In our previous blog, we wrote about Monica’s experience in recovering from past childhood wounds that left her scarred and wounded. Monica knew that if she were to ever be healed from those painful experiences, she would need to forgive all of the people who played a part in those events, including herself. Monica did not feel that she had much courage prior to doing the inner and outer work that her recovery required, but by the time she had completed the forgiveness stage of the work, her image of herself as a weak, frightened, and damaged person had transformed and she began to see herself as a competent, confident, loving, and responsible woman. Others in her life have come to see her that way as well. As one of her friends recently said of Monica, “She wears her power with grace.”
Her transformed self-image has been earned and hard-won. She has become a courageously outspoken advocate for and inspiration to many men and women who have learned, through her example of the power and value of forgiveness. Forgiveness runs in accordance with its own timetable. It can’t be forced through pressure from others or from ourselves.
If the intention is there, in time it will come. Trying to coerce ourselves or others to forgive only obstructs the process.
We can’t make ourselves or anyone else forgive, but we can set the conditions in our life that we predispose us towards an inclination to forgive by reminding ourselves of why we want to forgive, who we feel the need to forgive, from whom we feel a desire to be forgiven, what we stand to gain by letting go of the resentment that we carry towards those who we want to forgive, and to envision the specific ways in which our quality of life will be different when we are no longer burdened by living from a hardened heart.
Separating the truth about forgiveness from fictitious beliefs about it can facilitate and hasten and expedite the forgiveness process. What follows is a series of key points and guidelines about forgiveness that may be useful in embracing forgiveness and living a life of greater peace, freedom, and understanding. Consider them when you feel the call to forgive. Choosing to do so could be one of the most important decisions that you will ever make in your life.
- Forgiveness in no way excuses the person who caused harm to you or in any way justifies their actions.
- Forgiveness is an inside job. It doesn’t necessarily require a confrontation with the person who you are choosing to forgive.
- Forgiveness is always a choice and regardless of advice from well-intentioned friends, you do NOT have to forgive.
- Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It occurs over time and has it’s own timetable.
- Forgiveness requires us to disarm ourselves of the feeling of protection that can come from holding a grudge. Cultivating inner courage promotes a greater willingness to forgive.
- We don’t forgive for the sake of others, but for the sake of our own peace of mind and sense of well-being. And forgiveness is a gift to others as well.
- The act of forgiving helps to neutralize our sense that we are damaged goods.
- Committing yourself to your own healing is an essential aspect of the forgiveness process.
- Forgiveness is not as a moral obligation but as a practical gift to yourself and others.
- The act of forgiving enhances one’s sense of self-worth.
- Forgiveness begins by facing the truth through conversations, journaling, or receiving compassionate counsel.
- Forgiveness requires us to tell our story usually more often than we think we should have to.
- Seeing that the person whom you seek to forgive through eyes of compassion rather than vindictiveness does not release them from responsibility for having behaved badly.
- Forgiveness isn’t necessarily linked to love or trust. You may forgive someone and still choose to keep your distance.
- Seek to forgive yourself when you don’t feel able to forgive.
- Acknowledge yourself for having the dedication, courage, and strength for taking on a commitment to heal and forgive.
The practicing of forgiveness is an act of love that opens our heart and expands our sense of wholeness. The more we forgive the more we strengthen life-affirming qualities and traits, including (but not limited to) compassion, patience, integrity, trust, courage, commitment, humility, generosity, openness, personal power, and self-respect. There may be no other single practice that can provide so much for us and others. The more we forgive, the more acutely aware we become of the need of forgiveness when it is present. And each act of letting go of resentments and grudges, liberates us from grievances that diminish the quality of well-being that we have in our life. Forgiveness is truly the gift that keeps on giving. And it’s available to you 24/7. Starting now.
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