What is Forgiveness?
Forgiveness is defined as the intentional and voluntary process of undergoing a change of feelings and attitudes regarding an offence and letting go of negative emotions with an increased ability to wish the offender well. And it’s hard.
There is no magic bullet to make the hurt of past transgressions go away. Having interviewed some of the greatest wisdom holders in this area over almost two decades as a writer for a health magazine, and having explored forgiveness processes myself, I can honestly say there is no single method that will expunge the hurt from your heart, erase the scorch marks from your soul.
Forgiveness starts with a decision. A decision not to live a compromised future because of what happened; not to allow it to define your life in a negative way.
One of the most inspiring forgiveness “experts” I’ve spoken to did not choose to be a forgiveness expert. An ordinary working man, he chose the path of forgiveness after the seemingly unforgivable crime of his two daughters being raped and murdered by the same man.
In a remarkable and confronting outcome, this intuitive and loving father decided that one thing that might help relieve his pain would be choosing to take on the gargantuan mission of forgiving the killer, which he somehow did.
And, at the extreme disapproval of his daughters’ mother, he even visited the man in prison to verbalise his forgiveness. This was a single defining act that represented the decision this dad made to forgive, not once but sometimes a thousand times a day.
As American civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
On some level, it might make sense to hold a grudge against someone who hurt you, as if by doing this you’re exacting revenge on them, or somehow insuring yourself against future harm.
The world’s healing traditions concur, though, that lack of forgiveness – holding on to the hate, anger and resentment – is bad news for you and your health.
Louise Hay refers to this as the “prison of the past”. Nelson Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies,” reminding us that we are ultimately harming ourselves.
The point is, forgiveness is not for them. Although the loving father mentioned above took the action of speaking his forgiveness to the killer, his gesture was in order to free his own heart, not to condone the actions of the murderer.
Forgiveness and Wellbeing
Forgiveness is for your future wellbeing so that you can experience greater levels of emotional and mental freedom. Arguably, better physical health, too.
By making the choice to begin to forgive, you become an active agent in your own healing instead of hoping that time alone will do the healing.
Which Path to Take
There are many potential areas to explore and as with most healing journeys, a multi-faceted, wholistic approach can be what’s needed, tackling the issue from different directions, choosing whatever feels right at the time, peeling off the layers over time.
If you’re ready to read something, take a look at "The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World" by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu Van Furth.
If you want a self-help process to begin right now, research the traditional Hawaiian method of forgiveness known as Ho’oponopono. The word ho’oponopono means to make right and the practice helps you ‘make right’ the spirit, mind and body in relation to what happened in the past. Simple ho’oponopono practices are available online.
If you haven’t already done so, consider psychological help. Healing modalities that deal with energy disruptions in the body – like acupuncture, kinesiology, AcuEnergetics, somatic experiencing – can also be helpful for releasing stuck energies in the body which can often hinder cognitive attempts to move on.
The relationship between you and the practitioner is vitally important, so if you don’t feel completely comfortable with one practitioner, don’t give up. Try another.
Buddhism has a great deal to offer in this area and is a gentle approach, as does Radical Forgiveness – www.radicalforgiveness.com – which is a bolder approach appreciated by some.
Whichever way, consider beginning to unburden your heart by taking a step on the path of forgiveness.
Disclaimer: This Content has been developed from our generous global community and is intended for informational purposes only. This Content is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon. Further, the personal views and experiences published are expressly those of the author, and do not represent the views or endorsement of SoulAdvisor through the act of publication on our site.