Why and how forgiveness works

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I recently posted the above photo to my social media. A very dear friend of mine took some very important and freeing steps just from one simple post. This is exactly why I’m doing what I’m doing with my career and life. I want to touch peoples lives. I want to show them that living life free from pain, suffering and depression is possible. I want them to know that even if horrible events occur in our lives we can make the choice to step out of the darkness and into our light. I want to help them in any way I can. That’s why today I’m going to share what I’ve learned about forgiveness, the single most important gift I’ve ever given myself.

Forgiveness is a catchy term in the personal development industry. According to Wikipedia, forgiveness is defined as “the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.”

The first thing I think of when I read that definition is how it relates to the past. An offense occurs in the past. It’s something that has already happened. There’s no going back to change things. So if I keep going back to the past, I’m not able to be in the present, which is where life is lived.

The vengefulness one may feel comes from the grip that the past has on the offended. I picture a dark being with its hand gripped around someones neck. Anger and resentment build as the grip gets stronger and stronger. The only way to loosen the grip is to let the negative emotions you’ve built up for the offender move through you. Shifting your perception of the offender can help open the constriction those negative emotions have created. I found that if I picture them as a young child in pain it becomes easier to have compassion for them. If you can develop compassion for them the forgiveness soon follows. If self-forgiveness is needed, picture yourself as a sad or scared child.

The other thing to keep in mind is that we are all acting from our own childhood wounds, until we have healed those wounds. Most of us have had some sort of traumatic event in our childhoods that have affected us. It’s traumatic because at the time we had a negative reaction to what was happening and we didn’t know any other way to react. We are meaning-making machines and so we had to make the event mean something. That meaning turned into a belief, a shadow belief (stay tuned for more on our shadows). So remembering that someones wrong doing isn't really coming from their true selves can help us find forgiveness.

The hardest part for me about forgiveness was thinking that forgiving them meant I was condoning what they did. I used to think that if I forgave someone for the hurtful act they performed, I was saying what they did was ok, and in my mind it was not. My ego was still very hurt. Then I realized that wasn't the case and I was able to move on from the offense, from the past. Thats what forgiveness does, it frees us from the past. It frees us up to live fully in the present. I’ve been able to forgive someone for something and still walk away with my head held high because I knew I had just shifted my perspective so that I could take my power back and live the life I want.

Something that helps me remember to forgive is to think of myself as a container. I can either fill myself up with anger, resentment, and depression, or I can forgive (others or myself) and make room for other adventures and lessons. There’s a lot more room in my container for creatively building my life when I make the conscious choice to forgive. How much room is in your container?

With love and forgiveness.

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