This week, I’ve been talking about Forgiveness and the power it has to change our lives for the better. In my last article, I shared with you a story about my own journey of healing around forgiveness. Today what we’ll be discussing is how you can incorporate forgiveness into your own life for healing and growth.
Forgiveness of yourself, as well as forgiving others, allows us to move forward by releasing the energetic ties that bind us to the past.
It’s not about accepting something that transpired or releasing someone from blame. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you’re letting someone off the hook nor does it mean you should necessarily be close to them ever again – especially if the person was abusive in any way. You can forgive someone and still testify in court against them.
Boundaries are important and healthy to create and to maintain to keep you safe from harm. Forgiveness doesn’t diminish your ability to make choices that are for your highest good or the highest good of others. Instead, forgiveness is about transforming your emotions of anger and pain into healing and compassion.
“Forgiveness, as you may have heard or experienced, is simply the act of letting go of the burden that you carry from another person who has hurt you out of their own pain, ignorance, or confusion. It’s a practice of freeing up your energy to focus on things that incline toward your own health and well-being or the health and well-being of others.”—Elisha Goldstein on why grudges keep us stuck
Imagine for a moment that someone you currently resent or grudge or for whom you currently feel anger, frustration, or even fear, is standing before you.
Now imagine a rope in your left hand that loops around your back and through your right hand. The rope crosses before you to become the mirror image in the hands of the person before you. If you didn’t follow that, imagine both of you facing each other while standing in the crooks of an S. When you both pull on the rope, you pull yourself and each other. But when you both let go, you’re free of the “energetic cord” that binds you.
But here is the true beauty of forgiveness. Picture yourself once again standing with the rope, opposite of the person for which you carry an energetic charge. Imagine the person before you refusing to drop their end of the rope. Now drop your end of the rope.
What is the result? Both of you are still free. Forgiving others sets both Spirits free.
The other person may take longer to realize it and to fully drop their end of the rope to let something new in, but the energetic tether is gone. It doesn’t take two to forgive. It just takes one – YOU.
Allowing Something New to Enter
When we release the emotions of anger, resentment, fear, frustration, pain, sorrow, and more, we allow for something new to come into our lives. We allow ourselves to move forward, no longer bound by the past.
Forgiveness does not mean that we must accept what took place. We don’t have to accept what was said or what was done. Forgiveness is about letting go of the emotional charge and the power that those emotions have over us. Forgiveness is a very personal and intimate transaction between your mind (ego) and your Spirit.
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”—Paul Boese
Exercises in Forgiveness – Forgiving Others
Forgiveness is not easy and separating our ego from our Spirit takes practice. But even shedding a small amount of that energetic tether can have a noticeable impact on how you feel. Once you “loosen your grip” so to speak, more complete forgiveness becomes a lot easier.
1: A Different Perspective
Sometimes when we are hurt by others, it helps to step back and try to put ourselves in their shoes or to see things from there perspective.
If someone snaps at you for no apparent reason, it’s normal to feel disrespected or hurt by their tone. Our egos are quick to throw judgment and displeasure. But if you take a moment to look at the situation from a different perspective and ask yourself what exactly it was that bothered you about it, you might find compassion instead of frustration.
What if you discovered that the person has a really tight deadline and everything keeps going sideways on them. Could you understand their tone a bit better? Perhaps you’ve been in a similar situation and rather than snapping back at you, they offered to help. Seeing things from a different perspective doesn’t excuse their choice in actions or tone, but it provides you a different perspective so that you can choose to either hold onto that resentment or to let it go.
When situations like this are repeated and part of the “norm” of dealing with a specific individual, forgiveness can be harder because it creates an expectation and a pattern of belief that all interactions with this person are full of tension and hostility. In these situations, it’s helpful to sit down and talk to the person (in detail if you can) about what may be bothering them and if you can do or change anything to help. But you must be open to hearing their responses. Listening is not always easy.
2. Witnessing Your Feelings
I have, at times, made a list of the people, situations, or things that I need to forgive. As I step through my list I take time to put myself back in the situation as completely as possible.
I think about how each person or circumstance made me feel. What emotions did I feel? What thoughts did I have? What sounds did I hear?
Where in my body do I feel the emotions when I imagine myself there again. Do I have a headache? Does my stomach feel nauseous? Does my back hurt? Are my shoulders tense or is my brow furrowed? Do I feel a twitch or anxiety? Do my ears ring? I’m careful to simply spend time being aware and acknowledging how my body feels.
I visualize the person or the situation in my mind as best as I can and I say to the visual, “I love you, I forgive you and I release any energetic and physical ties that bind us.”
It can often help to envision the energy between you being whisked away by a gentle blowing breeze, or washed away down a stream, or simply disappear into the Universe. As you practice this, you’ll find a visual that works for you. If visualizing isn’t your thing, you can also write down everything outlined above on an index card and then burn it or crumpling it up and throwing it away as a means of releasing it.
You may wish to repeat this exercise a few times as needed, but as you do this, you will feel that the emotional charges and sensations you feel toward the situation or person diminish.
3. A Letter of Forgiveness
The following is an abbreviated version of the exercise from Diane Harmony and her book, 5 Gifts for an Abundant Life. If you do not own a copy of this book, I highly recommend it.
Within her book, she recommends that we write a letter to the person we wish to forgive. You don’t need to actually send this letter, but the act of writing it helps us to witness and acknowledge our emotions and feelings so that we can find healing and begin to let them go.
Walk through each of the following emotions. For each one, list out 5-6 sentences that state how you feel. Begin each statement as an “I” statement such as “I am…” or “I feel…”
- Anger – List what you’re angry about, why you’re frustrated, what you don’t like, why you’re annoyed, and what you want.
- Sadness – List why you feel disappointed, sad, hurt. Explain what you wanted then and what you want now.
- Fear – List why you feel worried, afraid, scared, what you don’t want, what you need, and what you want.
- Regret – List why you feel embarrassed, sorry, ashamed. What didn’t you want then and what do you want now?
- Forgiveness and Love – This final section may be difficult at first. Don’t push yourself. Allow yourself to experience the emotions as they are ready to do so. List 6 sentences that begin as follows:
- I forgive you for…..
- I love
- I appreciate
- I am grateful for…
- I understand…
- I know
You may choose to sign and date the letter as if you plan to send it as well.
For more information on this exercise, be sure to check out Diane Harmony’s book, 5 Gifts for an Abundant Life.
Vishen Lakhiani, the founder of Mindvalley, created a 6-phase mediation which I have found to be a wonderful tool for working on forgiveness as well as other important areas of your life on a daily basis. This 20-minute guided meditation takes you through a journey of expressing gratitude, intention, visualizing, forgiveness and more. Now with binaural beats.
- Learn to Forgive Others No Matter What by Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.; Mindful.org (pub. July 5, 2015)
- How To Forgive Others And Set Yourself Free by Sofie Angevaare; Mindvalley.com (pub. Feb 2018)
- How to Forgive Someone Who Has Hurt You: In 15 Steps by Dr. Wayne Dyer; DrWayneDyer.com
- 5 Gifts for an Abundant Life: Create a Consciousness of Wealth, Diane Harmony; Universal Harmony House, 2004