The power of forgiveness is infinite. It has the potential to heal -- both physically and emotionally -- it can break down blockages of illusion and stuck energy, and it can lead to new roads of progress where before there were none.
When Christ was on the cross dying, he said, "Forgive them for they know not what they do." For 99% of the people who hurt others, this is very true. They don't know why they're being hurtful, why they're saying or doing the mean things they feel compelled to throw upon you. Those who hurt us are often ignorant, immature and very young souls.
Some, a very small percentage -- but an important one indeed -- are simply evil and they do hurt us on purpose. They enjoy it, in fact. But even these evil people, I'd like to think, don't know why they enjoy being so evil. Some are just farther from the light and can't see the true glory it can bring if they just for a moment surrender their needs, wants and desires to this higher power.
But, really, all of that is neither here nor there. Once the hurtful act has been committed, it's up to us to move on. The person who hurt us will rarely spend more than a moment thinking about it. For some, they're completely oblivious to the fact that they hurt us.
Everything that happens to us -- good and bad -- is an opportunity for us to grow. We are here, on this Earth, for the simple purpose of learning about and growing in LOVE. The more you're able to forgive, the more you can grow in love.
When we forgive someone who has wronged us, we do not have to reengage that relationship. In many circumstances, it's advisable to move on from the person who's wronged you, so remember that forgiveness does not mean letting that person back into your life. Forgiveness really has nothing to with the hurtful person. It's all about you -- allowing yourself to grow, heal and move on.
When we choose not to forgive, we're holding on to anger, regret, pain and often guilt, shame and self-doubt too. I once heard a psychiatrist explain that the anticipation of guilt is what keeps us in line, but the physical feeling of guilt should remain in the body for no more than 90 seconds. Anything more than that, he explained, becomes a self-indulgent emotion. I do feel that for many, holding on to these negative emotions is self-indulgent. When we choose not to forgive, we're allowing ourselves to stay in the role of victim. Many people enjoy playing the victim because then they don't have to do anything. They have a perfect excuse to stay stuck and to avoid the fear of moving forward.
But, when we choose to forgive, we allow ourselves to let go of so much pain. We move from victim to victor. We move from sadness to joy and from illness to health.
Here are some questions I often receive about forgiveness:
1) How do I forgive?
Forgiveness is a process. It happens over time. When the disciples asked Jesus how many times one should forgive, he answered, "Seven times seventy times." Be patient with yourself. Some good strategies to begin the process include writing a letter to the person you need to forgive. Tell him all the reason why you were hurt and then explain that you're now choosing to forgive him. Add, "I forgive you and I let you go." When you're done, throw away or burn the letter. Memories are stored in our cells and our cells don't know time. So when you go over the hurtful memory, your body reacts as though it's just happened sending cortisol coursing through your body which increases stress. Try to replace these memories through making a habit of picturing three red X's in your head while saying, "CANCEL, CANCEL, CANCEL." Then try to remember something lovely and wonderful instead. Through the process of forgiveness you might want to seek the help of a therapist. The important thing you need to focus on is allowing yourself to release, to let go of the anger and sadness. You can hit a punching bag, beat a pillow, or scream into said pillow. Give yourself time to grieve. Slowly, you'll begin to feel a melting. For some it may take months, for others, years. Be patient with yourself and remember that any movement forward is a good step in the right direction.
2) The person I'm angry with hasn't asked for forgiveness. Shouldn't he do this before I forgive him?
No, forgiveness is about you, not the other person. The word means FOR GIVING. It's a grace your give to yourself. The person who wronged you is really inconsequential. The hurtful act is in the past. You've moved beyond that. Now prove it to yourself by forgiving that person. The hurtful person need never be aware of it. You don't have to reach out to this person and say, "By the way, I've forgiven you" because, more than likely, they'll say, "So what?" Remember, they're not the issue; you are. They don't even have to be alive in order for you to forgive them. Trust me, they will know and appreciate your forgiveness even from the other side.
3) I'm worried that if I forgive her, I'll feel weak, more like a victim, not less. Isn't that true?
No, forgiveness makes you the stronger person. The longer you stay in the fight, so to speak, the weaker and more pathetic you'll appear and feel. I've used this tug-of-war metaphor before, but I think it bares repeating. If you're playing tug-of-war with someone and you decide to let go of the rope and walk away, it's the other person -- not you -- who loses and falls in the mud.
4) I feel as though I have forgiven this person but the anger remains. What do I do about that?
Be patient with yourself and remember that forgiveness takes time. Reflect on these questions -- what am I really angry about? How is holding on to this anger serving me? What am I hoping my anger will prove? Very often, when we're angry all we're trying to do is prove to everyone that WE are right and THEY are wrong. Like I said above, let go of the tug-of-war rope, walk away and be the bigger person. Anger serves its purpose -- it protects us and prevents us from placing ourselves in front of mean people in the future -- but it only serves its purpose for a small amount of time. You need to learn how to work through anger to the next stage -- acceptance. Yes, this unfortunate situation happened, but now what? Now you need to examine the blessings in the situation, the lessons learned and then move on.
5) I'm most angry with myself. How do I forgive myself?
Often the hardest person to forgive is ourself. The only way to work on this is through loving yourself. Begin a GRATEFUL FOR ME journal. Each day write down three things you loved about yourself that day. "I love the way I cooked a great breakfast for my family. I love that I took time to nurture myself by walking the beach today. I love that I let an elderly lady go in front of me at the grocery store. I am a good person. I am worthy of good things. I am lovable, loved and loving." Be kind with your thoughts about yourself. Do something each day that is fun and rewarding just to you. Accept compliments with ease and practice random acts of kindness for you. Treat yourself to an ice cream, go out to dinner with a friend, rent a good movie, press the snooze button one day this week more than once. In short, be nice to yourself. Treat yourself like you would a new friend. And practice a daily affirmation of self love.
For more help with this, consider calling in to the Power of Forgiveness telecourse Wednesday night that I'm teaching with Deb Bowen from 8:30 - 10:30 pm eastern standard time. For more information, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit my website (www.thecrystalchick.com)