How to forgive and let go

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“How do we forgive” was the question one reader posed as a comment at the end of a blog on letting go. I thought it a great question and realized that I had not really answered it in any of my ramblings on letting go of what binds us. Here’s my answer to this blog follower’s question, hopefully others will find some value in it as well:

M.,

Great question that really gets at the heart of the healing process. Firstly we need to look honestly at our own hurt our own pain our own sense of trust that has been damaged by someone’s actions. There’s a very strong desire to exact retribution, to even the score, and to make yourself right again by making the other person wrong and punishing them. When hurt it can often feel as though you have been made less than and that somehow you matter less than others.

If this sense of betrayal and denial of your worth becomes so intense that it drives you in an inherently negative and self-defeating direction it can harder to let go. So first of all look at your emotions and own them. Notice that when holding on to your anger, resentment and hurt you are a different person than you were before the affront you are feeling like someone you don’t really want to be.

So you must own your feelings around this and don’t give power to the offender by making them responsible for your feelings. The process is about changing something in you not in them because you can’t change them. You can only change you. If you’re waiting for them to say or do something to make right whatever wrong has been done then you’re handing them the power over your life. This goes for resentment too. Holding onto it also gives the power to the perpetrator. Hanging onto resentment just keeps the pot boiling inside of you. Resentment is a poison that keeps you stuck and unhappy and makes it imminently more difficult to move on. Essentially it makes you a prisoner to the situation.

Remember that to forgive doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to maintain a relationship with the perpetrator(s) i.e. to those who have been disloyal. Forgiveness is a way of setting you free. It’s about altering the mindset of “poor me” or “why me?” It also opens the door to learning from the experience which will open a channel to your own inner wisdom and will allow for healthier perspectives and possibilities to move forward.

I don’t know your circumstances but often those who have hurt others are hurting within themselves and this causes them to lash out. Here’s the tough part because it requires you to move outside your own wounded ego and your damaged sense of self to look deeper into what may be causing them to hurt you. Try, without any expectation on your part of them accepting their wrongdoing, to give them the opportunity to look into their own behavior. This requires an act of caring for another human being and takes you out of your wounded self. Often to see that it was another wounded self that caused you harm can have a healing effect for you. And that’s what forgiveness is mostly about, the healing of you.

It takes confidence, bravery and strength to forgive and allows us to adapt and makes us more resilient so as to help the next time we are wronged (and there will be many next times). In so many ways the process of forgiveness is an act of love for yourself. it’s a way of standing up for yourself and saying that “I don’t deserve this” and that “I am strong enough to own what has happened and then take control of where I am going from here”.

Remember also, M., that you do not have to do this alone. There are many trained facilitators and counselors who can help you with the process of forgiveness. If you want help with your process try Googling “therapists who can help with the forgiveness process” and research what you get.

Learning how to love ourselves: First step in loving others

 

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Q: So how does one learn to love oneself?

A: I’ve found the following to be useful:

 

  • Through serving others
  • Through friendship (unconditional)
  • Through patience
  • Through a giving relationship (non-competitive relationship–the spirit of relationship)
  • Through the loving and caring for nature
  • Through the act of loving even when you’re not feeling it
  • Through the act of forgiveness
  • Through opening your heart

 

Notice that all of these require that a person get outside their self that is, outside their narrow little ego-self, so as to include the “other.” This in effect expands the image of self to something greater than the ego and it’s the ego that contains the idea of being less-than.

Giving reverence to something much bigger than yourself takes you out of the confined space of the personality and opens the door to the infinite space of the divine. Love is no longer about you (as in getting or feeling love) in that you literally ‘become’ love i.e. you are its expression.

Note that all require increased consciousness as well. In order to see the reality around you, you have to be willing to let go of the reality you have. Loosen your expectations of others (and yourself) and allow what’s there to filter through. The act of forgiveness is a really effective tool in this process. Holding someone or some event in blame, censure, or punishment becomes a locked prison cell for the person doing the holding as well as creating unnecessary resistance in the other person. Note that blaming, censuring and punishment rarely affects positive change in people. Typically people just learn to avoid the blamer/punisher.

Love and caring cannot exist in a condition of animosity, blame, rancor, revenge, impatience, and aversion. And its loss isn’t just local to the person or event that’s unforgiven, it creates a ripple effect that spreads out across all of ones reality. Forgiveness is one of the most freeing experiences one can ever have. It what opens the heart and allows all the rest to come into your world. It literally opens you up to the Grace of God.

“I looked in temples, churches, and mosques. But I found the Divine within my heart.”

–Rumi

Lastly, you might have noticed that all the useful suggestions for opening yourself to the love of self require that you sacrifice, your point-of-view and your need for control. Points-of-view keep you locked in place, it narrows your reality to a myopic view of what’s actually there. Love is so big that it cannot be seen through the peephole of your limited point-of-view. There is nothing more limiting than a point-of-view. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one, just don’t be wedded to it.

Have you noticed how little in control you actually are? We do things to control the actions of the other so that we might feel safer, or more important. But this is a never-ending battle and we never really feel safer, or more important. Thinking that we have control of anything other than ourselves is a distraction. And we can’t have control over ourselves until we know who and what we are, which brings us back to the need for increased consciousness.

So how do we get this increased consciousness?

  • Through serving others
  • Through friendship (unconditional)
  • Through patience
  • Through a giving relationship (non-competitive relationship–the spirit of relationship)
  • Through the loving and caring for nature
  • Through the act of loving even when you’re not feeling it
  • Through the act of forgiveness
  • Through opening your heart

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