How to Practice Forgiveness
The virtue of forgiveness
There are two aspects to forgiveness, forgiving others and seeking forgiveness from others. In both cases the act of forgiveness follows the act of seeking forgiveness. Both steps are also important in repairing relationships. In worldly life, we generally seek forgiveness when we have made a mistake and we forgive those who seek our forgiveness. In spiritual life, this does not have to be the norm. You should forgive others unconditionally and without expectorations if they do not seek your for forgiveness.
When you reach that stage you discharge others and yourself from a great karmic debt. Any resentment that you may hold in your mind binds you and influences your future. When you forgive others or seek forgiveness from others, you are released from the debt you owe to them, even if they do not actively or willingly forgive you.
When you practice forgiveness, you must abide by certain rules. Your forgiveness must be unconditional and without expectations. It must be genuine and sincere. It must be motivated by compassion and love rather than self-interest. It must be complete and final. The same principles apply when you want to forgive yourself. We all indulge in self-criticism and negative self-talk and assailed by our own negativity. Therefore, self-forgiveness becomes equally important.
Why self-forgiveness is important
People who disturb us are usually those who possess certain qualities, which we do not like to see in ourselves. When we are disturbed by them, it means we have some imperfections in us which we are unable to forgive or overcome. In other words, your negative reactions are a sad reflection of your weaknesses and imperfections. You can use them effectively to know about yourself or you can indulge in self-denial and keep blaming others for your negativity.
The truth is if you lack courage it will be easier for others to intimidate you. If you lack patience, it will be easier for others to make you feel impatient. If you are angered by the actions of others, it is primarily because you have anger issues and you are unable to control your emotions. Therefore, when you are upset about something or by someone, ask yourself why it happened and what traits you may have in common with the person who upset you. When you identify the causes, you can forgive yourself before you forgive the other person with a feeling of gratitude.
The process of forgiving others
Forgiveness is the key to peace. Forgiveness is letting go. I often think of it as letting go of the stranglehold we have on a person whose actions we could not control. Whatever it is we are not forgiving, it’s something we can’t change because it’s already happened. We could be waiting for an apology. We could be so certain this was unforgivable that we spend a lifetime not forgiving. What we’re really wanting is for this thing, whatever it was, to have never happened. We want it to go away. We can’t change what happened, but we can change our reaction; we can allow it to go away. We can let go. We can forgive.
The stranglehold has us locked into a tension that is energetic, emotionally and physically. Whatever it is, you have wrestled it to the ground and you’re holding on for dear life. Dear life, indeed. It’s your life that you are choking. In the following article, the author explains the process of forgiving others and forgiving oneself.
It is your life held hostage. You simply cannot move on to real peace and freedom while you down on the floor holding on. Forgiveness isn’t about releasing him or her, it’s about releasing you! Let’s take a look at how you can let go and retrieve your own life.
You have to name it and claim it to let it go. Who do you want to forgive? What was done?
Isn’t this the hardest part of it? The thought of having empathy for someone who has done you wrong can be a bitter pill. Forgiving yourself might be the easiest place to start on your path to forgiving everyone.
Here’s a story of my own self forgiveness:
A very long time ago, I almost killed a patient with a mistake I made in a hospital lab. A miracle happened that saved the patient (and me), but it could have been disastrous. You have to be a perfectionist in medical work, and I was awfully hard on myself about this mistake. I would have fired me, I would have locked me up, capital punishment was a thought. My supervisor was compassionate while I raked myself over the coals.
Eventually, I looked at the situation that set me up for the mistake and realized that I had too much to do that night. I was the sole medical technologist on night duty for a large hospital and several emergencies escalated the work beyond my capacity. The fact that my efforts had probably saved several lives was overshadowed by the mistake. When I had empathy for myself in that situation, I was able to forgive me.
Empathy is “to walk a mile in the other’s shoes.” It is to feel the emotions they are feeling and to understand the events, possibly a lifetime of events that led to your encounter with them. This allows you to feel compassion. Compassion is what loosens your grip and allows you to make a different choice.
Here is the letting go, after the compassion comes the forgiveness. It is to look the perpetrator in the (figurative) eye and say, “I release you.” It is to relax your hold, to cut the energetic ties that hold you locked into the original act. Not only do you release the other, you release yourself. This doesn’t mean that what was done is OK or even acceptable. It means you are releasing the other into being responsible for his or her own life. It means you will no longer get your juice from hating what was. Once you let it go, you are free to use that energy in another way. The very best possible choice is to use that energy to love, to create something wonderful and beautiful. I’ll end this by paraphrasing Stephen Levine’s Loving Kindness Meditation:
May I be happy.
May I be free from grief, fear, and anger.
May I be healed.
May I be at peace.
May you be happy. May you be free from grief, fear, and anger.
May you be healed.
May you be at peace.
May all people be happy.
May all people be free of grief, fear, and anger.
May all people be healed.
May all people be at peace.
If someone stole your parking space, you may only need to forgive once. If someone stole your childhood, you may need to forgive everyday for a very long time. Whatever it takes, do it! Free yourself.
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