Wiping the slate clean and forgetting about it
Continuing to tolerate the behaviour which hurt you
Setting yourself up to be hurt again in the future
An obligation to continue to be in the other person’s life and/or resume the relationship you once shared
Pretending like the incident which hurt you never happened
A repression or suppression of the pain and emotions you’re feeling
An admission of being right or wrong
Minimising or trivialising the wrong that was done
Conditional on the other person’s behaviour first
Changing the other person or their behaviour
A reparation of trust with the other person
An instantaneous feeling: but rather a gradual practice, over time, with lessons and often road bumps along the way
What forgiveness is
To forgive is to neutralize that feeling of tightness and anguish within you: that resentment, that anger, that low vibing energy that you’ve been burdened with carrying for so long. Whether it’s bubbling along in your subconscious, or impacting your daily life, on some level you always know it’s there, draining you, draining your energy, and shadowing your heart with fear and resentment.
That energy of fear and resentment, even if you don’t consciously realize it, is permeating everything in your life.
But the act of forgiveness is simply a release of that energy, a decision to let go of it and surrender it. Forgiveness is to drop the heavy burden of resentment and anger, put it down, and keep walking so that your energy becomes clean and light and open again.
Forgiveness feels like taking the first deep breath you’ve taken in a very long time. It feels like that first sip of water when you’ve been parched and dehydrated.
Remember that all of your judgement, anger, and resentment that you cling to, however justified you may rightly be to do so, is not actually affecting the person it’s directed at. The only person being affected by it is you.
It’s making YOU miserable, sick, and stressed. It’s allowing the other person to continue to hurt you, long after the actual threat has passed.
It’s like the saying goes:
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” — Nelson Mandela
Many of us have the perception that forgiveness is an act of kindness TO the person who wronged us. But it is actually an act of kindness to ourselves.
Forgiveness is a miracle that releases YOU from the bondage and burden of judgement and anger, frees you to step forward from fear to love, and unveils to you more of the divinity of your true nature. After all:
To Err Is Human, To Forgive, Divine
When someone causes us harm, often we can feel so powerless and out of control. This is only exacerbated as we continue to give them the power to hurt us by choosing to cling to our resentment over what happened. When we forgive, we are choosing to take back our power from the person who hurt us.
There is a quote by Marianne Williamson which inspired this post, and which is my favourite passage on forgiveness which I would love to share with you. She says:
“As you forgive others, you begin to forgive yourself. As you stop focusing on their mistakes, you will stop punishing yourself for your own. Your ability to release what you think of as the sins of others will free you to release yourself, putting down the weapon with which you punish yourself so savagely. Forgiveness releases the past to divine correction and the future to new possibilities.” — Marianne Williamson
It's up to each and every one of us to be the change we wish to see in the world. It’s our task to be the light for others.
So, how do we forgive?
Like with anything we wish to manifest, forgiveness begins with an intention.
Remember, forgiveness is usually not something we do once and forget about. It can be a slow burn, a practice, a choice to live your life by a certain intent.
And so, for me, forgiveness begins with a prayer. If you’re not yet ready to forgive somebody, but you want to, instead of saying to the Universe “I forgive Joe Bloggs”, you could instead say:
“Universe/God/Archangel/Goddess: · I am willing to see this situation through the lens of Love. · I am willing to forgive this person. · I am willing to see things differently. · I am willing to view this from divine perspective. Please guide me in this intention and teach me how to forgive”.
Working through the feelings of hurt and pain you feel is also important so that you can allow them to pass in their own time. This may require journaling work, talking it over with a trusted friend, or even counselling to help you through.
When you first start journaling, don’t censor. Feel free to rant and be as angry or sad as you want to be.
When you’ve written as much as you can, find ways to release the emotions in your physical body: a good kickboxing class, a game of squash, a hard run outside, dancing to angry music, or Ashtanga yoga are my personal favorite ways to move the emotion physically through my body.
After a time, come back to your journal and start to work through those emotions. Some of my favorite journaling questions to help me move from fear to forgiveness are:
Where do I need to forgive myself for what happened?
Where am I judging myself in this situation?
Who has my support crew been through this difficult time?
What has this experience taught me about myself?
How has this experience allowed me to grow?
How will I know when I have forgiven this person?
If I were to release these feelings of pain, fear, and anger, what new opportunities for growth and love would I open myself up to?
When I have forgiven this person, how will I look back on this experience?
And then prepare yourself!
Synchronicities will start coming out of the woodwork. Either it will play on your mind for the next few days, or that person may randomly surface in your life, or you’ll get triggered in a big way, and this is the Universe drawing in opportunities for you to practice forgiveness and repeat your prayer and your intent.
You will be amazed at the transformation that will begin to happen over the next few hours, days, weeks, or even instantly. That is the power of forgiveness.
The Story of the Little Soul and Forgiveness
On closing, I want to share this story that my mentor shared when I was going through my coaching training. I don’t know where she got it from, but it’s one of my favourite parables and I think of it whenever I need to practice forgiveness. I hope I do it justice here.
A Little Soul in Heaven came up to God one day and said: “God, I get it. I finally get it. I Am the Light!” And God smiled and patted the Little Soul lovingly on the head. “Yes, my Little Soul. You are the Light.”
The Little Soul said, “And you know what else? I understand that I Am Love!”
God chuckled gently. “Yes, my Little Soul. You are indeed pure Love!”
Then the Little Soul frowned and said, “God, I wish you would teach me about forgiveness.”
“But my child,” God said, “you ARE Forgiveness”.
The Little Soul said, “But I don’t know forgiveness. I want to know what forgiveness is.”
The Little Soul’s friend came up and said, “Little Soul, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with God and I have thought of a way to help you.”
“Really?” cried the Little Soul excitedly. “You will help me?”
“Yes,” the Little Soul’s friend said warmly, “yes, I would be honoured to help you know forgiveness, Little Soul, because I love you so much. I want to give you this gift.”
“How can you help me?” asked the Little Soul.
“Well, Little Soul,” his friend said conspiratorially, “when we get our physical bodies and go down to Earth, I will meet up with you in the physical plane and come into your life. And you will recognise me, and your conscious physical self will come to love me and trust me just as much as you do now. And the moment in your life where you love me most and you trust me with your whole life, heart and soul is the moment that I will strike you down. And in that moment I want you to remember: that I am there to teach you about forgiveness.” Each person in our lives is here for a reason: to be a friend, to be a gardener for our soul, or to be a teacher. When we remember that some teachers are here to teach us how to forgive, one of the most important soul assignments we can learn on this plane, it shifts our perspective instantly from fear to love and from that place, perhaps, are we able to begin the process of practicing forgiveness.
I hope this serves you, my beautiful friend. Until next time, love and light. SHOP THE STORY
The Book of Forgiving - Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu Everyday Grace - Marianne Williamson Radical Forgiveness - Colin Tipping Judgment Detox - Gabrielle Bernstein
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