Recently I have been reflecting on the concept of forgiveness and when it is truly possible. Throughout my life, I have experienced both being hurt and that of hurting others. I have desired to be forgiven while struggling to forgive others. In both scenarios, the only thing I could control was how I felt about the situation. I thus learned to look at those different experiences from an inner perspective which opened me up the world of self-forgiveness. Self-forgiveness is amazing in that when we forgive ourselves we are also able to forgive others.
Even though I would like to consider myself a compassionate person, I have unintentionally really hurt people. This experience with others helped me understand the difference between intent and impact. Being compassionate towards myself, allowed me lean in enough to see the other person’s perspective and observe how my behavior could be considered hurtful. I didn’t have to hurt myself to motivate myself to apologize or to behave differently in the future. I could love myself AND choose to change my behavior. In fact, being compassionate towards myself helped me realize that being a compassionate person is a choice we must make every day. One of my mentors was Louise Hay who states: “everyone is doing the best they can with the understanding, knowledge and awareness they have at the time”. When I think about this quote, I can extend my compassion and forgiveness to myself and those who have wronged me.
Later in life I learned that choosing to forgive those who were hurtful to me, was an act of self-love. My anger and my despair at those who wronged me, really was primarily hurting myself. The old adage “anger is the poison you drink to kill your enemy” was true in my case. However, in my journey I have also learned that I could forgive the person who I feel wronged me, and not support their behaviour, nor continue to allow it. My love for myself, allowed me to have clear boundaries about what I will and will not accept in my circle. However, what I was surprised to discover through my forgiveness was that it actually released me from the bond I had with those I considered opponents. My anger, and frustration, kept me connected in an unhealthy way to those who I felt had wronged me. When I chose to release myself from the bonds of judgement and anger and allowed myself to feel the emotions that were beneath the anger, I was able to discover that the sadness, disappointment, and all the expectations I had about how this person was expected to behave. While forgiveness did not come easily to me, it was worth the investment of the time and energy I took in forgiving myself and others. It is important to acknowledge if we truly feel ready to forgive. Forgiveness will not happen while living in the emotions associated with a situation or event. If we are experiencing the throes of hurt and despair, that is not the time to forgive. That is the time to turn our love and attention inward to supporting our own healing. I have great admiration for those who have been able to forgive under the most trying circumstances. Check out my podcast episode with Lara Naughton, about her journey of having compassion towards herself and her attacker, after a sexual assault here.
One helpful tool to use is the Ho’oponopono exercise from Hawaii, which I would do before going to bed and before waking up in order to help me forgive.
When you are ready for forgiveness, take a couple of breaths with the intention of opening your heart space. Then imagine the person is there with you, see them in your mind, see them in the light of an open heart and repeat this over and over.
· “I’m sorry”
· “Please forgive me”
· “Thank you”
· “I love you”
Do this daily for 21 days.
I have also used this tool to forgive myself for not always being who I wanted to be, for wasting time being anxious, for not living to my fullest potential sooner, for not always being the most compassionate and loving person I could be. Allowing myself to be human and understanding that forgiveness towards myself is forgiveness towards others has helped me have greater compassion for everyone I meet.