To forgive is “to give up resentment against or the desire to punish; to pardon an offense or offender” according to Webster’s Dictionary. The path to forgiveness begins with willingness and release. Everything is blocked until you are willing to release the resentment, anger, hurt, and judgment to which you’re clinging.
Willingness is frequently a large hurdle. Being willing requires you to open yourself to change. What does that bring up for you? When your resistance is strong, ask yourself if you are willing to be willing. Could your discomfort around willingness be connected to your strong will and need to tenaciously hold onto whatever belief or feeling you’re clinging to? Do you have a deep need to be right? If so, that will adversely affect your ability to let go, forgive others and yourself. That need for rightness – a la control - masks fears of making mistakes, being “wrong” or appearing to be a failure. What if there is no right or wrong, good or bad, success or failure? They are all judgments not facts. Judgments of any kind will stop energy faster than anything thus keeping you stuck with no chance for change. Being willing to change your beliefs/points of view allows you to shift from judging others and yourself to being compassionate towards others and yourself.
Gerald G. Jampolsky, M.D. in his book, “Teach Only Love”, lists seven principles of Attitudinal Healing. The seventh principle is “Forgiveness is the way to true health and happiness. By not judging, we release the past and let go of our fears of the future. In so doing, we come to see that everyone is our teacher and that every circumstance is an opportunity for growth in happiness, peace and love.” As I have practiced seeing each person I encounter on my path as a teacher and mirror, it not only allows me to release judgment but also to learn so much more about myself. We are all pilgrims on the path – each of us having our distinct path and yet sharing the same path with everyone.
During the early years of my conscious growing process, my focus around forgiveness was on forgiving others – especially my parents for what they had done or not done to me or with me. Once I detached from them as my parents and saw them as people with wounds, history, baggage, and fears who were doing the best they could at the time, I let them off the hook I had hung them on for years.
Later I learned the importance of forgiving myself. What a concept!! In many ways this has been much harder because the harm I do to myself is covered by my blind spots, therefore much more subtle. My inner critic or judge has always been quite harsh – keeping my self-esteem low and my guilt high. My perfectionist tendencies and my belief that I’m not good enough, smart enough, helpful enough, thoughtful enough, capable enough etc, etc, etc. are products of the frequent comments of my internal judge. So in order for me to stop or at least slow down the judging of others, I first needed to release my need to criticize myself. One of the truths about forgiveness is that whatever hurt or anger I hold onto about another person or event is only hurting me and keeping me from achieving inner peace. “Forgiveness brings peace of mind which creates health” according to Gerald Jampolsky’s first principle of Attitudinal Healing.
Any pain you feel from someone’s actions or words is caused because you are taking it as a personal attack. Whatever someone does “to” you has nothing to do with you! Your hurtful, angry response reflects what you consciously or unconsciously believe about yourself, thus making revenge useless. Letting go of these lies allows the pain to subside so the healing process can begin.
When we are willing to release our fears, grudges, and hurts, we open ourselves to receive more light into our lives and ourselves thus allowing us to shine that light in the world. And, there is no greater joy than living from the heart using the talents and gifts only you were given. Forgiving yourself and others allows you to release into peace and joy inviting endless possibilities to appear.