Forgiveness – Why and how we should forgive others
Forgiveness is one of the hardest things anyone can do, but at the same time it is the most freeing thing ever. When we are unable to forgive, we hold on to anger, bitterness, and hatred. These emotions have a major impact on our health and well-being. Feeling like you want to hurt the other person, are seeking revenge, or are wishing them ill health will only hurt you. Not only that, by not letting go you will continue to relive the situation, which in return will be causing you the same pain over again and again.
Let me ask you something. Imagine that you have been in a car accident which has caused you pain but no permanent damage. Would you really want to relive that experience all over again? Would you purposefully crash your car? If you did, any further injuries could cause permanent damage. It makes no sense does it? By choosing to relive a situation, you are knowingly causing yourself pain. But why do we do that? And I say we because we all do it or have done it at some point in our lives. It’s our ego. When thinking of Ego most people picture a stuck up, snobby kind of a person that thinks they are better than everybody else. However, Ego can show up in many different ways. The most common way how ego shows itself is as the victim. As soon as someone does something the person doesn’t like their ego automatically thinks ‘how dare they?’ and starts making assumptions without taking a second to think about the situation and looking at things from a different perspective. Another example of victim ego is triggers. As soon as someone does something that triggers a person, they are no longer themselves. It’s like somebody completely different takes over. And it’s true. Your ego is not part of you, or at least it doesn’t have to be. You can choose not to be the victim of your ego. You can choose to take control over it. The most powerful way to do this is by living in the present moment. Ask yourself how often do you actually spend time living in the present? How often do you not think about the past or the future? Really think about this. Throughout the next day stop yourself every now and again and observe your thoughts. This is a great exercise that brings awareness into your life and it will also allow you to get to know yourself more by finding out about your through pattern. It may also highlight where healing is necessary. Living in the now will bring you joy. You will find yourself feeling grateful and in peace with the little things in life. Living in the present moment will also bring you an opportunity to let go of the pain that others may have caused you and forgiveness will then come much easier. I would like to highlight that living in the now requires persistence, commitment, and a choice you need to make on daily basis. Sounds hard? Maybe it does. Maybe it is hard. But then ask yourself, how will your life be like if you do not let go? How will you feel being angry at something that happened a long time ago? This isn’t about minimising what has happened to you. Not one bit! When we go through any kind of trauma or betrayal, no matter how big or small, it’s important to get those feelings and emotions out. This is not about keeping emotions bottled up. Processing the events of the betrayal and any feelings that come with it is essential to the healing process. Forgiveness and letting go comes after. However the biggest mistake people can make is to take the first part of the process too far by continuing to live and breath in the pain, even after 10 or more years after. There is a line between processing trauma and then simply living in it. Find the right balance between getting the pain out of your system and moving on.
Here are few exercises that are simple yet incredibly powerful and can lead towards forgiveness.
You can choose right now to forgive. It doesn't have to be difficult, it doesn't have to be hard, it doesn't have to be a process, it can be easy if you let it. Just say it out loud. Say the magic words of “I forgive you”. It can be that simple. Decide not to carry all this burden around with you any longer. You have already carried it enough. Carrying it more will not undo the situation, it will not make you feel better, it will not make the other person feel worse, it will not solve anything. On the contrary. It will continue to rob from you. You will continue to feel the same way, you will continue to waste the same amount of time and energy on hating someone. Or you can decide right now to forgive them.
Write a letter
In hurtful situations a lot of people feel like they have been left unheard and misunderstood. Sometimes people have chosen to stay quite throughout their whole relationship and never got to express their feelings. In some circumstances the only thing that is standing in the way of forgiveness is communication. But what do you do when the person who hurt you is no longer in your life? Maybe they are a danger to you, maybe you simply do not want to contact them or they have passed. Write them a letter. Say whatever you need to say, express your emotions, express your thoughts, express how they hurt you and what impact it had on you. Say everything and anything that has been drowning you throughout this relationship. This may be difficult, it may not be easy to relive some situations however getting this off of your chest will be the key in your forgiveness journey. So, write them a letter. You don't need to post it, you don't need to keep it. You can burn it ,you can tore it up, you can do whatever feels right. If you can state in the letter that you have forgiven them. After you are done, put down the pen, smile, and inhale the forgiveness.
Pray for them
You don't need to be religious or spiritual to do this exercise. You don’t need to believe that this will work or that you're actually sending them positive energy. Remember this is all about you, this isn't about them. By sending them positive energy and praying for them you are simply taking care of yourself. Anger and resentment lead to stress. Stress causes 9 out of 10 illnesses. So by praying for them all you're doing is protecting yourself. You don't need to pray for them on daily basis, you can choose to pray for them whenever you remember how much they have hurt you. You can pray for them whenever you feel resentful. You can replace those negative thoughts with a simple prayer. Or you can choose to pray for them every single day before you go to sleep, or you can stick it in somewhere in your routine. I guarantee you after a month you will feel less negatively towards this person or persons. Praying for them will allow you to forgive them.
This exercise is a more progressed version of writing a letter. It involves you sitting down with an empty chair in front of you. Imagine the person that you are trying to forgive is sat in the empty chair. This is your chance to get everything off your chest. Tell them what they have done to you, tell them how it hurt, tell them what you wish you would have done, tell them the things you should have done, tell them how they made you feel, tell them everything. This technique is especially helpful with deeper trauma but anyone can use and take advantage of this technique. Just like with writing a letter you will be able to move on by releasing everything that you have been keeping in and remember to end this exercise by telling them that you forgive them.
Get a different perspective
Ask yourself why did this person hurt you? Would you hurt yourself if you were in their shoes? Why did they choose to hurt you, even if they made a mistake why do you think they made it? This is not about looking for excuses, this is about understanding. Even if you think this is something you would never do to another person and that you would never hurt someone the way they hurt you. This might be true for you but it might not be true for them. We have all been through experiences that have shaped us. We all have insecurities and blocks that sometimes take over. Understanding their reasons and seeing the person that they are under all the pride, and imagining them as a child will help you to understand why they have behaved the way they did. Again, this is not about making excuses for them, this is about understanding them as understanding leads to forgiveness.
Focus on yourself
We all have certain amount of energy ,so if all of your energy is going into hating someone and holding grudges, imagine what else you could be doing with that energy. You could have learned a new language by now, you could have started a wellness journey, you could have started your own business. There are so many things that you could have done. But that negativity has been robbing you of your energy. If someone has hurt you, you're still allowing them to hurt you by not letting go. You are so busy hating them and for all you know they might be walking around living their best life not thinking about you whatsoever. And this is exactly why you need to decide to let go. If someone hurt you once shame on them... Every trauma is different, every pain is different, but we all can take the same responsibility for ourselves. Your life is so valuable just like your happiness. Don't miss out on the opportunity to be happy and to create a life of your dreams just because you're angry about something that happened in the past. Process the pain, get rid of the pain, but after you're done get up and fight for what it is that you want.
Some exercises might work better for you than others, so if writing a letter doesn't work try empty chair but don't stop. Forgiveness is so freeing and you deserve to experience it. I want to remind you one more time that forgiveness has nothing to do with whom you are forgiving, but it has everything to do with you. Forget whether they deserve forgiveness. You might think that they have done something unforgivable, but I cannot stress enough that this is not about them. If someone has hurt you so much, they definitely do not deserve the power they still have over you. Forgiveness takes the power away from them. Forgiveness also doesn't mean that you now love this person or that you care about this person. You don't need to be friends with them, they do not need to be in your life. Forgiving them doesn't mean that you need to become friends with them again. They don't even need to know that you have forgiven them. And if they do try to come back into your life after forgiveness has taken place you can still choose to say no and choose not to have them back in your life.
Forgiveness is a journey. Doing one of the exercises above will very possibly allow you to release a large part of your anger however it does not guarantee that older negative emotions will not come back. You might get triggered, or you might bump into the person, they might call you, something might happen that will remind you of them and that will trigger old thoughts and feelings. If and when that happens you will face a choice. You can go back to feeling angry or you can hold onto forgiveness. If you do get angry remind yourself that that's okay. You are a human being that experiences emotions, bad or good. That makes you human and that's okay and perfectly natural. So if you do end up feeling angry even though we don't want to I have compassion and patience with yourself, remember this is a process with many ups and downs. Just don’t stop. You deserve to live free of hatred, anger and resentment. You deserve the best. You got this.