Lewis B. Smedes said: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and then discover the prisoner was you.”
This is one of my favorite definitions of forgiveness.
Not forgiving is one of the biggest incarcerations. When we are not forgiving, we are making ourselves prisoners of our own resentment. But forgiveness has the power to take us away from the prison and stop the self-abuse.
As described by Reverend Michael Beckwith:
“It is vital for our well being to release the anger and make forgiveness a way of life.”
I've had people tell me, “Paola, I can't believe I have to forgive this again, I thought I had already forgiven it!”
Forgiveness is a way of life. You forgive today, and you feel the goodness of it. Then, in a year or two, you might remember again. The pain raises one more time and so you forgive again.
See it as peeling the layers of the anger and animosity, you go one by one. Though, you might wonder, how do I know when I've forgiven?
This is when you remember the situation and it doesn't hurt anymore. It’s not forgetting, but remembering without the pain.
I've spoken to people who have gone through tremendous trauma. People physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abused. People who have lost loved ones because another person took their lives. People who were robbed millions of dollars. Thus, I understand that sometimes to even consider forgiveness can be hard.
This might or might not be your case, but we all have something or someone to forgive. And often, that includes ourselves.
Let's now get into the How aspect of forgiveness. There are three steps to forgiveness:
If you are not aware that forgiveness is a necessary step for your freedom, you can get very frustrated. Because you want justice. You want them to pay for what they did; you point fingers, blame, and judge. But when you get stuck in judgment, you are not changing the situation, you're only hurting you.
So, raising awareness is to realize you don't forgive because they deserve it, but because you deserve to be free.
A good way to start if you find this too hard is to first forgive yourself for not being able to forgive them yet.
Which leads to the second step…
Compassion is a universal force. We all have the capacity for compassion. However, it can seem hard to even conceive the idea of having compassion towards people who hurt us. In these cases, starting by having compassion with ourselves is key.
I once read: “If you're struggling with compassion, know that hurt people, hurt people.”
This idea helps us start navigating the knowing that we are all doing the best we can, with the level of consciousness we have.
So if you feel someone has done something to you, or you think you have hurt someone, you can tap into this knowing. We are all doing the best we can, with what we know, with what we have. No one can give us what they don't have.
And here I want to make something clear. Having compassion doesn’t mean you accept what happened was right, or that you have to build relationships with the people who hurt you and become part of their lives.
Boundaries are important in most cases. This is an energetic movement. You can do a brief review of their lives to get a better understanding. Then send them light and forgive from afar.
Cultivating compassion then takes us to the third step…
Surrendering is when you say: I don't know how to forgive, but I am willing. Despite how painful it is or not knowing how you are willing to let go of the resentment.
Carry Fisher once said:
“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
Resentment only hurts you. If you surrender and ask the Universe to show you ways to forgive, I promise you the Universe will subtly show you the hows’.
Having covered the 3 steps, let's now talk about two practical tools on how to forgive.
List all the people you want to forgive. Including yourself, because a lot of times this is the first person you need to forgive.
Then, write a forgiveness letter to yourself and/or to those you want to forgive.
If it's to you, write it as if someone who loves you dearly was writing it to you. Write it with that energy of a loving person.
It can start something like this…
I, Paola, forgive myself because I know I've done the best I can with what I have. I was hurt, I was in pain...
Write everything you feel you need to forgive.
If it's a letter to someone else, write from a loving space in your heart. Understanding the knowing that people do the best they can, with the level of consciousness that they have.
The second practice I want to share with you is a mind treatment.
You can treat your mind with words using these prayers, or mind treatment.
There are three parts to it, all adapted to a situation so you can get the idea.
Forgiving someone for something specific:
“I forgive you, Jordan, for all the ways in which you have hurt me and our family, over the years through your addiction. I send you thoughts of empowerment and I declare the truth that within you is all you need to reveal your wholeness. I see the highest and the best in you, and I trust that which seeks to emerge in through and as your life, as I now replace my thoughts and feelings of negativity towards you with an energy of love and forgiveness. I know your spirit receives and responds to the loving energy of this prayer from my heart.”
Forgiving and freeing yourself:
Carlos, you have no power over me. Nothing you have said or done determines my happiness or success. I set myself free from any and all effects of your energy upon my life. I set you free with this act of forgiveness; I am free and you are free.
Asking for forgiveness.
As I sit in the energy of our relationship, I ask your forgiveness for any hurt or harm I have knowingly or unknowingly caused you. A healing of the heart and spirit has now begun between us in the depth of true nature as love, compassion and forgiveness. You are free and I am free. All is well between us.
These are examples as taken from the book The answer is you. Feel free to adjust them to your personal situations.
In summary, these are the steps to forgiveness. First, to become aware of why, what, and who we need to forgive.
Second, to cultivate compassion. Forgiving from a spiritual understanding that hurt people hurt people, but also, healed people, heal people. Compassion helps us dissolve the pain and resentment by growing forgiveness energy.
And finally, surrendering. Letting go of the story we tell ourselves and open to new beliefs. Having the willingness to forgive even if we don't know how.
Once we go through these stages we reach a greater level of consciousness. And we ultimately understand there's nothing to forgive. And so we are free.
One last thing I want to say is that forgiveness is a process that can take time. Do not push yourself through it if you don't feel ready. Be intentional, but also gentle as you move through the steps. Remember to have compassion for yourself and allow the time needed, however long that is.