3 powerful words and probably the hardest to say: “I forgive you” and even harder “I forgive myself”.
We commonly think of these words as helping to relieve others of their guilt feelings, making others feel better, but do not realize the power of such words on the person speaking them. These words not only help you make peace with other, they release you from the angst you are holding onto. Letting yourself go in more peace, helping you heal and move on. Holding on to grudges is damaging to your life, it distorts your perception and only attracts more negativity into your own life.
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” – Mark Twain
Unhealed issues and emotions get stored in the body until we release them. Many of us ignore wounds or suppress them subconsciously with numbing substances like food, drugs, or other distractions like TV, the internet or even throwing themselves into work. Channeling all that bad energy into determination can help you excel at things like work, but be careful as this can also become your Achilles heel. Begin so focused on one area can cause imbalance and become a good excuse not to deal with other things, such that your personal life suffers. Balance, as always, is key. Unresolved anger causes stress, which is bad for our health. The moment you are ready to release issues so is your body. Fasting and massages are also beneficial in releasing stored issues and tension.
When you are angry you may not see the kindness other people are offering, instead you may feel like they have an exterior motive due to your past experience that you have not yet let go of. When a situation occurs that is similar to when you previously felt you were wronged, your sub-consciousness, as part of a protection mechanism, will jump at a conclusion that this situation will end the same way. Leading you to think negatively of someone before the event has panned out. Not being able to let go of anger can also cause you to lash out at others as you unexpectedly vent your bottled angst, particularly if something happens that reminds your sub-consciousness of the original past event, lashing out in order to prevent the event reoccurring. Anger also denies the other person the opportunity to explain or for you to listen clearly without distortion, which will only lead to more mis-understanding in your life.
Forgiving someone is not easy. Developing empathy and better understand of that person can help. We must understand that each and every one of us is different. We cannot expect other people to value or act the same way about things as we do. Also for every incident that happens, there are more than a million possibilities and reason why it may have occurred. Our perception is not the only view or story that could have happened. This will enable us to give other people the benefit of the doubt, enabling us to deal with a situation more calmly and to listen to their side more openly. There are times when we may not be able to forgive a person in person. You may no longer be in contact or they may have passed on. Consciously forgiving those people in your heart, saying the words, can still release us.
But how about yourself?
Forgiving yourself is a very powerful thing and probably the hardest. You own guilt will hold you back, trapping you in despair, conditioning you into believing that you do not deserve the forgiveness. You may not even realize how much guilt you may hold for a situation and how it is affecting your life. This can make you subconsciously not feel worthy of a better life and deserving of any punishment, keeping yourself in a bad life situation or depression. You can feel all this guilt, even though logically you know you are not guilty, but subconsciously you are telling yourself a different story. For example, mothers may feel immensely guilty if their child is born handicapped, even though they know this is not in their control. She is absolutely not to blame, and she would never blame anyone else if their child was born that way, but it doesn’t stop her blaming herself. Guilt can occur if someone dies. You may feel like there could have been something you could have done to prevent it or you should have been better to that person when they were a live etc.
Ask yourself, if your best friend was in the same situation as the one you feel guilty for, how would you honestly advise them? Do they really deserve punishment?
Stop torturing yourself because you feel like you deserve it, you don’t. Forgive yourself. Have compassion for yourself; compassionate is not complete unless it includes yourself.
How do you forgive yourself if you do not believe you deserve forgiveness, even if you know you are not to blame?
How do you forgive others, when you are still angry and don’t believe you can?
Remember these are just thoughts you are holding onto, you can change your thoughts in order to change your reality. There are no reasons to hold onto thoughts that do not serve you. You may feel like you do deserve these thoughts due to your guilty feelings, so first you must learn to forgive yourself.
After the Bali bombing in 2002, I was pretty P*ssed at God for letting it happen. Several years afterwards I was in a group of volunteers in Costa Rica who were about to do a pilgrimage from San José to the Basílica Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in the colonial capital of Cartago to honor “La Negrita” statute of the Virgin Mary. There was no way I could do the pilgrimage because I could not forgive Him. Yes, I was still pretty angry several years later (definitely still pretty anyway..keke). At the time I just felt this knowing, that it was a step forward, that I should do the pilgrimage. Was it an impossible physical action? No. So I stop over thinking it and just walked. I realized afterwards that there was something wrong with my belief, and I guess with my head then. Completing the originally impossible action (impossible due to my inability to forgive) undermined the belief that I could not forgive. I had carried out a physical action of forgiveness, even though I hadn’t mentally or emotionally forgiven yet, enabled me breaking down this wall of belief that I had created and to begin to access the other side; the road to forgiveness. I began asking for help from a higher source (I had refused to ask for His help before because of my anger, but strangely never stopped believing in Him) and whilst meditating I realized that I held so much guilt for my friends death. I felt like there could have been something I could have done to prevent it, no matter how illogical, like what if I had told her not to go, I should have tried to stop her etc. I began to mediate and letting these sub-conscious thoughts surface. As I noticed them, I realize how silly they were, how it was neither in my control, nor my fault and that she was in a better place now and had moved on. I began letting these thoughts go, along with my anger and guilt.
You may feel like you cannot forgive emotionally nor carry out actions that show you have forgiven someone or yourself. These actions seem impossible to do because you are being held back by your emotions; however the actions are not actually physically impossible. Doing them can help you on your path to forgiveness and make you realize that it you can do the impossible, forgiving.
You can carry out actions like treating the person you can’t forgive nicely or simply start with a “hello”. Treating yourself to something if though you don’t believe you deserve it, no matter how small, is also a start to forgiving yourself. It doesn’t matter if you feel the attributed guilt was justified or not. Even if the guilt is justified, life is not about living in the past, especially if it makes you unhappy, its about building a better future and being happy now.
The actions above may be hard, so try this exercise to help you start letting go:
Find a comfortable place to sit and think about what happened.
Let your thoughts and emotions rise up and then say out aloud ‘I forgive you’ or I forgive myself.’
Even though emotionally you may not feel that way, saying “I forgive you/myself” is an action you can physically do. It may be hard at first, but keep trying to get the words out.
Persist and be patient with yourself as you try and say these words out physically. It will get easier .
As you meditate, let your mind open and relax and subconscious thoughts will arise that you didn’t even know you were holding on to. Let them come up and see them for what they are, just thoughts. They may be silly or over reactive or even justified, but at the end of the day just thoughts, for you to let go. To help release these thoughts that are no good to you, add things to what you are saying like:
I forgive myself, it was not my fault; there was nothing I could do. I’m sorry I could have been there, but its ok, it’s not my fault, I couldn’t have known. Its ok, I forgive myself.
I forgive them; they tried their best in their situation. I forgive them; they had their own issues etc.
I forgive them for dying, for leaving me behind. I forgive myself for surviving when they didn’t etc.
Keep repeating these words, let the emotions come up and tears out, and release them. Let it all come out and disperse them.
As you do this, you will also uncover other deeper emotions attached to the issue that you may have not recognized before as they were covered by the anger. Revisiting the past will cause previous pains to resurface, but its ok, they’re just feelings. Without them, we wouldn’t be human. Let yourself experience them fully, knowing you are in a safe place, nothing is going to happen. Let yourself process the feelings, recognizing and acknowledging them, rather than suppressing them and then release them by just willing them to leave and knowing it’s ok. If it is grief you are feeling, know that letting go of it doesn’t mean you are going to forget that person, as there are so many good memories. There is also no need to hold onto anger to learn from a situation.
Take time to do this twice a week to start with. Keep releasing the emotional charge to that moment or person until when you recall them or the situation it no longer carries so much anger or has such an impact on you anymore.
The same thing can be done when an issue is re-activated in you daily lives, instead of suppressing it, use it as a healing opportunity. Allow the issue to process through to healing by allow yourself to experience all your real emotions attached to the issue, and try to recognize where they came from, so that you can deal with the situation at hand rather than sub-consciously mixing it up with the past.
If you can’t forgive others, how can you expect to be forgiven? .. how can you forgive yourself?
In October 2006, a 32 year old man, Charlie walked into an Amish school in Lancaster County and shot 10 young girls, killing five of them before killing himself. His mother was horrified and initially felt she had to move away from the town. The Amish came to her the night of the shooting to say they wanted her to stay. Some of the victims’ families even attended her son’s funeral, giving their condolences on her loss and protected her family from photojournalists. The murderers mother, Robert’s, gives a moving account of what happened here. When an Amish community can forgive the murderer of their children, can there be anything we really cannot forgive.
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