By Jeanette Schneider
Forgiveness is simple in theory, but it is a concept covered by every walk of life, culture, and religion because it is difficult in practice. It’s almost as impossible as the pursuit of balance. We carry people and events with us as if they’ve taken up space in our bodies and minds, and they taint our actions. We allow them to frame our worldview, and we shake our head at their actions, yet they’ve gone on to live their lives. The only person still affected is the one who has yet to forgive.
No matter your view of forgiveness on the spiritual or practical spectrum, if you choose to stop being wounded, if you stop allowing the stories and actions of others to mark your life, you take center stage and once again are the creator of your path. You came into this life alone and will leave alone, so why carry the burden of another throughout the span of that time line?
Energetically Releasing The Past
By forgiving, we choose not to waste any more energy identifying with and becoming consumed by the happenings of the past. That allows us to choose what we give our attention to as opposed to falling into unconscious patterns and ways of relating. But it isn’t easy. It requires intention and action, and many times, it’s a slow process.
Forgiveness is For You, Not the Other Person
People don’t often do things because they don’t like you or because they think you’re bad. They do things because of what they have experienced before you. A way to promote compassion and move toward forgiveness is to imagine the people you are at odds with having thought clouds behind their heads. In those clouds are all the stories, interactions, and tragedies they have encountered. All those swirling, bubbling memories influence their output.
“By forgiving, we choose not to waste any more energy identifying with and becoming consumed by the happenings of the past.”
This Practice of Forgiveness is Not a One-and-Done Type of Thing
Expressing compassion or practicing forgiveness in the moment is helpful, but that doesn’t always stick as we find that our storied lives and triggers come in layers. There may be some relationships that require active forgiveness until the burden is lighter, the soul feels freer, and you have cut the cord. Set the intention of forgiveness each day, and send that intention on its way with blessings and forgiveness in prayer or meditation. Do that until you forget to do it one day. Do it until it’s no longer on your mind or heart. Forgiveness is much like grief. You go through it in stages and experience it in layers. Each person is different in how they experience it and how they heal. Some hurt is easily released. You may wince a little in the remembering, but no active emotion is attached. There will be other times when you feel you’ve healed completely but are suddenly triggered. Lighting sage, saying a prayer, or creating intentions doesn’t always cut it. Sometimes, you have to physically release it by writing angry letters you never send or beating it out with tape, gloves and a heavy bag.
Forgiveness Unchains You
I ask a brief grouping of questions in every workshop I facilitate. One is, “Whom do you need to forgive?” Several people wipe tears away, look down, and will themselves strong. I almost always feel a change in the energy in the room. After giving a few moments of reflection, I follow it up with “Is that person you?” The soft sobs become audible, which makes me wonder if forgiveness isn’t a key. Could it possibly unlock us, unchain us from our past? Could we create an active forgiveness practice that truly releases the experiences that haunt us? Those we choose to avoid or still allow to walk with us?
When we wrap our lives around the faults of others, and they in turn affect us on a go-forward basis. They never truly lose their influence over us if we don’t actively make the decision to forgive them. Before we can forgive, we have to acknowledge our part many times. With the exception of violent acts and criminal behavior, we are not victims or martyrs. Those are unbecoming traits that keep us locked in the power of the offender. To fully forgive self and others, we must first take responsibility for our part in the pain. It is a toxic thing to throw all the blame and bitterness on another. Move further away from it and look at it from a broader perspective. Could we have behaved differently? Where did we fall short? Did we fall out of integrity and perhaps allow behavior because of our issues with self-esteem and inappropriate boundaries? Could compassion be utilized in our forgiveness exercise? Could we, as author and entrepreneur Shaka Senghor teaches, see the injured child in another? If the person to be forgiven is you, I offer that self-love is your friend. Be gentle with yourself. Offer yourself the same compassion, and recognize that you also have been programmed and carry your own thought bubbles.
• While forgiveness is grace, I would also offer that the lighter load feels a lot like bliss.
• Unhook yourself from the past.
• It’s worth the work.
Jeanette is the founder of Lore Advocacy, a network of professional women whose goal is to inspire women to change the world through a gender lens of equality, self-actualization and the fearless shattering of glass ceilings.