The act of forgiveness is a potent tool to bring honourable closure to painful past events.
Forgiveness is not easy.
If it were easy, everyone would be choosing it. Forgiving is difficult because it involves suffering caused by others (something they did or said) or a situation that occurred naturally (an unforeseen misfortune with painful consequences). Something uncomfortable has replaced a comfortable perception of our self, others or the world. If the perpetrator had poor intentions, our confidence is weakened as a dark veil is cast upon self-trust, potential new relationships, and opportunities we might otherwise embrace.
At the root of the need to forgive is something difficult to accept, overlook and move beyond. When suffering is persistent and extreme, the ability to contemplate forgiveness is implausible. The struggle to drink from the forgiveness goblet creates intense anxiety (I am getting flashbacks to the scene in Steel Magnolias when everyone is screaming “Drink the juice, Shelby, drink the juice”).
When we are still, there is an inner knowing that a spoonful of forgiveness will bring peace and harmony. The door then swings open, and we are released to pursue our true potential.
Reframing forgiveness can make taking a sip more palatable.
Forgiveness is the practice of letting go of the idea that the past should have been different.
Forgiveness is not.
Forgiveness is not amnesty for others or a declaration that what occurred was okay. It is not a get out of jail free card or a pronouncement that “what happened doesn’t matter”. It is not an absolution of accountability or avoidance of consequences. Forgiving is not an invitation for the individual(s) to remain in, or return to your life.
Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. It is a self-proclamation that says “I am willing to let go of the idea the past should have been different.” It is a self-gift to liberate the negative thoughts and feelings that obstruct positive forward movement in life. Forgiveness is the elixir that heals negative thoughts and lights the path to reaching your full potential.
Is forgiveness always possible?
You always have a choice. When I feel challenged to forgive, I remind myself of global human tragedies like the Holocaust or the genocide in Rwanda. In the stories of survivors I’ve found a common thread to their healing; they consciously choose to forgive and find meaning in their suffering. In comparison, my suffering is insignificant and always falls into the first world category. If survivors of horrific tragedy can practice forgiveness, I can certainly forgive a misguided work colleague that threw me under the bus to avoid confrontation with the boss.
What’s the risk of doing nothing?
The inability to forgive is a permanent anchor to the past and prevents the forward movement necessary to actualize full potential. It is the private Berlin wall that arrests the pursuit of happiness in relationships and activities.
What situations require forgiveness?
Individuals, groups or events that:
- keep you prisoner in your past
- caused pain and fuel the dialogue of your inner critic
- prevent forward movement and access to your full potential
Forgiveness is an action and an outcome.
It is the conscious determination to release permanently the harmful effects caused by an individual, group or event. Forgiveness releases the mind from the pain of the past. Thinking shifts from yesterday to future possibilities.
1. Explore Contribution
Who needs forgiving?
- Is it someone else or a group?
- Do I share responsibility with someone else or a group?
Be willing to show compassion for any role you might have played as part of your forgiveness plan.
2. Define Your Desired Outcome
What will be different if you choose to forgive?
3. Decide on Actions
Explore a range of possibilities that will best serve your needs and the situation.
4. Find a helpful lesson
Buried in the painful past is always a nugget of new wisdom. The lesson becomes a powerful tool in your resilience toolkit.
Choose the more direct path to forgiveness that doesn’t involve confronting yourself or others by ceremoniously “blessing and releasing”. Some ideas I’ve learned from others include:There is an easier path.
- Journalling about the event and incinerating the paper afterwards
- Recording the event on a small piece of paper, placing it into a helium balloon and releasing it to the universe
- Writing a letter to the individual(s) and choosing to mail it or not
- Embracing a practice of daily affirmations until it no longer holds energy “I forgive and release this situation, so it no longer has power over me.”
Why not be the bigger person.
Every difficult situation needs a hero. Be the hero and choose forgiveness — you’ll be glad you did.