A couple days ago I promised to explain how I have forgiven, effectively, and how that choice has brought me rich rewards. I stated that choosing forgiveness has had a powerful impact on my life. While I credit meditation as being the most profound action I have ever taken, forgiveness ranks a close second.
I have told the story, several times, about how I forgave my father when he was presumably on his death bed. We had not been close, ever, and I did not feel like I cared one way or another about his dying. When I opened my heart and actually forgave him, I experienced a life-changing transformation.
When we hold on to resentment it is very similar to having an addiction which feels like a huge monkey on our back. Because the burden builds up slowly we have no concept of how much weight we are carrying around. When we finally let go of that burden, it is often remarkable how much lighter we feel. The freedom experienced through the release of a long-standing resentment is nothing short of miraculous.
There are a couple of ways that I have learned to forgive. The first, as I learned with my father, is what I call empathy. I try to put myself in the mindset of the offender. When I do this, I normally discover that the other person is usually doing the very best they can. In the case of my father, I was very angry because I believed he never acted like he loved me. When I put myself in his shoes, I realized that no one had ever taught him to love, and that he had always loved to the best of his ability. My compassion for this broken child set me free. He helped me discover that my feeling of being wounded was a choice; and when I no longer chose to be a victim in the relationship, I was free to simply love, both myself and him.
My second method for forgiving others is actually very similar to the first. I come to a realization that harboring hurt, anger, or resentment is harmful to me and that it is my choice to hang-on to such grief. Since I am the one being repeatedly injured by elevating my hurt to addiction status, it is only logical that I let go of my pain. Nearly everyone has encountered some pesky splinter. The worst of these, to me, is when I get one under a fingernail. When I leave the splinter alone it hurts me every day until it finally grows out. When I do the work to release it, it hurts a little at first, but I am free of the pain much sooner. Letting go of that which has hurt me is similar to digging the splinter out so it can no longer cause me pain.
To do this I consciously feel the hurt. I sit with it and really magnify every aspect I can sense. Then, I release the original offender and remember that it is my choice whether or not to give this pain any more power. I continue doing this until I can bring the event into my awareness and feel no grief attached to it, whatsoever. Sometimes I can do this right away and sometimes it takes me days or weeks to fully let go. My will, my insistence about being right, can be very stubborn. In the end, though, I have found that it is nothing but an ego defense mechanism that insists upon holding on to the pain.
Once I am free I can look back and laugh at how silly it was to use my energy to increase and prolong the pain created by some outer event. Oftentimes, I have realized that the person who committed the offense had no intention to harm me or awareness of the pain they had caused. It was always my reaction which created the pain. Realizing this, freed me to let go.
Forgiving others is not nearly as hard as forgiving my-self. I find that the mean spirited things I say to myself, the hurtful imaginings I create in my own consciousness, are the hardest to release. I have a very active inner-critic which constantly reminds me of how worthless I am. It is autonomic. Whenever I do something that doesn’t go as planned or as desired, I hear something like, “How stupid is that Elliott?” or other such demeaning chatter. This does not come from a conscious place in my mind; it is some stored voice that I subconsciously agreed with earlier in my childhood. Instead of being able to laugh at silly goof-ups, my first voice is berating.
I have spent many years attempting to reprogram and heal this wounded voice inside of me. Nowadays I am quickly able to forgive my programming and laugh at such a ridiculous voice, but I have never fully released myself from this inner demon. Growing up I believed the mean things I heard. I aligned with them and accepted them as truth, even though they were hurtful.
Forgiveness is one of the most challenging things we must learn to do when we commit to a spiritual journey. The path inwards can be fraught with demons. This is why so many quit meditation before they make any real progress. The scars that are uncovered, the wounds that are reopened, arise simply so that we can forgive them. While the work can take time, the rewards are so amazing that it is exceptionally worthwhile.
Find a method that works for you and forgive yourself and all those who have hurt you. I promise you will feel so much lighter, so much more peaceful, you will be very grateful for investing the time and energy. Every time you forgive yourself or another you elevate the collective consciousness of the entire planet. Not only do you increase your own capacity for receiving and giving love but you help open the Sacred Heart of humanity as a whole. Whenever I think of forgiveness I am reminded of the line in A Course in Miracles which says, “The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.” Forgiveness changes everything and everyone forever.