The Art of Forgiveness

We have all been hurt by the words or actions of others at some time in our life. It can happen at any stage. It can come from those we trust the most. It could have been anything from a harsh word from an authority figure in your life, to a traumatic experience of abuse. These words and actions can leave us with feelings of anger, resentment, or revenge; or we could be left feeling victimized. When we hold onto these emotions, we become stuck in that moment in time, and these emotions can eat away at us. Some people are more forgiving that others, but when we fail to embrace forgiveness, we lose our inner peace, our joy, and our love for life. It can even make us sick. When your positive emotions are replaced with resentment and hostility, you may find yourself overwhelmed by your own bitterness or victimization.

Forgiveness can mean different things to different people. Generally, it is a conscious process that begins inside of us. We can begin to replace these negative emotions and attitudes by viewing it as an opportunity to learn and grow beyond the initial incident. The process of forgiveness does not mean we are condoning the behaviour, making excuses for it, forgetting about it, or even reconciling with the person who hurt us.
Holding onto anger, bitterness, or even a grudge comes at a price. Not only will it harm your well-being, but it will also start to taint every relationship and new experience as you become consumed by the wrong done to you. This may also lead to depression or anxiety. You may experience feelings of lack of purpose or direction in life. You may even lose some of the valuable connections you already have. Is it worth it? With a little effort you can change the course of your life from a downward spiral to feeling uplifted and supported.

How do we learn to forgive?
Forgiveness is a conscious choice; it is a commitment to yourself to change. There are several things you can do to begin the process.

  • Recognize and acknowledge that holding onto negative emotions damages you more than it does the other person.
  • Understand that when you let these toxic emotions go, you will feel better.
  • Releasing yourself from the role of victim allows you to claim your personal power back. You will no longer be defined by how you have been hurt.
  • Choose to forgive the person who has offended you.
  • If you need help moving forward, join a support group, or seek professional assistance.
Forgiveness may not be easy for some, but it can become even more painful when the other person doesn’t want to admit any wrongdoing or if they are no longer alive. If you find yourself in this position, there is no other course of action but to do the inner work for yourself. Reconciliation may not be possible, or it may not be appropriate. Just because you cannot reach a point of reconciliation doesn’t mean you cannot attain forgiveness. One doesn’t exclude the other. Forgiveness isn’t about changing the behaviour of the other person, that’s up to them, but it does bring it to their attention.

The process of forgiveness is more about you and your life. Think about how much better you will feel once you have completed this process. This will bring about the mental, emotional, and spiritual healing that takes away the power the other person has over you and your life.
If you are finding the forgiveness process especially challenging there are a few things you can try.
  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and see the situation through their eyes.
  • Ask yourself how you would have reacted.
  • Look back on the times when you have hurt others, how did they deal with the situation?
  • Seek professional assistance if you still cannot see your way to forgiveness.

What if you did the hurting?
If you are the one who has done or said something to harm others, try going inward and acknowledge how your actions may have harmed others. Ask yourself if there’s a possibility you could reach out to the person to apologise for your words or actions. You can formulate your apology beforehand, as this part can also be challenging, sincerely express your regret and ask for forgiveness. Look to do this without self-judgement and without making excuses for yourself. Remember you can’t force someone to forgive you and that they may need time to resolve this within themselves. Always treat yourself and others with compassion, understanding and respect.

Forgive yourself
Most importantly, you need to forgive yourself. Make some time for yourself to sit quietly when no one will disturb you. Turn off your devices to avoid being interrupted. Go inward to your centre, if you need to, place your hand over your heart to help you focus. Take a few deep breaths. In your heart space, see yourself with a mirror image of you standing face to face. Express yourself and apologise to your mirror image, include everything that you wish to say, speaking from your heart. Really feel this release and feel the compassion that is there for you. Listen to any feedback that may be given. Then give each other a hug, knowing that you are free to move forward. Take another deep breath and open your eyes.

In the process of forgiveness, the words or actions may stay with you, but you are reclaiming your power. This person no longer has a hold over you, and you are no longer imprisoned by your negative emotions. For some the journey to a state of forgiveness can take time, and always must include forgiveness for yourself. Forgiveness may even lead to an understanding and compassion for the person who hurt you. In reclaiming your power, you reclaim your life and can move beyond the painful words or actions, leading to emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.