How can I ever forgive…
Have you ever felt there was no way you could ever forgive someone?
Forgiving someone after they have hurt you can be one of the most challenging undertakings of a human being. Hurt feelings are complicated and can be so strong that they seem to hijack us and take away our ability to think or act rationally. Even if we want to get over a past hurt, actually making it happen is another story. The problem is that when we carry around resentment and hold on to past events that have hurt us, we deprive ourselves of a happy contented life.
Forgiveness is a shared experience
Forgiveness is something that every person contemplates sometime during their life. We may have mixed feelings about whether forgiveness is good for us or not good for us. Some psychologists say that forgiving might even be detrimental to a person, depending on how traumatic the event suffered. For victims of abuse, it can be a healthy part of the process to hold on to anger in order to regain enough emotional strength to put the past behind and move on. As you’ll read below, forgiveness is a process with many steps.
Religions promote compassion for all, reminding us that all human beings have wronged someone during their life and that we are all doing the best we can with the resources we have at the time. Many psychotherapists insist that forgiveness is important in order to heal our past pain. A person who is in emotional pain is compromised, and normal life challenges can seem impossible to overcome.
I’ve found that many people feel confused about what forgiveness actually is and question its real value to improve their lives. We wonder if somehow, miraculously, we DO find our way to actual forgiveness, that we might be indicating that we understand or even condone what the other person has done. This may be the main reason we hold on to our resentment as tightly and for as long as we do. Our emotional brain can’t let go of the emotional pain and our logical brain can’t let go of our judgment that “this shouldn’t have happened to me!”. We have designed clever methods to justify staying mad and cutting people who have hurt us out of our lives. This seems so much easier than facing our pain and learning ways to deal with it.
I’ve chosen to forgive many people in my life so far (because forgiveness IS a choice). I’ve forgiven my mother for not providing the love and support that I felt I needed growing up. I’ve forgiven a previous husband for infidelity, a couple of girlfriends for ending our relationship, and myself for buying real estate at the top of the market. I continue to work at forgiving myself for the thousands of mistakes I’ve made growing my business, being a parent and wife and for innumerable poor food choices. What I’ve realized is that when it comes to forgiving ourselves, there is a connection between the lessons we are here to learn in this lifetime and the need to forgive ourselves for not knowing the lesson before we learned it. Let that sink in for a moment. Are you blaming yourself for a mistake that you’ve made because you didn’t know something until after you took action? Doesn’t that seems backward? Mistakes are how we learn, and its counter intuitive to have to forgive ourselves (or someone else) for not knowing something before it was learned. But that’s what we do, isn’t it? If I can see this wisdom about myself, then why is it so hard for me to see it’s the same for other people and the actions they take too?
We are all learning our lessons
One of the reasons we find it hard to forgive people is the shock we feel when someone else’s lesson happens to land on us. That’s so inconvenient, isn’t it? Especially when the lesson is something we believe we’ve already learned? I mean how could they be so stupid? When I was in my teens, I had a deep hole of longing that drove me to fill it. I went from boyfriend to boyfriend and later husband to husband. None of them seemed to be what I needed, because the longing kept driving me to drop one and move on to the next. Finally, I learned the lesson…that it was up to me to fill the hole from inside myself; that it was up to me to learn how to love and nurture myself. When I was able to really get that, and begin to do the work on my inner self, miraculously my soul mate showed up… right on time! When I no longer needed someone to fill my black hole of love deficiency, I attracted someone who didn’t need that either! We’ve been married now for sixteen years and the love we share together enhances the love that is already there inside.
When I think back to the carnage I left in my wake, I imagine that one or two of those wonderful men might have had to do some forgiveness work on me! It’s hard to think about the pain and anger I might have caused…and I’ve had to forgive myself for that too!
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you excuse it
What I’ve learned during my inner me journey is that the faster I can forgive someone who I judge to have wronged me, the faster I return to a life of peace and happiness. If I hold on to my anger, my desire for revenge, my feeling of resentment, the harder it is to really enjoy my life. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but anger, resentment, judgment and revenge don’t feel very good in the body. And when it surfaces, it can really ruin my day. I could give up the anger, resentment, judgment and need for revenge, and replace those bad-feeling feelings with compassion, generosity and kindness. Now those feelings feel a lot better in my body. And my day goes better on the outside when I feel better on the inside. Ever notice that?
When we can truly forgive someone who has hurt us in the past, we release ourselves to come into the present moment and experience our life fully. Remember that it is only in the present moment that we are free to feel joy, make fully informed choices and express our authentic self. If we are holding a grudge against another person, our emotional energy is reduced and our quality of life compromised.
Consider this example. Imagine you are doing one of your most favorite activities (perhaps you are skiing in newly fallen snow) with someone you love deeply (your husband, daughter, or best friend) and the conditions are perfect (you are in great shape, have plenty of energy, and the temperature is perfect). You feel absolutely fantastic in every way. If asked how happy you are on a scale of 1 to 10, with one being miserable and ten being as close to joy as you can get, you are a great big 10!
With a wide grin on your face, you perform another perfect turn and out of the corner of your eye you notice someone who reminds you of that person who did something to betray you five years ago. Perhaps that person went out with your fiancé which led to the end of the relationship. Perhaps that person borrowed money and never payed you back. Perhaps that person promised to do something for you that you really depended on and then didn’t follow through. Or perhaps it was something much worse. Whatever it was, it hurt you so badly that every time something or someone reminds you of the situation, your mood plummets and you immediately relive old feelings of hurt and anger all over again.
On the slopes you swoosh to a stop and stare off into space after the person…For several minutes you are transported back in time to the exact moment when you found out about the betrayal or the lie. You experience the same shock and hurt, thinking “how could this have happened”, and “I don’t think I can ever get over this” – feeling the same intense emotions just as you felt them then. You blink and come back to the present moment (how long have I been standing here?) and ask yourself, “why do I keep feeling this way? Why do I let that ^*&#@%^ person still do this to me?” Your companion swooshes to a stop beside you, “everything ok” they ask? “Oh, it’s nothing”, you say, “let’s go to the lodge and have a drink”. In only a few short moments, your mood has nosedived and you no longer notice all the conditions that were making it a perfect day, even though they are still there.
Where are you on the happiness scale now? A four or a five…maybe?
Forgiveness does not CHANGE the past, but it does ENLARGE the future.
Been there…done that…
Another perfect day hijacked. Another joyful feeling dashed. How many times does this have to happen? As you head to the lodge, your inner voice is slamming you for letting that person have so much power and control over your life. “Why did this have to happen to me, you moan inside. Will it ever end?”
Whatever pain my example is bringing up for you, I’m sorry that it happened and I’m sorry for your pain. I really am. I’m hoping that any memory I’ve touched will be the motivation you need to read further and learn how to end, or at least reduce your pain.
Forgiveness is a priceless process
This is when I tell you that you can forgive that person and your life will have more peace and happiness when you do. Forgiveness is a process, it takes time. It takes a different amount of time for each person, depending on how deep the hurt, how long you’ve been living with it and whether that person is still involved or not. There are huge benefits to beginning the forgiveness journey; beautiful gifts along the way and at the end, for you and other people in your life. Forgiveness is a priceless process, a transformative process and it is something you can learn and get better at over time.
Yes, forgiveness takes time, and I want you to take all the time you need. Forgiveness has levels to it, you may not get all the way to complete forgiveness in this lifetime. But forgiving that person even 10% more than you do now has the potential to improve the quality of your life…and your day. Even letting up on the resentment just a little will feel like a heavy weight has been lifted from your heart.
So…what do you think? Are you in? Are you willing to take just one step forward and see what forgiveness has to offer you and your life? Remember, forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone the act, and it doesn’t mean you ever have to see or speak to that person again. Forgiveness is a private affair…it is a gift you give yourself so you can have a better life.
The word “Forgive” really means to “give it up for yourself” – not for them.
The Ten Step Forgiveness Process
Pick an event that happened in your life, or a person that you have been unable to fully forgive. Use a journal to write about your thoughts and feelings during these steps. Take it one step at a time and only move to the next one when you feel fully complete with the former step. Seek help from a therapist, life coach or accountability partner if you need support, although don’t pick someone who has any involvement with the event or the person. Your support person should be impartial.
I know this won’t be easy, but you can do it! And you’ll notice the benefits right away!
- Acknowledge that some events happen without you or anyone else’s control.
- Acknowledge that the event, or person caused you hurt and pain.
- Acknowledge the self-doubt and fear that might have resulted from the pain.
- Consider any part you played in letting it occur and letting it continue. Be gentle and kind to yourself here.
- Acknowledge if you were wanting something, but didn’t get it.
- Attempt to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understand where they were coming from at the time. What needs were they trying to meet, however inappropriately or inadequately?
- Acknowledge if you have used the event as an excuse for not creating more happiness in your life.
- Let go of your attachment to being a victim. Let go of your need to continue to suffer. Let go of any guilt or shame caused by the event.
- Set an intention to cultivate a strong sense of inner strength and self-love. Find a path to doing it.
- Give thanks for being alive and embrace your power to be happy on your own. Set yourself free!
Follow these steps for each event, or person in your life that you need to forgive. Notice how your life begins to shift and how you feel stronger, healthier and more alive every day.
During the Ten Step Process, say this affirmation every day for 30 days. As you feel stronger, say it out-loud as you look at yourself in the mirror.
The Forgiveness Affirmation
I release myself from all the demands and judgments that have kept me limited. I allow myself to go free – to live in joy and love and peace. I allow myself to create fulfilling relationships, to have success in my life, to experience pleasure, to know that I am worthy and deserve to have what I want. I now go free. I release all others from any demands and expectations I have placed upon them. I choose to be free. I allow others to be free. I forgive myself and forgive them.
The Ten Step Forgiveness Process is a deep healing practice and it’s important that you have support. Reach out to me or to a professional therapist anytime during the process.