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How to Forgive

CAUTION: You may not be ready to read this blog. There seems to be three stages to forgiving: Hate – Hurt – Heal. If you’re still in the ‘hate’ phase this article may just make you more angry. So continue with caution and try to remain openminded. Remember you’re here because you’re interested in how to forgive.

Forgiveness is not something we do for other people. We do it for ourselves.

If you can grasp the above statement you’re on your way to forgiving and moving on. Moving on for your own:

  • Sanity
  • Happiness
  • Future success

However the idea of ‘moving on’ stops us from forgiving as it seems you are excusing the behaviour that caused the pain.  So by not moving on, you show yourself and the world around you how much this thing hurts and continues to hurt you and therefore don’t forgive BUT:

Hurt people, hurt people

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The pain you perpetuate hurts you AND those you love. You pass on that hatred and hurt to others. You are the owner of a toxic funk that you continue to manifest and share with others.  Maybe you had something to do with the situation that caused the pain, maybe you were an innocent bystander, either way this painful cycle of hurt needs to be settled.

You will need acceptance, courage and resilience to successfully navigate yourself to a place where you are able to forgive.

Anger and resentment forces you to relive scenarios that have hurt you with the mistaken belief that somehow this pain will damage the perpetrator BUT as you continue to pour salt on the wound, the pain keeps coming and often the perpetrator has already moved on with their life.

The choice is stark. Keep pouring or put the salt down.

Eat less salt  medical concept

Simple NOT easy. Victims tell me that of course they want to ‘move on’ but can’t as it would mean that the perpetrator has ‘won’. Let me remind you of the first sentence of this blog. Forgiveness is not something we do for others. We do it for ourself.

I read a wonderful article about The Forgiveness Project. An initiative set up by Marina Cantacuzino. In the article she says:

“Forgiveness is a nuanced thing. It’s a choice, a practice. In successful relationships, we’re probably doing it unconsciously on a daily basis. The English poet and philosopher David Whyte says, ‘All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness.’ I love that quote!” She pauses, then laughs. “Or you could just call it, letting go of the rankle.”

Here are my three steps to let go of the rankle and forgive:

1. ACCEPTANCE

I found the answer to acceptance in the most unlikely of places, the Big Book of AA. In one of the stories, a recovering alcoholic says this:

Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life —unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.

Acceptance does NOT mean the behaviour was acceptable.

Read the first sentence of this blog again. It’s about how you can move on. So here’s what I suggest.

Write it down. Use a pen and paper (not a computer) and put this whole sorry saga down on paper. This process is very cathartic and will help you begin to accept. Do not write about acceptance or consider it. Just write down what happened, every detail of the situation that makes you feel the way you do. Do not write it like a novel or think it has to be grammatically correct. Just write it down. How do you feel, what would you like to do to this person. Swear, write in big words sometimes. This is your time to consciously lay out what has happened. Keep writing until there is nothing else to say. This can be a painful process because it is powerful. All the thoughts in your mind are now in view, probably for the first time.

2. Courage

Once you have finished. Read it back. Is there anything missing? Add anything that’s missing. Then find someone you trust, better if they’re not in the situation and read out the whole story to them. It may be a priest, a counsellor or a good friend. Explain that this is an important part of moving on from the pain you are feeling. Do not rush this. Find time and do it properly. This is important. Once you’ve read it out, burn the letter. Make it ritual like. Light a candle and as the letter goes up in flames, watch it disintegrate and turn into ash and smoke. Symbolically, this is where your ‘moving on’ can begin. You have addressed the pain and can always return in your mind to this process that you’ve just gone through.

3.Resilience

Your pain may not magically disappear but it will start to heal. Remember what Marina said. This is a daily mindful practice that keeps you on the right path and not subconsciously falling back into resentment.

Any time you feel you’re starting to go down the path of pain, breathe, accept and remember you’re doing this for yourself and your family.

You’re powering the change with the courage to accept and not have your life defined by something that has hurt you for so long.

Finally, AA taught me to live my life, one day at a time. So take this slowly, it’ll take time and one other gem from AA was this: it works if you work it! So good luck.

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