Forgiveness is an essential part of your spiritual growth and a necessary tool to cleanse karma. It is the key that unlocks the heart and the door to the body of love. If you cannot forgive, you will never be able to truly love. You have karmic connections to everyone in your life past and present—this connection is like a fine thread, which may become dark and filled with blockages of anger and resentment.
By not forgiving, you give your personal power to another person and create a prison of anger and resentment around yourself. When you forgive, the blockages disappear, and the thread turns to pure light. As M.L. Stedman said, “You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.” If you don’t forgive, you are the one who suffers, allowing the other person to hurt you over and over again.
There are essentially three types of forgiveness (sometimes all three are involved in the same situation):
- Forgiving others for a hurt you perceive they have caused you.
- Asking others to forgive you for a hurt you perceive you have caused them.
- Forgiving yourself for a hurt you perceive you have caused yourself.
The word perceive is important here as sometimes the idea of the “hurt” might be different to different people.
Regardless of the situation, here are 13 steps to follow in the forgiveness process:
The first step in forgiving is to take responsibility for your emotions—not necessarily responsibility for the situation, but how it made you feel. Emotions are a choice. To forgive, you must recognize that it is your emotion and stop blaming others for how you choose to feel. Pain is real, but suffering is a choice.
Whatever happened, happened. You cannot change the past. Accepting what happened allows you to move from the past to the present. Healing happens in the present. This doesn’t mean you have to forget what happened, but dwelling on it or wishing it had been different doesn’t serve you. Accept it, learn from it, and begin creating the future you deserve.
So many people hold onto anger and animosity toward someone who has been dead for years, or one group of people is hostile toward another for something their ancestors did generations ago. This can end up being a waste of time and energy that could be used elsewhere.
One of the most important parts of forgiveness is to separate the person from the act. There are many acts which can never be forgiven: murder, rape, child abuse, etc. However, you can always forgive the person who committed the act. Focus your forgiveness on the person, not what was done by the person.
Whatever emotions you are still feeling—anger, sadness, fear, guilt—are the stress and toxicity locked into your physiology, diminishing your quality of life. Take some time to be quiet, be aware of the emotion mentally, and then feel it physically in your body. It will show up as some pain, tightness, or other discomfort. Now, do something physical to release the sensation. This could be jumping, running, shouting, or breathing forcefully. Whatever you do should require some effort. Imagine you are forcing that sensation out of your body.
Next, see if you can begin to understand why this person might have done what was done—what was going on in that person’s life at the time. Maybe put yourself in that person’s shoes and ask yourself, “What would it have taken for me to do that? How much pain and suffering or distorted thinking would I have had to be experiencing to do that?” Remember, everyone, including you, is doing the best they can from their level of awareness, no matter how confused that might have been at the time.
Karma is a complex subject and sometimes hard to accept. From a Vedic perspective, everything is the result of karma, so whatever has happened to you was the result of some previous act of yours. Consider, therefore, that the person who you feel hurt you was creating future karma for him/herself, but was also the postman delivering your karma.
Every experience or situation holds the gift of an opportunity for growth. If you view life as problems, you miss these gifts. No matter how dark the experience might have seemed, look for the opportunity. Your spiritual strength and awareness comes from seeing the opportunities.
Meditation is a powerful tool that can help you in the process of forgiving. A silent meditation, such as Primordial Sound Meditation, takes you beyond the mind, beyond thought. It allows you to naturally release the blockages that are causing your suffering.
A lack of forgiveness creates limitations in your life. Meditation allows you to look beyond the problem and opens you to the realm of Infinite Possibilities. Meditation brings clarity of thinking and opens your heart, bringing compassion and understanding. Guided meditations, such as the one at the bottom of this article, can also help you forgive.
Although Stedman said you only need to forgive once, sometimes there are several layers to forgiveness. As you peel off one layer, another is exposed. No one says peeling back each layer is easy, but it is necessary and the rewards are well worth any effort. Remember, forgiveness is all about you. Even though it may sound selfish, it’s necessary for you to reach a place of comfort within yourself before you can help anyone else. Keep digging until you find that peace.
Forgive and (Maybe) Forget
If you can forgive and forget, that’s great. However, this isn’t necessary. If someone has harmed you, forgiving doesn’t mean you have to spend the rest of your life with them. If the person committed a crime, forgiving doesn’t necessarily mean he or she should not be legally punished. Forgive, but use your common sense. Learn from the experience.
If the situation involved another person close to you, sharing your feelings and allowing the other person to share his or her feelings can create a strong meaningful relationship moving forward. However, only do this if both of you are ready.
Writing a letter to the other party, expressing your feelings and addressing forgiveness can also be a useful tool when a face-to-face dialogue isn’t possible. There’s sometimes no need to even send the letter; it can just be for your benefit.
Like so many other things in your life, the best approach is prevention. If you live your life consciously aware of your choices, hopefully you’ll avoid situations that could be hurtful. If you do find yourself in such a situation, the sooner you can process your emotions, the less you’ll have to forgive in the future. The process of forgiving in the moment or forgiving something from the past is essentially the same process.
As previously mentioned, forgiveness often has many layers, but you’ll know you have truly and fully forgiven something or someone when you can face it with no emotional charge. Processing any emotion isn’t comfortable, which is why you often keep putting it off, but it is worth it. When you do forgive, reward yourself. Enjoy the lightness, empowerment, and the freedom forgiveness brings.
Meditation for Forgiveness
If you’re in need of forgiveness, follow this meditation:
- Close or open your eyes, whichever is more comfortable.
- Think of all those you may need to forgive for hurting you: Can you forgive them?
- Think of those you have hurt: Can you ask for forgiveness?
- Reflect on the fact that everyone, including you, is always doing the best they can in any moment: Are you holding onto guilt? Can you forgive yourself?
- Choose one person you need to forgive: What emotions are you feeling? Where are you feeling them in your body? Is there discomfort there? Breathe deeply into that area of your body. Allow your breath to begin untying the knots.
- Bring your awareness into your heart. Be aware of your own ability for love and compassion.
- Breathe in Love. Fill yourself with Pure Love.
- For now, put aside what was done and see the person as a small baby—see their purity and their innocence.
- Bring this baby into your heart. Hold this baby in your Love. Can you forgive this innocent child?
- Try to understand what might have happened to make the person behave the way they did.
- Forgive and free yourself.
- Imagine what your life will be like when you have forgiven everyone, including yourself.
- Be grateful for the miracle of your life.
- Be grateful for everyone in your life.
- Take a few deep breaths.
- When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes.