This is one of the most difficult topics for me to write, yet I am compelled to do so because I am bringing closure to this issue at this particular point in my life.
Forgiveness can take a long time, I will not delude you into thinking that the minute you make a decision to forgive, it will happen like magic, for it does not work that way. Yes, the first step is deciding to forgive, but that decision will simply lead you to the process of forgiveness and will not automatically make you forgive and forget. Let’s start with forgive and forget, this is absolute nonsense. Yes you can forgive but how can you realistically forget what has happened to you. You can’t and you never will. You will however remember what happened to you and look back at it without any emotional attachment or reaction, that is the greatest sign that you have fully forgiven.
Betrayal, abandonment, loss of trust, loss of faith, anger, resentment, and a myriad of other emotions are felt when one has not fully forgiven. It is a difficult and arduous process that requires personal readiness. You cannot forgive until you are ready. And there is no way on earth you can rush the process because it is a process, not one activity that will render instant results.
When someone hurts you, you feel like you are the only person on the planet going through the pain. You feel like there is a gaping wound that will never heal. You feel empty, lost, abandoned, angry, betrayed you name it — you are feeling it. Do not try to mask, negate or sweep your feelings under the rug and hope it will just disappear in time. Honor your feelings, cry all you want, curse all you want, get out into the garden and yell from the top of your lungs if you must. But you must honor those feelings for they are very real to you. Anyone who tries to tell you that you shouldn’t feel bad, steer clear from them for the time being. For if you feel the way you do it is real to you, it is your truth and your truth alone, no one has the right to tell you how you feel. No one has the right to tell you are overreacting and should just snap out of it. And absolutely no one can tell you, you did this to yourself.
First step is to completely detach from the person that has hurt you. If this is impossible because you love together try to avoid each other first or sleep in separate bedrooms. Why? Because you will just lash out, you will expect sympathy, compassion and empathy from the person that has hurt you. If the person is truly and genuinely apologetic then there is no need to detach but a high degree of self-control on your part will be needed. If you feel like lashing out, stay clear from that person for you will only add to the problem. If you expect an apology and none is offered do not demand it because apologies should be freely given and more importantly, genuinely given. If you demand it, they will simply go through the motions and this will only hurt you further. The only thing worse than a non-apology is a fake one. And remember, you are working on yourself not the other person.
So if the person that has hurt you even blames you or offers fake apologies or non at all it is best to detach. Do not expect compassion or empathy or regret from that person who has hurt you when there is none. If there is, then consider yourself lucky for the forgiving will come much easier. But when there is no remorse from the other and the other feels faultless it adds massive insult to injury. But we know by now that we can only change ourselves, each individual is responsible for his or her own growth. You are only responsible for yours and yours alone.
You will know it is the right time to forgive when you can no longer carry the burden. If your resentment and anger is weighing you down, disrupting your life or even leading you to temporary depression, you yourself will say enough is enough. Remember the person who has hurt you has either moved on or carrying no baggage at all, most likely. Maybe he or she regrets his or her actions maybe not, my point is who cares! When you don’t care anymore about revenge, about anger, about why the person doesn’t seem to care when you are hurting like hell, it is time to forgive. Believe me, you will get to that point as long as you keep loving yourself and going back to the person you want to be.
This incident merely showed you who you are not and certainly holding anger, grudges, resentment and all those other feelings are who you are not. When you are ready, you will know and if you keep on your path you will know you are ready sooner than later. You may ask why some people live their entire lives unable to forgive? The answer is simply because they are not in touch with who they really are. Because the heartbreak and disappointment for the other will heal, you either take active steps to heal it or it will eventually heal in time. Remember what is left behind are pride and ego. All of us have pride and ego. But the difference between someone who is in touch with their higher self is that you recognize that the heartache has healed and everything else is coming from pride and ego. A person who is not in touch with his or her core will be unable to tell the difference.
The difference is consciousness. While you got hurt you consciously felt the pain and allowed the pain to occur consciously because you are fully aware that there are no short cuts to forgiveness or healing. You consciously decide to heal yourself with or without the support or even the presence of the person that has hurt you. And when the emotional wounds are turned into scars you also consciously recognize that you are healed but the anger, resentment, loss of faith for the person that has hurt you is no longer coming from the heart but from the mind. The mind is the home of fear and the greatest manifestation of fear is pride and ego. Once you realize you are already coming from pride and ego, then you are truly ready to forgive.
And what exactly is forgiveness? It is certainly not forgetting, we have already established that. It is being in a state where the other’s actions, words and reactions no longer affect you emotionally. You can look back at the incident as if you are watching a drama series. You can finally look back at the incident without crying or anger. But most of all, you look back at the incident or experience and say these are the lessons I have learned and because of this experience I have grown, and because I have grown, I am one more step closer to the person I want to become and I am validating the person that I am.
If you think it is too simplistic it is because it is simple in writing, but there is nothing simplistic about going through the process. But going through the process is easier when you understand it and when you recognize the experience as a great contributor to your growth. When that happens you have fully healed and you have fully forgiven and you have fully learned.
An exercise I do in my workshops are to ask people to write a letter of forgiveness to the person that has hurt them. You may want to try it. You do not necessarily have to give it. Then write another letter asking for forgiveness for your part in it. You may have not been the cause of the incident but maybe your reactions made things worse. Or maybe you did something that made the person act out and hurt you. You had a part in this one way or another and it must be acknowledged and you too must ask the person for forgiveness, again you may just keep the letter or send it if you wish. Now, the most important letter, the third letter, this is where you write a letter of self- forgiveness. Write to yourself and forgive yourself. Finally, the last letter is a letter you write to yourself but pretend it is coming from the person that has hurt you in response to your first and second letter. This is where the magic of healing happens.
By putting yourself in the other person’s shoes you get the genuine apology you deserve and you will see the other person’s truth. Write to yourself using the other person’s language and perspective. If you can do this without anger for the person, then you have truly forgiven. If anger is still there then you will need to repeat the process more than once. But if it comes from the heart it will work. Discern if your responses are pride and ego based, if they are, simply rewrite the letter from your heart. If it is still heartbreaking then give yourself time to heal some more, be kind to yourself and do not rush the process. It simply means you are not yet ready. Do it over when you feel strong enough to do so.
Relationships exist so that we can discover who we are and so that we can learn. There are also two kinds of relationships, one that is based on fear and the other based on sacred love. You will know which one you are in because a relationship based on fear is difficult and volatile. You expect your needs and wants to be met by the other person. This is an indication that you feel you still need something outside of yourself to be happy. If you are suffering in a fear-based relationship, ask yourself where the fear is coming from? Is it from you? The other person? Or both of you?
Relationships are difficult to discuss only because it will take an entire book altogether. But to put it rather simplistically and keep the discussion focused on forgiveness, you need to decide who you are vis a vis the relationship and who you are in or vis a vis the person you are trying to forgive. Again, I remind you, how the other person takes your act of forgiveness is irrelevant at this point. You are working on yourself and only yourself, you must relinquish attachments to the results of your act of forgiveness on the other person for there is no way you can control that, so why bother?
Focus on yourself and your healing. If the person you are forgiving is still within the mind and has not yet learned to access the heart, that is not your problem. It is you that needs to access your heart and stay true to who you are. Who you are and acting from your higher self will be able to forgive from the heart because you have fully forgiven yourself. Moreover, by now, you have already realized that happiness comes from within.
Yes, the other person’s actions caused you hurt and painful heartache but you are fully aware that you can and never will be able to derive happiness from outside yourself and that includes other people including your children, not to mention your spouse, a friend, a relative, or a significant other.
Relationships that are based on sacred love are based on freedom of expression. Meaning, you are not devoid of needs in a relationship, it would be next to impossible for you to enter into a relationship wherein you expect nothing. Only the highest evolved souls do that, but we are not that highly evolved, we are simply going through a journey in order to become higher evolved souls, but we are still in the infancy stage whether we want to accept that or not. It is true that expectations ruin relationships, but how can you realistically give yourself and share your life with another completely devoid of expectations? It is impossible? What is possible is managing those expectations. How? Through freedom of expression, through the ability to voice your truths, your wants and your needs.
You may not realize it consciously but in every relationship you are telling the other person how you want to be treated. If you are in a marriage, for example, and your spouse constantly puts you down and verbally abuses you. How you react to this will determine how you will be treated. Sitting back and taking it as a martyr or just crying in one corner will only give him or her permission to do it again and I guarantee it will get worse in time. If you voice out your truth and say that you get very hurt each time he does that and you feel unloved and unvalued. His or her reaction will determine the course of your relationship. Why? Because if he or she continues to do it, then you are really not respected and valued and it may be time to let go. If changes occur then you will know you are truly loved. You may say how do I just end a lifelong relationship? The choice is yours, you either accept it or you don’t.
You and you alone decide whether or not the other person’s behavior elevates you and makes you a better person or not. Now why would you want to stay in a relationship that degrades you as a person? But ultimately the choice is yours alone to make. See, people in functional, harmonious and dynamic relationships are open to change. Freedom of expression is not responded to without judgment or with defensiveness. Your truth will always be honored by the other individual.
Just remember that when you forgive you are doing this for yourself and yourself alone. Again, there is nothing selfish about self love, you are not doing this for the other person, you are simply doing this for yourself. Why? Because it is the natural path a person takes when one honors himself or herself. And when I say honor this is not elevating yourself as a better person than the other, it simply means that you love and honor yourself and your feelings. Neale Donald Walsch explains this so very well in his “Conversations with God” trilogy. I recommend this book for everyone to read if you have not yet done so. When people come to me and I help guide them towards their spiritual awakening, this is the very first book I tell them to read. Book One of “Conversations with God” will change your life if you are open and ready for change. What Walsch is saying or rather what God is saying through Walsch is that all begins and ends with the self. Forgiveness is actually one of the most difficult life lessons we will ever go through. Some acts of forgiveness will come easy, some more difficult, it depends on how much hurt your have experienced and how much you are willing to grow from it.
Remember that life’s “disappointments” are nothing but lessons and experiences brought forth by our souls’ desire to grow. The soul is never stagnant. It craves for growth. Since we are spiritual beings living a human existence, it is our humanity or our fears that stop the growth process. It is so much easier to say, I am right and every body else is wrong. That is not love at all. The soul is pure love, there is no such thing as an ugly or evil soul. However there are very real selfish and fear based people out there. Walsch explains in his books that there are only two emotions, fear and love. One can either act out of fear or out of love, everything is about choices. So never say you do not have a choice because you always do. Inaction in a choice within itself. So ask yourself, who am I? Do I want to carry this burden with me or not. Believe me, when you act out of pure self love you will not be happy carrying the burden of hurt, resentment and anger, simply because it is absolutely contrary to who you really are. At the same time Walsch explains that feelings are the language of the soul, as such, action out of self love means honoring your feelings but you cannot attach to your feelings. What I mean to say here is that once the feeling is acknowledged then one honors them and makes a decision of what to do about those feelings. This is where the explanation becomes a bit more difficult. The reason being is that the decision needs to be made from the heart. Walsch suggests a magic formula that has worked for me when making decisions of any kind. He advises, or God advises, that you ask yourself two simple questions: Is this who I am? And Is this who I want to become? Then you know that the decision comes from the heart and not from the mind. It is the mind that houses fear, it is the heart that delivers love and actions based out of love. When you act out of fear you are acting contrary to who you are as a person, but when you act out of love you are acting and reacting from your center, from your soul, from your very being.
But remember anger is a very powerful fear based emotion and when you are already angry it is impossible to say I need to act out of love now. So when you feel the anger, detach. That is the only way I have learned to control anger. When a person has hurt you in a way that totally wounds your heart and diminishes you as a person, you need to detach when anger comes or else, take it from me, you will react on that anger and you will regret your actions later. Try to take yourself away from the situation and stay as far away from the person towards whom you are expressing anger. The reason for this is once anger takes over, you will automatically react with self-preservation, defensiveness and need to protect yourself, you will always act out of fear. Once you detach, it will give time for the anger to subside then you can act from the heart. If the person continues to egg you on because he or she is also acting out of fear, just detach before you will do something you regret. It does not matter whether the other is willing or not, on the contrary the other will continue to needle you because the act of detaching means you are surrendering and he or she will see this as power which is also fear based, by the way. So the person with whom you are having an angry discussion with will simply act out of ego and continue to rile you up. This is where self-control and discipline come in. Easier said than done, I know that all too well, but if you want to preserve the relationship you need to step aside or you may do something or he or she may do something that will damage the relationship further.
Forgiveness is an act of Grace.
When you are in a state of Grace you will be very very uncomfortable carrying the burden of hurt and pain, regardless of the cause. Why? Because it is not who your soul really is, it is not who you really are. Then and only then will you be ready to forgive. I’m speaking out of experience here, you will take two steps forward once this happens to you, because you open yourself up to the healing of the Divine within. Once you have truly forgiven yourself and the other person you will feel as though you are soaring through the clouds as light as air. Nothing is more freeing than being able to remove the debilitating effects of resentment and anger. But it can only happen once you have grown and one can only grow through experience and learning from those experiences. That is why it is often said that nothing happens by accident or coincidence in the universe. Everything happens to make us grow, evolve and learn. Life without growth is no life at all. When you have truly forgiven, it is as if you have wings to fly and in fact that is exactly what your soul feels. You have freed yourself from the bondage of fear.