“When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” – Bernard Meltzer
There are many ways to walk the path of enlightenment and forgiveness is one of them. Forgiveness is essential for growth and continued happiness, but whether you are seeking or someone else is seeking it from you, or even if you are trying to forgive yourself for things you’ve done, it is easier said than done. When you do not flow freely with life in present moment, it usually means you are holding on to a past moment. It can be regret, sadness, hurt, fear, or guilt, blame anger or resentment. Each of these states comes from a space of unforgiveness. Unless you let go or forgive yourself, or other person or situation, you cannot live freely in the present moment.
Forgiveness is defined as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance towards a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, or condoning or excusing offences, but it is a shift in your thoughts from resentment or revenge to accept and let go. Letting go of deeply held negative feelings empowers you to recognise the pain you suffered without letting that define you thereby enabling you to move forward. Those who forgive easily have less anger, less stress and less rumination compared to those who hold on to their anger and pain.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent to throw it at someone – you are the one getting burned.” – Buddha
Holding resentment and anger against people for things that occurred in the past can impact your health and well-being. Carrying your unresolved issues weighs you down and blocks you from achieving your present goals. Resentment and pent up anger can be extremely damaging both emotionally and physically. Many illnesses and mental conditions are directly linked to negative emotions that hamper your present moment awareness. The past can never be changed. Yet we can change our thoughts about the past. To release the past, you must be willing to forgive. You need to choose to release the past and forgive everyone, yourself included.
You do not know how to forgive and may not want to forgive, but if you develop the willingness to forgive, you can release yourself from the negative thinking and emotional patterns. Whatever your pain or situation, you must develop a forgiving mind. Seeing forgiveness as a process can help you develop a forgiving mind.
To develop a forgiving mind,
- Recall the hurt and think about how you have been hurt. How were you wronged and how has it affected you? Do not avoid what has happened and what it is that you are feeling. Understand the events that triggered your hurt. You can confess all your hostile feelings to the person who wronged you by meeting him or her face-to-face or you can also do so by visualising the person seated across from you.
- Partake in the actual work of forgiveness. Try to understand the motivations or context that may have contributed towards their wrongdoing from objective standpoint. Offer them compassion and empathy.
- Accept the pain of what has happened and people as they are and release them from any responsibility to meet your expectations. When you begin to forgive as an act of will, you can let go of the negative emotions or thoughts.
- Make commitment to forgive. Forgiveness must be a free choice that someone arrives at on their own. Once you forgive and let go, you may start to release negative emotions and see the personal freedom that comes with forgiveness. You may also realise how you too are in need of forgiveness from others in the process.
Forgiveness allows us to release negative emotions and can help us repair and renew relationships. To forgive is to accept and approve yourself as you are. Creating a space of acceptance and letting go of past experiences and forgiving people or situations will set you free from the pressure and weight of an unforgiving attitude.
If you find yourself emotionally stuck, it means that there is forgiving to be done. Sit quietly, close your eyes, and allow your mind and body to relax. Then imagine the person you resent the most or people who are hardest to forgive. What would you like to do to them? What do they need to do to get your forgiveness? Ask yourself how willing are you to forgive, accept and to let these things go. List all the things you are willing to do to forgive and to seek forgiveness of others. Some experiences are easy to let go and for some you need time, but practicing makes it easier to develop a forgiving attitude and gives you a chance to make a new beginning.