If you have read any spiritual text, self-help book, or spent time as an elementary schooler, at some point you probably know learning how to forgive is a pretty important concept. We are taught from an early age everyone makes mistakes and one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and others is the gift of forgiveness. Yet the actual process of forgiving can seem a bit elusive, especially when you have to forgive yourself.
What exactly does it mean to forgive yourself and others?
When do you know you have successfully forgiven or have officially been forgiven?
Since you, just like all of us, are human there is a high chance there may be something in your past you are still holding onto anger or shame about. Addiction often drives us far from our values leading to behaviors and actions that our authentic selves would never condone. Yet this doesn’t mean that you have to carry the weight of blame and guilt for the rest of your life. Here are some of
Addiction often drives us far from our values leading to behaviors and actions our authentic selves would never condone. Yet this doesn’t mean you have to carry the weight of blame and guilt for the rest of your life.
Here are some slightly more concrete ways to help you move toward the peace forgiveness offers:
Begin by closing your eyes. Bring to mind the situation or person you want to forgive. Remember this can be you as well. Breathe in the emotions that come up when you recall the memory still causing you suffering. Begin to work through the steps below…
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The key to beginning the process of forgiveness is sheer willingness to let it all go. Rather than forcing anything, simply start with repeating the affirmation, “I’m willing to forgive ________.” Write down your affirmation. Speak it aloud throughout the day. Practice this openness even if you aren’t sure how you could ever possibly forgive this person or situation. Simply announcing you are ready and open to being free is powerful enough to make space for healing to begin.
Accepting what has happened means letting go of “shoulds and coulds” and remembering the most challenging experiences of our life bring the greatest lessons. Acceptance is not the same as excusing or forgetting; it is simply the realization that when we argue with reality, we always lose. As the spiritual teacher, Byron Katie says, “Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it… it’s just easier if you do.”
Take a quick moment to feel your feet on the ground and to notice the air coming in and out of your nose. In this moment is there anything lacking or wrong? Without the input of your thoughts, look around and take in the perfection of the present moment. When you realize your past is just a movie — replaying on the screen of your mind — you may be more willing to let it go. If your mind begins to spiral and ruminate, gently guide your focus back to your breath; return to the present moment and you will find peace waiting with open arms.
Whether or not the forgiveness you are working on is towards yourself or another, there is often a feeling of righteousness. Hanging onto blame only gives away your power which prevents you from feeling inner peace. Rather than waiting for someone to apologize, visualize sending that person love, compassion, and forgiveness. A great practice at this stage in your journey is to meditate on the situation while repeating this Buddhist Loving-Kindness Prayer:
May _____ (him/her/they/I) be happy, healthy and whole.
May they have love, warmth, and affection.
May they be protected from harm, and free from fear.
May they be alive, engaged and joyful.
May ______ (him/her/they/I) enjoy inner peace and ease.May peace expand into their world and throughout the entire universe.
May peace expand into their world and throughout the entire universe.
Forgiveness is a creative process; it is ever-changing and ongoing. What I learned through forgiving is just when you think you have truly let it all go, you may catch yourself reliving your old story and slipping back into suffering. This is where we get to forgive ourselves and then start back at step one all over again. Rinse and repeat as they say.
Don’t let this step deter you from beginning to forgive, rather take it as a reminder there is no destination. Find joy in the journey.
The next time you come across an inspirational image that promotes the benefits of forgiveness I hope you will have a clearer picture of how the process actually works.
What I hope even more so, though, is after you have put these steps into practice you will have get to have the physical experience of the fog of the past lifting off of you.
When we let go of the past we clear the space and finally return to our true nature of well-being, truth, and joy.
As someone pretty wise once said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
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