Forgiveness is something that most of us seem to struggle with. Not only is it difficult to wrap our minds, and hearts, around forgiving someone who has hurt us, we don't even know how to begin! It can feel like a hard and elusive thing.
In this post I am going to talk about some ways I have learned to work with forgiveness. Two things to keep in mind from the start are, one, forgiveness is not for the other person, it is for yourself. And two, it doesn't necessarily happen all at once in some magical burst of love and light (although it might!). It is a practice, a decision that needs to be made each day. And even if you don't feel forgiving at first, or maybe not for quite a while, the willingness, the desire to forgive, matters.
Recently I have added forgiveness into my daily practice. I decided I no longer want to hold onto any speck of blame, anger or resentment. For one thing, I am only hurting myself by refusing to forgive. Holding onto anger, justified or not, prevents me from experiencing the full joy of life, prevents me from learning from the past, keeps me stuck in a victim mind-set and takes away my power.
Here are some ways to work with forgiveness, from the small hurts to the large. I do this each evening during my time of meditation and prayer, asking myself who it is that I need to forgive in this moment...you will find your own time and way. Sometimes it is someone from that day, or a parent, an ex spouse or partner, and sometimes it is myself. If you ask with willingness and an open heart, the right person and situation will come into your awareness.
Picture that person in front of you in your mind's eye. Say to yourself, "I forgive __________, knowing that they did the best they could at the time." That might feel true and easy, or your heart might feel closed right now. That's ok. You can work at it from a few different angles...
1. Reframing: We all have a story. We also have the ability to change our story. Look for the hidden gift in what you experienced. What have you learned? How did you become stronger? Gained more compassion or understanding? Reframing can powerfully shift the way you look at the events in your life, helping you to regain your personal power and feel less like a victim.
2. See the person, whether it is yourself or someone else, as a little child. Maybe you know, or can imagine, the circumstances that caused them to behave as they did. Try to find some openness in your heart for this hurt little child.
3. Invite in or imagine a divine, wise being, such as Jesus, Buddha, Mother Mary, the Dalai Lama, Quan Yin, etc. Imagine their love and forgiveness for you, this person, and the whole situation. Open your heart to feel and receive this love.
There are some people and events that are forgiven easily, and others that you will probably need to revisit many times. Your heart might feel more or less open each time, but over time even the toughest situations will start to loosen and you will begin to feel less controlled by what happened in the past. This creates more freedom, joy, and room in your life for the good to come in.
Kristi Joy, HTCP/I, LMT
If you would like some help finding your way to forgiveness, please contact me for a session.