If you are like me, there are times I read a title like the one above and immediately bristle with resistance. Why, you might ask? Because on occasion, there are fresh events in my life where I might still be holding raw energy or emotions, and I am not ready to embrace the idea of forgiveness. But then I force myself to remember the most important but often unrealized aspect of forgiveness.
For many, the act of forgiveness at first glance feels like a sacrifice or concession that lets someone off the proverbial hook. It feels like an act we are being asked to perform for the benefit of making someone else feel better.
What I would like you to consider with me today is that the act of forgiveness is something extremely powerful we do for ourselves and not another person.
Allow me to explain. First and foremost, when we need to forgive someone, we typically have stored energy or emotion around this event or person. We may be carrying anger, hurt, or resentment, and each time we think of that circumstance, we relive the incident. In doing so, we rekindle all the original emotions, which can create stress on our minds, hearts, and even bodies.
Acknowledging Emotional Pain and Trauma
I want to be sensitive to the pain associated with these past events. It can be very real to each of us and in some cases might even feel traumatic. We are human beings, and emotion is a significant part of our experience.
It is important to allow ourselves to feel our feelings deeply, without judgment, so we can process them in a healthy way rather than stuff the feelings.
That said, our goal in feeling and processing these emotions is to move past them so we won’t become stuck in the anger or pain or resentment.
Remembering past events that upset us can be mood-altering. The resurrection of a memory can affect our mental and emotional state as well as our mood because of the emotions it conjures up. Often we end up taking it out on the world around us, days, weeks, months, or even years after the original act. It can also affect our decision-making and choices as we move through our present days.
Forgiveness: An Act of Self-Care
This is why the act of forgiveness can free us. It can free us from recalling the experience and regenerating those painful emotions.
We can stop the pattern and its impact on our minds, bodies, and emotional state. We cease the roller coaster and its harm to our well-being. This is how forgiveness becomes an act of self-care.
In addition, once we are able to release our mental and emotional processing of the past, we open our minds and hearts to current circumstances. We can choose to fill the space with gratitude and focus on the positive desires and outcomes we are seeking in the present moment.
We must remember to include ourselves in this practice, to forgive ourselves for things we might consider mistakes or wrong choices. This is often more powerful than forgiving others. To release ourselves from the bondage of our past actions is every bit as beneficial as forgiving another.
If you are unsure about how to embark on your forgiveness journey, I have a mantra that I found years ago and use to this day.
Anytime I have a memory or disturbance I want to release, I become still and bring to mind the person or circumstance. Then I recite the following:
For whatever harm I have caused others, may they forgive me.
For whatever harm others have caused me, may I forgive them.
For whatever harm I have caused myself, I forgive myself.
Depending on the magnitude of what I am trying to forgive, I might have to repeat this practice several times to release all my energy about the situation.
But without fail, after repeating this practice a few times, I notice the energy dissipates, and I am able to release the experience and free myself from the past.
For the sake of our own health and well-being, may we learn to work with the practice of forgiveness, and may we be patient, compassionate, and gentle with ourselves as we do.
May forgiveness be our practice, for practice makes progress.
#Practices4Life with Rev. Jim Blake are practical tips for living a happier, healthier, and more peaceful life. Some of these you and I will master, while some we will “practice” for the rest of our lives and may never master. The important thing is to keep trying. Because with every effort, we get better. And that is the ultimate goal: to improve and make this life experience better for ourselves and those around us.