Forgiveness is a profound topic because I feel that the practice of forgiveness can completely transform lives!
Have you ever waited for an apology that never came? Perhaps you’ve felt done wrong, hurt, misunderstood, or abandoned? Maybe you’ve gone through a time when you needed support but only received unkind words? It might be that you’ve wished for a do-over or wanted someone to act differently, maybe that someone was you? Have you ever held on or are you still holding onto a story of anger, resentment, or unforgiveness?
Carrying such burdens as guilt and resentment can truly feel like a heavy weight.
Your true essence is the embodiment of Beauty, Love, and Goodness, harboring grievances may leave you questioning your true essence.
Eric Clapton is a music artist and in the late 80’s his 4-year-old son fell out of the window of an apartment on the 53rd story. He wrote a song, Tears in Heaven, to and about his son. As a parent, I can only imagine what Eric Clapton experienced, maybe guilt, perhaps anger at life, at God, at himself. I don’t know how he navigated such a tragedy but something in that song feels healing to me.
Most of us have had an experience in life where something didn’t go the way we had hoped, where someone didn’t show up in the way we had wished they would, something happened in such a way that left us feeling disappointed, at best.
The second noble truth of Buddhism is that suffering is due to attachments and expectations, to grasping and clinging, living in an extreme.
So, what to do? There’s that old adage “Forgive and Forget.”
I once heard someone say that forgiveness is an eraser full of love. Love is our truth. Divine intelligence is our truth. Peace is our true essence. Forgiveness is returning to our true essence.
I’ve always had an affinity for Psalm 23.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me… Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
“Mercy shall follow me”
Mercy can be defined as Christlike treatment toward suffering which results in true overcoming. Christlike treatment is compassion, loving kindness, gentleness…
“I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Lord meaning I AM, Divine consciousness, the creative power within.
I will dwell in divine consciousness forever.
What is Divine consciousness?
Peace, Acceptance, Gratitude, Harmony, Joy…
You may be thinking that this sounds lovely but ultimately the question arises, HOW?
The man I look to as the “forgiveness expert” is my friend, Dr. Fred Luskin. He says that forgiveness is a trainable skill that involves cultivating peacefulness.
So, how do we practice forgiveness?
First, understand that forgiveness is for you and nobody else. Ask how holding on to the grievance is working for you. How do you feel? Make a commitment to yourself to feel better.
This piece reminds me of the Mandela quote: “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
I’ve noticed people can really hit a wall with this next suggestion and it’s helpful to acknowledge that forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciling or condoning the behavior or action. Forgiveness is about seeking peace and understanding, recognizing that the primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts, and physical upset you are suffering now, not from what offended or hurt you two years ago or two hours ago.
In the moments of upset, resentment and unforgiveness, we can practice self-soothing our body’s primitive fight/flee response mechanism which keeps us in a state of threat and feeling like we are in battle.
We can remind ourselves that life happens. We cannot control what others do, we CAN accept that desirable and undesirable things happen. When we begin to understand and accept that life is working for good in ways we can’t always imagine, we can release expectations, break attachment and let go. Arguing over the should’s and should nots and wishing that it was different will only result in continued suffering.
Ram Dass said, “It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and to proceed.”
Jesus assured, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”
Muhammad offered, “When a thing disturbs the peace of your heart, give it up.”
And Gandhi gave us a clear visual about not focusing on what we don’t want, “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
We can use our powerful energy toward creating positivity in the world. Instead of giving our power away to the wounded feelings and to the person/thing who caused pain, we can become joy seekers, love bringers, and bearers of compassion and kindness.
As Tony Robins said, “Where focus goes, energy flows.”
We can always rewrite the story and remember the great words of Alexander Pope,
“To err is human, to forgive is divine.”
These books offer guidance on the practice of forgiveness:
Forgive for Good and Forgive for Love by Dr. Fred Luskin
Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All by Gerald G. Jampolsky
Radical Forgiveness-A Revolutionary Five-Stage Process to Heal Relationships, Let Go of Anger and Blame, and Find Peace in Any Situation by Colin Tipping