Forgiveness - for when it's time to let go
The weak can never forgive.
Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
- Mahatma Gandhi -
How easy do you find it to forgive?
Or do you hang on for years, filled with anger and resentment, often suppressed, because you are determined not to forgive?
The lack of forgiveness is often the key underpinning of illness and dis-ease.
There are two types of forgiveness in the Christian Bible: God's pardon of our sins, our wrongdoings, when we fail to hit the target, and our obligation to pardon ie to forgive others. By obligation is meant that if you do not forgive, there will be health repercussions.
Forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance or wanting to get your own back toward a person or group who has harmed you, whether they deserve your forgiveness or not. When you forgive, you do not deny or gloss over the seriousness of an offense or hurt against you. Nor does it mean forgetting, condoning or excusing offenses. Though it can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t mean you HAVE to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability. Forgiveness is about bring you, the forgiver, peace of mind and frees you from corrosive feelings of anger, resentment, and revenge.
Self-forgiveness is often the first step toward a more loving and positive relationship with yourself, and therefore with others.
There was a time in my life when my approach to someone who had “hurt”
me in some way (I was bullied daily in both primary and secondary schools,
in secondary school by some teachers, not just pupils) was to do one or some
of the following: -
Passively accept the bullying – just let them hurt me
Ignore the other, avoid them, sulk, make snide remarks, seek revenge
Violently resist – retaliate, fight back,
Be the bully (school taught me that)
Ignore the act of being slapped, or suppress it
Detach - run off, hide, cry
Turn the other cheek – and keep going back for more!
Not deal with it!! The person, the situation.
But with any of the above, the hurt of course was still in me and doing
damage. Not having a vocabulary to stand up for myself didn’t help.
“Big” boys didn’t do emotions when I was young so it was important not to cry for you just got bullied more or verbally humiliated. I learned to deny and repress the feelings I had.
Despite being taught to turn the other cheek in bible class, I never knew what that phrase really meant till much later in life.
In fact, it took me many years of personal evolution and self-development to realise that in advocating “offer the other cheek” Jesus was suggesting one alternative to all of the above:- an assertive but non-violent form of protest. He was not singing, “Do it to me one more time!”
I was often told as a child to apologise, forgive and forget but I was never convinced about the forgetting bit; I mean, every time you try to think of forgetting about an event or person you just keep recreating the feelings associated with them! And I had the kind of mind that could ruminate for weeks on a bad event. Anticipating being bullied every day at school didn’t help. And undealt with emotions stay stuck in our arteries, our cells, our body, and trigger all sorts of illnesses - arthritis, coronary heart conditions, diabetes, obesity etc..
I often ask couples who ask me to marry them how they deal with disagreement and conflict in their relationship and in particular how they practise forgiveness. Replies range from “don’t know what you’re on about” to “we never go to bed without resolving our issues” or “we talk things through and listen to each other” and sometimes I get, with a shrug of a shoulder, “Oh we just forgive and forget and move on!” or “We agree not to talk about ‘it’ and to forget what happened.” But that latter way is doomed not to work. For the situation is never healed by attempting to push it down and forget it.
I’m not sure there is a way we can just surgically remove the memory of an experience, especially one which triggered in us some strong negative emotions. I don’t believe it is as easy as forgiving someone then your memory of what they did is suddenly wiped clean.
What happened, happened and denying it is not helpful. You did not make it up. You were raped, attacked, abandoned, rejected, beaten, bullied, cheated on, used and abused, betrayed, lied about and lied to. Or perhaps it was you who engaged in some unspeakable act and for as long as you don’t clear it, by forgiving yourself, your ego self will give you guilt big time. Guilt seeks punishment, and punishment seeks pain so there is a direct link between those feelings and our health.
Through my religious upbringing, with sayings seldom explained, I developed the notion, as many do, that forgiveness means turning the other cheek and I concluded that that meant letting the bully off the hook. It took me years to create my own definitions of forgiveness – that to forgive was not so much about the other (who probably mentally HAD forgotten the event) but was for me an approach to find peace, that forgiveness was not condoning what someone had done, so much as it was about me finding freedomness! And in studying for Interfaith Ministry, I was reassured to come across the Aramaic word for “to forgive” which means “to untie.” So forgiveness became an untying myself from the ugly energies of others or an experience that was in the past.
Forgiveness, or lack of it, is something many clients come to discuss and even those who don’t are surprised when we dig a little deeper to find that the cause of their continuing discontent or poor health is often as a result of an unwillingness or inability to forgive and an ignorance of the toll it takes on the body, mental, emotional, spiritual, system.
So let’s put a little more flesh on what forgiveness isn’t.
Forgiveness is not
It is not as simple as just saying sorry; sorry is in overrated word, so easy to “just say!” but without feeling, positive intention, and grace. The tone of expression of the word will tell you whether it is genuinely meant, or begrudgingly given.
It is NOT about ignoring or denying that the event ever happened – doing so, repressing how you feel about the event, will only make you cling to anger and resentment, which are likely to grow in intensity, and take their toll on your physical and emotional health. Please don’t pretend that nothing happened; the reality is an “offense” against you was made so …..
Face it – acknowledge that you were wronged, you felt wronged, you probably felt many other emotions and at the time you would have responded the best you knew how – to deny, suppress, get angry, want revenge etc. And you have probably discovered that these did not work other than perhaps to provide a temporary relief.
Embrace it – now this doesn’t mean you cuddle up to the event. It is a way of beginning to shift your mindset to one ready to deal better with what happened. Instead of “That should not have happened” (maybe not, but it did) “I’m really angry” “I shall get my own back” “I won’t speak to him / her again!” we need at some point to really acknowledge what happened and deal with it. Perhaps some more helpful though not necessarily easy questions might be: -
It happened – now what? Am I to continue to live with these debilitating negative feelings of anger and revenge?
What are my options?
How can things get better than this? Where can life go from here?
What was my part in what happened? What do I need to, without blaming myself or getting angry with myself, take responsibility for?
What lessons am I meant to take from this? To be wiser, more prudent, take fewer risks, to be more compassionate, understanding, to listen more?
How will I forgive myself?
What are the metaphysical lessons to be learned?
The Law of Forgiveness states that we cannot purify and so heal ourselves as long as we harbour negative feelings of hate, anger, criticism, revenge, and intolerance towards others. I have seen this play out with a relative who ultimately succumbed to cancer and to the end refused to forgive. Her choice, but the anger and bitterness which spilled out on to others was painful to witness.
Forgiveness leads to reconciliation and a living of life through the Law of Love.
It is in forgiving others that we forgive ourselves. As we set them free, we automatically set ourselves free. It was the Master Jesus Christ that taught us this Law in The Lord's Prayer…"forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespassed against us."
The Law of Forgiveness is eternal virtue and allows us to live in balance and harmony by raising our consciousness, living not in lower self-pity and anger, but raising our vibrations to live from our Loving Higher Self.
Replace it – realise you cannot force the other to admit they did wrong, were evil, get them to confess, or commit to changing or even atone for their misdemeanours. Sure you can express how you felt and request some reparation for the cost to you but you cannot demand they respond in a way that would satisfy you. So in the end you may have to make a decision that you will no longer give the other, and what they did ,the power to upset you. You learn to release the negative emotions you have, you draw a line in the sand, you give yourself freedom to move on. Let Go and Let God, however you define that word, releasing the past and the ties that bind and move on, replacing old negativity with a spirit of genuine self-love. You could do this on your own but you may need some talk therapy or some energy therapy such as Emotional Freedom Techniques to help.
Forgiveness is not just turning a blind eye and getting on with life. Deciding to just move on with life without first acknowledging what happened and how you truly felt about it is not forgiveness and is akin to telling yourself, “That hurt. I didn’t like it, but I’m moving forward with my life in spite of the pain. I’ll just pretend it never happened.” Some may think that courageous, others may see it as cowardly! But try as you may, you cannot lie to your body and your body will not lie to you. In time, it will express your lack of forgiveness in the form of a dis-ease – metaphysically the disease may be cancer, arthritis, leaky-gut syndrome, gout etc..
When something happens to you, your body records the event in your cellular memory. If you are then angry, resentful and bitter, these become acid and can cause inflammation and pain. Stubborn, inflexible resentment locates in the knees and joints--the parts of your body that need to be fluid, open and flexible. To live authentically means you do not lie to yourself. Forgiveness means accepting that you were wronged or that you wronged someone else. Just as “they” hurt you, do not end up hurting yourself by your lack of willingness to forgive. Lack of willingness is plain stubbornness. But if you are unable to forgive, being willing to forgive is a good first step.
Forgiveness is not justifying, condoning or diminishing what the other (or you) did Forgiving is not saying, "What’s done is done. No use crying over spilled milk. It’s okay. Nobody’s perfect. Everybody makes a mistake," or, "It’s not a really big deal. Worse things have happened. There are people worse off than me!" No, if it feels a big deal, then it is a big deal! We can choose to discuss with the person who aggrieved us if they will agree to the discussion; to not attempt do so denies them the chance to learn and atone for what they did. Be the bigger person. Such discussion isn’t always possible and so forgiveness may have to be something you do alone or, if you are so inclined, by calling on Divine intervention, through prayer, talking with your angels, through therapy, healing, whatever works best for you.
Forgiving is not moving fast to being chums again and continue with YOUR habits that would have contributed to the original situation. You need to heal. You need time to heal. You don’t immediately trust the person who injured you when you forgive them. That wouldn’t even be logical. Trust has to be earned, and they must earn your trust again but not by you being bloody minded and making it difficult for them. That is you operating from your lower self. So must you earn the trust of anyone whom you have injured. And you may have to learn to trust yourself again to trust!
So why forgive?
Forgiveness can help heal the wounds of war, be that a military war with much wounding on both sides, or a domestic war between even just two people, or races of people. People who genuinely forgive report feeling less depressed, more grateful, calmer, more peaceful, more satisfied with life, and less stressed. And their relationships improve.
Forgiveness improves our health and aids our well-being. When we hold fast to the moral high ground, to anger and resentments, to grudges, our blood pressure and heart rate rise sharply. We live in a constant state of tightness, tension and stress. Stress damages the body in many ways and many doctors report that almost 80% of all condition which patients present are stress-related. However, when we forgive, we release and let go, we relax, our stress levels consequently drop, and people who are more forgiving avoid the negative effects of stress on their health. Holding on to resentments, angers, and self-righteous grudges are also likely to compromise our immune system, making us less resistant to illness.
Forgiveness can help us repair, enhance, and sustain positive relationships. Even if a friend has acted in a way where we inevitably feel hurt, disappointed, abused, or let down, we always have a choice. Holding a grudge and continuing to feel hard done by makes us less likely to forgive or cooperate with them; trust and connection can be further damaged and the gulf between us ever widens. Forgiveness, even a willingness to forgive, can stop this decline and start to heal our relationship before further damage is done or it dissolves altogether.
Forgiveness is likely to engender within us feelings of happiness and contentment.
Forgiveness is fundamental, dare I say essential, for close
committed relationships such as marriages and partnerships.
Throwing a strop and huffing and puffing and giving the other the
silent treatment is a form of lack of forgiveness and is quite childlike.
Those who are more forgiving and less spiteful and vindictive are
more likely to be successful in managing conflict in their relationship.
Studies have shown that more forgiving spouses had stronger more
relaxed, peace-filled and healthier relationships. However, be
warned, If one spouse is more forgiving than the other, is constantly
willing to forgive, yet they are met with continued mistreatment or
cold shoulder, they can reach a toleration level, feel dissatisfied with
their relationship, and may seek to separate. Demanding that you
will listen or talk provided the other meets certain conditions is not
Love – it is conditional love.
Through forgiveness we can grow in compassion, kindness, and
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s former Truth and
Reconciliation Commission chairman, has often argued that
forgiveness is the path to “true enduring peace” – peace between
nations, communities, and individuals. Peace creates healing and
healing creates peace.
Forgiveness is an aid to better health and well-being.
Some ways to forgive
TRUE, genuine, sincere forgiveness, has to be experienced, it is
energy in motion, it is a process, not just a “thing” you do or say or
tick off your list or work out intellectually. In forgiving, you are
consciously, with awareness, intentionally transmitting the energy
of True Love to cleanse, forgive and heal. It requires time, patience,
sincerity, commitment, preparation and an open heart. All that is
experience. All emotional energies surrounding the event and /or
person must be acknowledged, fully felt and released from our
energy fields before we can say we have actually forgiven and
stepped into true forgiveness.
Realise that for whatever reason you are unable or unwilling to forgive then the enmity you feel towards someone who has harmed you in no ways harms him or her back. All that anger and hate and desire for revenge is, as Nelson Mandela said, “like drinking poison yourself yet hoping it will kill your enemies.” So read through the different ways to forgive and go with those that seem to resonate with you at some inner, knowing level.
Pray - prayer is not necessary something that belongs to one religion. We all have a Higher Power. Pray to it.
You know I struggle with forgiveness. Fill me with Love that I may find it in me to send my Love out into the world.
Let this prayer be.
Openness Start by checking that you are truly open to reviewing how you now feel about the event or person and are open to doing things differently to release the negative strain you are creating for yourself. The event has happened, you have dealt with consequences (I once had someone swindle me of over £100,000 and once I realised there was no way of getting that sum back, I had to find different ways to resolve what was going on within me…. intense feelings of betrayal.) I had to release and let go of the pent-up anger and annoyance I was feeling toward the perpetrator.
Write it down Recognise you cannot control the past but you CAN control or replace your current negative thoughts that are making you feel and relive the event. Decide to switch your focus. Difficult though it may be, aim to write down all you have learned or ways you have benefited as a result of the experience. We seldom learn from comfortable experiences so you will have benefited in some way – perhaps you have become more assertive, you were moved to establish a charity, you have set healthier boundaries, you are more cautious in whom you trust, you are financially more aware, you intend to lead a more authentic life.
Take back YOUR power, your energy. For as long as you think of the other and what they did, you are draining and leaking your energy, your power. We go to sleep to top up our reserves overnight. So why get up next day and start all your unforgiving thoughts over again. STOP. Imagine life again with your positive power restored. Recall what you have learned and decide to be the best YOU can be, to not stoop to others’ levels, and decide to be a better person in any way you can now imagine.
Acceptance Realise that life is like school and it presents us with tests. You are alive, and so passed that test, difficult and painful though it may have been. You have learned and become stronger.
Greater purpose Ask yourself, “Did what happened allow others to step into their greater purpose? “Life works in mysterious ways. Perhaps your event was a gift of an opportunity for another to show their courage, their compassion, their understanding. So your part in the event was but one part. I once in Tunisia witnessed an aggressive looking and sounding father slap and kick and roar at his five-year old son. The son seemed traumatised, all the moreso as this took place in public view. Friends with me said it had nothing to do with me, I didn’t know the circumstances. I agreed. But the trauma of the little boy got to me so quickly and before I could rationally think, I bounded across the street to separate the father from the boy. Foolish? Yes. Unwise? Perhaps. But I felt in the moment I was called to do something. I had to step up with courage, compassion and a level of understanding.
Boundaries If you decide to forgive someone and can talk with them, and for whatever reason you continue your relationship, set “terms and conditions,” your bottom line for how things will be from now on. Or choose to “walk away!” To untie.
When it comes to dealing with others who have failed to meet our expectations or requests eg that they cease the offending behaviour, let us never forget the following: whatever may have caused them to mistreat us in the past does not determine how we should treat them in the present. After all, if the Divine decided to judge us "once and for all" -- for even a small portion of our poorly made, self-centered decisions -- surely It would have given up on us a long time ago? Adapted from the words of Guy Finlay Spiritual Teacher
Practise empathy Try talking to yourself as if you were the other person who hurt you. Explain why you did what you did, what kind of life you have had, what problems and issues you have had, or continue to have. We seldom know what lies behind the behaviour or mask of others and sometimes when we do, we are able to experience a whole new quality of compassion and understanding. In that moment, forgiveness becomes easier.
Send a positive thought-shower!! It’s one I can still struggle with. There are still some people I know I haven’t fully forgiven but I am now at the stage of at least being willing. Whenever they come to mind, I remind myself to send them “blessings” “positive energy” and sometimes repeat “the Jesus phrase” – “Forgive them father, for they know not what they do.”
Practise the Emotional Freedom Technique or consult with someone who can apply the Neuro Emotional Technique with you.
Be patient with yourself Give yourself time to heal. Mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. On the road to healing you are likely to make mistakes. Mistakes are not failure; they are learning moments. It has taken me many attempts to not trust people so easily and be so gullible. So be easy on yourself, get out in nature and appreciate what life has given you in abundance. Train yourself to become more aware each time you become the hamster on the treadmill or going round the same dumb mountain one more time.
Actively seek forgiveness
If you are the “guilty” party, then be open to atoning for your deeds, to offer an apology (it may not be accepted) in some way to offer some reparation or make amends. It may not be easy, words may be difficult, emotions may stick in your throat. But seek Divine help to be given the right words at the right time.
First forgive yourself; when you do so you stop using up vital inner resources on things like guilt and shame. You become stronger and more connected to your heart and compassion.
Be prepared for the possibility that the other person may not be ready to forgive you, let alone even hear you out. Be patient, listen, don’t force your agenda. Be humble. Consider meeting them or if that is just not possible, consider writing to them with a sincere apology, free of conditions and expectations and lots of your defensive explanations. You have done your best to seek reconciliation and to forgive and if your approaches are not met then it may be time to “let it go!” The ultimate meaning of “to forgive.”
And finally, stop beating yourself up, quit the stories, quit the woundology as Caroline Myss, medical intuitive, author and mystic would say. Woundology is when we use our wounds -- the hurts, the traumas, the unfortunate events, the slings and arrows of life in general -- to dominate the conversation, to manipulate others, to get their sympathy or compassion. We engage in it – the pity party, the poor me syndrome, the pointing at others, the “it’s all their faulting” - , to gain power over others or to excuse our own disagreeable behaviour.
Ho’oponopono – forgiveness Hawaiian style
Ho’oponopono is an ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. Next to meditation, the Ho'oponopono Method of forgiveness is one of my favourite spiritual tools. It is simple in its practice, yet profound in its outcomes. It guides us to accept responsibility for our part in the negative experience, and helps us move into a state of compassion. COMPASSION, truly felt, is the neutralizing emotion that brings true forgiveness to the surface.
Here are three links that will inform you about the practice.
Combining EFT and Ho,oponopono with Daniel Hill
How do I know I have forgiven?
Here’s the key that has really helped me – if I recall an event, something which someone has done to me, I remind myself I have a choice, either (a) to cling on to my feelings of anger, revenge, annoyance , being hard done by or (b) to truly forgive, to let go, to untie. I know which feels more comfortable! And I know it isn‘t always easy. I have had some horrendous things happen in life and it took me a while to realise that it is only me who hurts when I keep thinking of what others did to me.
How do I know I have forgiven? For me what works now is that when I recall an event, if there is no longer any emotional charge around it i.e. I don’t get annoyed, angry, or feel a need to get even, then I have forgiven. If I still experience those negative feelings, then’ like peeling the onion, it simply means there is some more forgiving to do and I can choose to forgive myself in that moment, and not berate myself for having failed to fully forgive first time round. Forgiveness is a process. It is an experience. That experience is multi-faceted.
Daniel Hill EFT + Ho'oponopono
Quick guide to forgiving
Forgiving is not necessarily quick!
It is a process, not a one-off decision or act.
But it begins with the choice we make to forgive.
It is not a feeling.
Forgiveness works two ways if two people are involved.
It takes time for both parties to heal, to mend relationship.
The other party may not wish to forgive or be forgiven.
That does not stop your forgiveness process.
Reconciliation always requires all parties to be involved.
Forgiveness is not about changing someone else’s heart or mind (just to make you feel better.)
Forgiveness is about allowing God or your higher Power to change your heart and mind.
God works in and through you once you make the choice to forgive – whether you believe in divine power or not.
Forgiveness is not about justice or who’s right and who’s wrong.
Someone has to start. Let it be you.
It’s about holding yourself accountable and taking responsibility for your part in making amends.
Forgiveness in not letting someone off the hook by saying “I forgive you.”
So, it’s not about what you give away; it's about what you will gain.
You may think, “Why bother?” “Why should I begin.” Actually, why not you?
If your problem or situation is tearing you apart, eating away at you it will lead to ill physical health in due course.
You heal YOU when you forgive.
Remember – is it what you’re eating or what is eating away at you that causes your problems?
Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs – allow your higher Power not your ego personality mind to show you how IT can use love to mend your relationships.