The act of forgiveness is an important one, but sometimes seems virtually impossible to do. This is because we think of forgiveness as an act we do for someone else. We feel like we are removing a burden from the other person, when in fact, we are actually removing a burden from ourselves. It is actually the giver of the forgiveness who needs the act to happen so they can move on with their lives.
The person who we feel has wronged us may have done it maliciously and does not care if we are suffering, or it may have been done innocently and the person is totally unaware of any harm caused. Either way it doesn’t matter because we are aware and we are the ones carrying around feelings of resentment, pain, sadness, anger and even revenge. These destructive feelings are harming no one but ourselves, so it is clear forgiveness is going to be more beneficial to us and not the person who has caused us harm.
By releasing these negative feelings we are healing ourselves by stopping any tension related illnesses and make ourselves physically and spiritually well. When we free ourselves of this burden, we remove a heavy weight that is resting on our shoulders.
Know, I understand that forgiveness is a complex subject and not a simple thing to do. It can take quiet some time to feel released from the pain. You could be forgiving a small offence such as gossip or unkind words, or something more substantial like betrayal, rape or murder. It may have only happened once or is an on going thing. It could be current or happened many years ago. All of these factors make forgiveness extremely complex.
I believe there are two ways to help the forgiveness process. Firstly, there is reflection. This entails sitting quietly and looking within. It can be difficult to think clearly when we are hurting inside, so some quiet reflection helps to calm us down. Once you are calm and able to be more objective, ask yourself questions such as these:
Why am I finding it hard to forgive?
What emotions am I feeling regarding this situation?
Why should I forgive?
What are my past experiences with forgiveness?
What is stopping me from forgiving?
Who is going to benefit the most from my forgiveness?
Questions, such as these, will help you to gently start to let go and move on.
The second thing you can do to help with forgiveness is mindfulness. Being present in the moment cannot erase the past, but it will definitely assist you in responding more helpful to the emotions, thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. Here are a few strategies to try:
When you start to feel the suffering caused by the incident, take a few deep breathes and bring your focus back to the here and now. Place your attention on the breath entering and leaving your body. Let your shoulders relax and slowly feel yourself calm down. The pain you are feeling is in the past, so bring yourself into the present and let the painful feeling go.
Do a ten minute daily mindfulness practice, such as Fostering a Compassionate Mind or Cultivating Compassion in Your Mind. These will help you move past any resentment you may have, and replace it with compassion, kindness and caring. Remember, compassion starts with yourself, so if you are having problems with this, try the Befriending Yourself practice.
If the incident is making you negative, try doing a Positive Breathing Awareness practice. This will help you let go of your negativity and replace with a more positive and constructive attitude.
The thing to remember about forgiveness is that it is you that will be the main benefactor, and not the person who has wronged you. If you understand this, you will be able to start the process of forgiveness and healing.