Forgiveness is divine, we’re told. But what does that really mean?
Throughout our lives there are bound to be people who trample on our feelings and hurt us emotionally, even physically or financially. Pretty horrible things can happen in life, and beyond the immediate damage caused by the incident, lingering anger, grief, pain and other negative feelings can create a lasting effect on our bodies and minds.
There are a few aspects of forgiveness to consider. First of all, harboring all those negative thoughts and feelings toward the person who has done you harm really doesn’t DO anything to hurt them back, punish them for their wrong, or teach them lesson. That’s what karma, universal law, or the legal system is for. When you forgive them, you’re not necessarily changing the fact that they will, on some level, get what is coming to them.
On the other hand, think about how you feel when you think of that person. You might feel tense and angry, your shoulders tighten, you grind your teeth, or you feel sad and lonely, give yourself a stomach ache or a headache. By allowing one person and their actions to have a lingering affect on you like that, you’re only punishing yourself, not them. If they’re real jerks, they probably don’t even care what you think or feel.
Additionally, it’s not unusual that a lot of the turmoil, anger and negativity we feel about a person or situation is not so much towards them, but towards ourselves. We feel stupid for getting ourselves into the situation, for trusting someone we shouldn’t have. We beat ourselves up over what we could have done differently, for not seeing the situation coming in time to stop it or fix it. We feel regret for things that are lost.
So, equally, when we take the steps to forgive someone else, we need to also forgive ourselves. Not always easy, I know, but when you do, it is immensely freeing. Here is a visualization that I recently led as a guided meditation, but something that you can also easily do at home or sitting quietly at your desk:
- Take your mind to the person who has caused this hurt or wronged you in some way. Take inventory of the emotions that you feel when you think about the person or situation. How do you feel physically?
- One by one, recognize each emotion or physical reaction and let it go. Put them in a brightly colored balloon, let go of them, and send them gently floating away.
- Send this person love and forgiveness and let go of them. Imagine physically cutting the tie that keeps dragging you back to that painful moment, like a big pair of scissors cutting the string.
- Take a moment to reflect on the space where you kept those negative thoughts and emotions. Fill that space with love. Imagine it healing the damage left behind.
- Reflect on the positive lessons you have learned because of this person or situation. Has it made you smarter? Stronger? Did you learn something new about yourself because of it?
- Take one last moment, feel your own power and strength. Send yourself warmth, love, and forgiveness. You might even find it most effective to say the words out loud “I forgive myself.”
You can do this as many times as you need to, to help you let go of the negative emotions and hurt caused by others. You might feel like you need to do it more than once for the same person or situation. But, each time you do, remember that forgiving yourself is an equally important part of the healing process.
Forgive and let it go.