Understanding Forgiveness


Forgiveness.What is forgiveness? How do I forgive someone?Can I ever trust someone who hurt me?Is it possible to forgive someone you hate?It's a tough situation for a lot of people (myself included, of course).I see forgiveness as a decision. We can be weighed down by someone who hurt us or we can choose to be uplifted. We always have the power to choose the way we perceive a situation.We need to recognize that we are not bound by the pain or suffering that anyone has caused us. Seeing our own self worth allows more room for us to let go and to truly forgive.

"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies."- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Someone hurts us. The way I see it we have two choices:

  1. Sulk, stay angry, feel victimized and unconsciously attract the same situation over and over again throughout our lifetime.
  2. Forgive this person and understand that they came into our lives to teach us something valuable. We see the situation as a point of growth and positively apply this lesson to our present and future experiences.

Sometimes it can be really hard to see the lesson or the reason why something bad would happen to us.How did this help me on my journey? How does this help my evolution?Is this even getting me any closer to self-actualization?

Mind Maps

When it’s hard to see the lessons from a seemingly bad situation it might be helpful to create a sort of mind map, journal or brainstorm to help you breakdown the situation. This can allow you to see things you may not have noticed before. I find it can be very helpful for healing and seeing the positive.Grab a piece of paper.Start with this person who hurt you - write their name at the top of the page.Think of some things that transpired as a result of having this experience.- How did this person make you feel?- What did they influence?- What did you gain from them?- What did you lose in this situation?- What events were triggered due to this person or event?- What kind of reactions did their actions cause?- Did anyone come into your life as a result of knowing this person?- Has your career path been influenced because of this person?Keep drawing lines off those lines.Try to think of some positive experiences that came from something seemingly 'negative'.I drew up a simple mind map. Feel free to use it/take inspiration from it as needed. Each situation is different and therefore a universal mind map would be difficult to construct.Mind Map for Letting Go Forgiveness Moving OnKeep in mind that when you reach the present, it's nowhere near the end of the map. You've only completed a small percentage of your journey and it's incredibly likely that more positive experiences are going to come from this situation.

Forgiveness Meditation

Something that I connected with recently was the idea of conducting a forgiveness meditation.This involves inviting the True Self of the person who hurt you to join you. This doesn't require you to actually call this person but close your eyes, relax, and ask them if they would join you free from the physical world, on an astral plane perhaps.To do this I sat still in meditation and envisioned my Higher Self/Spirit floating above me, in the sky. In my mind and my heart I invited someone I felt hurt by, we'll call them Captain, to come and join me in this space.I told Captain that I forgave them for what they had done to me. I told them that I understood that I had also hurt them (as much as I hated to admit it) and I apologized for that. Sincerely. I know that in the core of my being I am a good person. My best intentions are not to hurt others but sometimes I do and I have to take responsibility for that.I thanked Captain for teaching me lessons through pain and told them I understood it was necessary for my personal growth. I thanked them for all of the great experiences that have transpired due to our relationship. I told them that I look forward to the day the healthiest versions of ourselves can reunite and embrace. I told them that although they hurt me in this life, I did not want it to be the end of our relationship because I understand that our bond is eternal.In this meditation you can say whatever you want to say to this person but make sure it comes from a place of compassion and understanding. Those are the keys to forgiveness. See the person for their imperfections. They are human. They have had many life events that have caused them to fall from grace but it does not mean that they are not a good person at their core.

Finding Strength

Now that you can recognize how far you've come due to this unfortunate circumstance, is it any easier to forgive this person? Can you see this person as an imperfect Being trying to teach you something precious you can grow from?It's your choice if you want pain to harden you or to soften you.When I was younger I allowed pain to harden me, becoming angry at the world and constantly feeling full of wild, unpredictable energy. I could barely get control of my emotions in charged situations to the point where it sometimes scared me.Those feelings of anger and hate do not allow for any type of release. The negative energy bottles up and shakes around inside of you, making you sick and confused. Manifesting in all areas of your life.Getting revenge on someone who hurt you offers you nothing but a momentary burst of Ego. You may feel amped or excited but quickly after you begin to wonder what you have started, what you fed into, what will happen as a result of your actions. Worry and guilt may then set in... you have nowhere to release them so yet again they bottle up and shake around inside of you.

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

As I've aged I've come to understand how much more in control you can be when you're 'soft'. Instead of reacting to a painful situation with anger or resentment, relax.Feel the pain instead of trying to mask it with anger or ego. It hurts and it can be uncomfortable but when you allow yourself time to relax into that pain... you can release it; now free of what you once felt so controlled by.Choosing peace and choosing to be vulnerable in moments of pain, I've learned that is what truly makes you strong.Forgiveness is not weakness. Compassion is not weakness.How easy is it for you to change this anger or this pain to feelings of love and compassion?Look to the beauty, love and kindness around you rather then focusing on old wounds.If you still aren't at a place where you are able to forgive, that's okay. These things have to be done when you're ready to do them. Forgiveness has no timetable and it is never too late to forgive someone.An important thing to keep in mind is that anger and hate hurt you more than anyone else ever could. These negative feelings affect your happiness, your relationships with others and your physical well being. Over time holding on to these emotions can cause serious damage. But don't worry, none of it is irreversible and it all starts with one little step: forgiveness.

"To err is human; to forgive, divine."
- Alexander Pope

If you'd like more resources here are some great books on forgiveness:Radical Forgiveness - Colin TippingThe Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom - Don Miguel RuizThe Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times - Pema Chodron