Forgiveness Self-help tools Spiritual Growth

Choose to Forgive and Set Yourself Free

August 29, 2016

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Clinging onto old painful memories of the past is one of the biggest consequences we face when we refuse to forgive people who have mistreated us.  

We can come up with a million and one excuses as to why the other person does not deserve our forgiveness but in the end, the fight is only with ourselves. 

Learn how to forgive people, including yourself, and as a result, you can expect to experience a sense of new found freedom. 

The Misconceptions Surrounding Forgiveness

Forgiveness is one of the kindest things we can ever do for ourselves; it releases us from the tyranny of the mind’s obsession with the past, allowing us to move on from upsetting events – so why is it that so many people are reluctant to forgive?

I have an inkling it might have something to do with the misconceptions surrounding forgiveness that appear to be both far-flung and widespread.  

Here are a few I’ve come across:

  • Forgiveness means we agree with the other person’s behaviour
  • Forgiveness is something we do for the other person
  • Forgiveness means we must forget it happened
  • Forgiveness means we must communicate with the other person
  • Forgiveness can only happen when there is an apology

Those statements are false and cause lots of people to live in misery for the sheer reason that they don’t understand what forgiveness really means. 

My understanding of forgiveness is this:

  • Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean you must forget it happened, or you are agreeing with what happened
  • Forgiveness means you are choosing to no longer allow someone else’s actions to ruin your inner peace
  • Forgiveness gives you a level of control over what happens next

I like to see forgiveness as a gift we can give to ourselves; and it is always available should we wish to choose it.

How to Forgive

Forgiveness is something we do when we are ready to accept and move on from a certain situation, without letting it drag us into the past any longer.

But, in order to forgive, we must first delve a little into the past…

Take some time to work out who you might need to forgive – consider who, or what situation, weighs heavy on your mind. If you tend to think about the same negative experience again and again, it is likely there is someone involved in whatever happened – it could even be yourself – that requires your forgiveness.

Once you’ve had time to consider it, write down a list of people to forgive – again, don’t miss yourself if necessary.

At this point it’s important to note that your reasons for forgiving people may vary wildly, and there is no reason too big or small. If you feel negative energy toward anyone, add them to your list.

Once you have completed the list, you’re going to work through forgiving each person individually.

When we forgive anyone, including ourselves, it’s important that we release the person with love. Depending on who and what the situation, the idea of releasing someone with love might seem daunting or even impossible but we cannot let go and move on when we are still clinging to negative emotions.

Think about what this person did to upset you, consider their state of mind at the time, consider the possibility that they were/are deeply troubled by whatever haunts them from their past – while these are not excuses for why they hurt you, it will help you to unearth some compassion for the other person, which will make it easier for you to release them with love.

Once you have gained a clear picture in your mind of who you want to forgive, repeat these words several times in your head or out loud:

“I forgive you, insert name, and I release you with love”

Along with speaking the words, you must really feel the emotions the words stir within you, and it has to come from a genuine place. You won’t be able to forgive someone unless you are wholeheartedly ready.

Forgiving Yourself

You will know as much as the next person that self-resentment is painful; we’ve all been there – done something that we deeply regret, and are then left with the agonising feeling of powerlessness because we cannot undo what has been done.

We are human, after all, and each and every one of us has made mistakes that have haunted us at one point or another throughout our lives, and which may still even worry us to this day.

When we are resentful to ourselves, we punish ourselves even further, when all we really need is a little love and self care. When we forgive ourselves for our mistakes and misjudgements, we give ourselves permission to move on.

Being compassionate to ourselves is a fundamental part of self-love, and is also the key when it comes to forgiveness. If we did something that now feels wrong to us, we must consider the state of mind we were in when it happened. 

We may act out of character during times of difficulty, for instance, but it doesn’t mean we are bad people. We mustn’t judge ourselves as we were when we made a mistake; the past is in the past and we must accept ourselves as we are right now. It doesn’t mean we are making excuses for our behaviour, but we all deserve to give ourselves a little compassion. 

Forgiving ourselves works in a similar vein to forgiving other people – following the same principles I outlined above, accept what has happened and then realise it is time to move on.

Once you’ve done that, repeat the following phrase every day for at least 30 days:

“I forgive you, insert your name, and I accept you with love”

If there’s one thing for certain, we are forever evolving and becoming more knowledgeable by learning from our mistakes. And when we offer ourselves forgiveness, we accept ourselves for the unique and perfectly imperfect person that we are. 

All dark moments bring times of self-growth; you wouldn’t be who you are today without those times of suffering, which have given you a chance to learn more about yourself and about life, allowing you to progress with more wisdom than ever before.

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