For those who are curious but sceptical about the reason and benefits
If you’ve been moving down the personal development path, you have probably come across teachings that promote forgiveness as a powerful tool for healing and stepping into our full potential.
This is where many of us can switch off and even get angry. Especially when we’ve been deeply hurt, wronged or experienced abuse. And this is completely understandable, especially in our fast-paced, social media cultures where information is created in quotes and sound bites that can’t touch upon the depth and nuance that this topic deserves.
But as you’re here reading this post, I’m guessing you’re wanting to understand and possibly practice what this ‘forgiveness’ thing is all about.
In order to access the power that is available to you through this practice, it’s very important that you truly know the following before moving forward:
forgiveness simply means acceptance
Accepting what happened, accepting who someone really is (not who we think they could be), accepting that everyone has different experiences and capacities to heal, and – where appropriate – accepting our role in the co-creation of our life and relationships.
It's not about letting anyone 'off the hook', but releasing the power a person or event has over us. It's about reclaiming (NOT giving away) our ability to choose, protect ourselves and stand in our truth no matter what or who may try to push our boundaries. And yes, this includes our own self-sabotage!
It's only from this state of acceptance can we shift our focus from trying to understand or change the past, and instead feel empowered to build what we most desire for ourselves now, moving forward.
Forgiveness doesn’t require reconciliation
Accepting someone for who they are doesn’t mean that you have to keep them in your life. It doesn’t require a conversation, an apology or any attempt to ‘start fresh’ with each other. Unless of course you want to, and it feels safe and empowering to do so.
But the reality is, these kinds of breakthrough conversations or moments aren’t always available, and people rarely say what we want them to say. In other words, attempts to do so can sometimes cause more disappointment.
Believing we need these things also keeps us beholden to someone else, trapped in the lie that we need the other person to release us before we are able to move forward.
Our ability to accept and release our pain isn’t dependent on getting permission from anybody else. It’s something we can (and must!) do for ourselves.
So how do you begin? How can you start to welcome the energy of forgiveness into your heart? Here’s 7 ways to get started…
Explore your beliefs abour forgiveness
This is a great place to start. Write out all of your reservations about this practice, and then write out all of the reasons you want to try it. This is helpful for cleansing or neutralising all of the judgements, while also connecting to all the amazing things that might be possible if you give it a try.
Consider who you would be without this burden
Resentment or any other active bad feeling towards someone else is heavy to hold and draining to maintain. It also doesn’t help anyone – let alone yourself. Considering who would be without this burden isn’t about imagining who you would hypothetically be if the past didn’t happen. That is magical thinking. It’s about grounding in today’s reality, and thinking about how your experience of life would improve if you were able to let go of the hurt.
Recognise opportunities for growth and healing
Remember, forgiveness is about reclaiming your own power not about downplaying the impact of what you have experienced. When we really keep our two feet firmly in this truth, we can recognise all the exciting opportunities to grow and expand, even when it's challenging.
STEP into your adult self (while looking after your ‘inner child’)
Today is a new day, and you’re not the same person you were in the past, or possibly even yesterday! When we feel triggered, in the depths of judgement or any other narrative where we’re feeling powerless and out of control, consider if you’re really in the driver’s seat. Or is it your hurt ‘inner child’ that’s lashing out from fear or hurt? Do what you can to tend to your inner ‘children’, show them love, make them feel safe, then get back into your adult self and assure them that ‘you’ve got this’.
Be compassionate with yourself
No surprises here, but all forgiveness practices require you to forgive yourself! This means letting go of all the ways you feel you’ve neglected yourself, made bad choices or reacted in ways you later regretted. Guess what, you’re human! And we are always doing the best we can in any moment. So focus on the now, and do what needs doing to help you move forward with love and empathy.
Let go of perfectionism
Forgiveness and acceptance doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s certainly not a linear learning. Sometimes you will ‘fail’ to practise it, and that’s more than OK. Keep going, and be sure not to berate yourself for the challenges that come. This practice is hard, but only gets easier with time and commitment.
Try out some rituals!
Rituals are a powerful way to create a deeper connection to a practice. You could try things like writing letters you never send, journalling out your anger then burning the paper, meditating to a special ‘forgiveness candle’ or repeating self-loving affirmations as part of your morning ritual such as “I welcome love and acceptance into my heart” or “I release attachment to the past.”
I hope this post and these 7 steps offer you some accessible opportunities to prioritise your inner peace and reclaim your power in an exciting new way.
This post was inspired by a talk on Clubhouse which I hosted together with career coach Sabina Haas and psychologist Doris Maybach. You can join us every second Wednesday at 08:00 am Zurich time in our club 'Gutes Leben und Arbeiten'.