There are some things in our lives that give us both so much trouble and so much joy. One of those things is people and our relationships with people. Whether we want it to be the case or not, we do have to deal with people and all their intricacies. If you’ve got someone on your mind who you want to forgive and you’re having trouble doing so, you’ll want to listen to today’s episode on forgiveness.
When we think about forgiveness, we’re often thinking that it has to be something that we just have to do. We’re supposed to forgive, move on, let go and keep living our lives. Yet, we don’t know why it’s so hard to forgive others or even ourselves sometimes.
One of the signs that forgiveness may be challenging for you is if you ever feel that you lack compassion towards yourself or that you’re overly critical of yourself. If you do feel that you tend to have a hard time forgiving your own behaviors, you may also find that same challenge when you think of extending forgiveness towards others.
Forgiveness is complicated because it often comes with a feeling of admitting that perhaps this person or situation was ok when you feel strongly that it wasn’t.
When we really want to forgive, the reason we’re standing at that precipice of wanting to let go is that we know that we’d love to just stop carrying around this burden. Whether we realize it or not, every time we remember a situation without forgiveness, it brings back feelings of stress or frustration or fear. Our bodies and minds continue to play this loop and hold the stress, frustration and fear. It begins to become a chronic issue. We may have anxiety that we can’t seem to shake off and we may try to avoid this person or situation so we don’t have to deal with it.
This is why we desire to forgive. We want the freedom of forgiveness.
One of the most beautiful analogies I’ve learned about forgiveness is that it’s the arrow that hits us twice. The first arrow is the event itself. The second arrow is when we keep holding on and not forgiving. If you’re ready and willing to forgive, and to stop suffering from the second and maybe third arrows, here’s 3 tips to stop the cycle of hurt.
Step 1: Feel the feelings.
You’re allowed to feel upset, mad, disappointed and grieve over this situation and what happened. Let yourself see the emotions as they occur. They are not you.
Step 2: Rewrite the story.
When we have trouble forgiving, it’s because we think that forgiveness somehow means that what they did was ok. You aren’t condoning behavior when you are forgiving, but you are rewriting the story. When we haven’t forgiven, we often feel the emotion of blaming others. Blaming others creates a victim mentality where we have no or little power. If you can see that your power was not for the taking, then you can release this idea of having your power taken from you and instead create a narrative that I won’t give this person or that situation my power. It’s not worth it. I’m 100% responsible for what I do from here on out. I can create boundaries. I can honor what I feel. I can move forward. I can reclaim my power. All of these phrases are really powerful ways to reconnect with what happened. I remember a particularly challenging situation where I didn’t want to forgive, yet I really didn’t like that feeling of not ever wanting to see that person again. I didn’t want that kind of power over me. I didn’t want to suddenly feel weak around a person because of this memory. What I realized was that this person likely would never know the extent of the effect of their behavior, yet here I was carrying around this burden. What did I do? I did this next step, and it helped me immensely.
Step 3: See them as you.
When I can see someone as a flawed human being, just like I am – I reconnect to a sense of oneness. I am a human who makes mistakes and hurts people. So are all the people around us. There are people in our lives who we still want to be in our lives and yet we haven’t forgiven them. What do we do then? We see them as us. We connect with them from a place of love. A place of realizing that they suffer too. We hold compassion for them and in holding compassion for them, we release the suffering and the toxicity of holding onto the hurt.
Forgiveness ultimately means letting go. Letting go of the past. Letting go of a narrative where we have no power. Letting go of the arrows that keep wounding us. Letting go of chronic stress. Letting go of the need to be right. Instead we prioritize our well-being. We prioritize a narrative that serves us. We prioritize a path forward that comes not from a place of anger and vengeance but from a steady determination to live full and healthy lives. There’s a beautiful ho’oponopono prayer that is so simple, yet universal: I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you. It honors the idea that we are all one. That when we feel negativity, it is coming from us as well – which is also why we suffer when we don’t forgive.
Yet – this is important. Forgiveness doesn’t have to come immediately. It may take time – so give yourself some grace. Until then, keep silently repeating the prayer, “I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you” to yourself, to the strangers you meet, to the people you know and maybe, just maybe – when you’re ready to that person or situation that you want to forgive.
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