We are all guilty of holding a grudge; your manager unjustly criticises your work, a friend cancels plans, your sister ruins yet another borrowed dress, your partner double books…again. But perhaps there are more significant events in your life at which you harbour resentment, anger or shame, like your partner having an affair, or a parent abusing you. Moments that cannot be easily forgotten. Actions that cannot be condoned. Relationships that cannot be reconciled.
But forgiveness does not mean you approve of the actions, nor does it imply restoring a relationship with the person who wronged you. And it certainly doesn’t mean forgetting what happened. Forgiveness is acknowledging what happened and consciously choosing to release the pain we carry and let go of the past for our own mental wellbeing.
Despite what many believe, the act of forgiving is not a weakness. It demands integrity, courage and patience. It is only through forgiveness that we can move on and find a peace within ourselves. Research has shown that a practice of forgiveness, even in the most terrible of circumstances, can reduce blood pressure, stress, anger and depression whilst increasing optimism and hope.
“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Malachy McCourt
Forgiveness is fundamentally for our own sake, for our own happiness. In clinging onto our anger we close our hearts and the only person to suffer is ourselves. We often have a belief that our anger at someone causes them to somehow suffer too. Perhaps you offer a silent treatment or constant criticism to remind them of their misdeed. All of our energy and thought is directed to the resentment and pain we feel, thinking of ways to retaliate and hurt the person back. Weeks, months and years of suffering from the past can come and go whilst the one who has betrayed us doesn’t give it a second thought. It is painful to hate. Hatred cannot cure or heal. Only through love, kindness and compassion can we find the relief in our heart.
Just as others have harmed us intentionally or mistakenly through thought, word or deed, we have all knowingly or unknowingly betrayed and hurt others. This is an inevitable part of life. In acknowledging that we are not perfect, that it’s okay and human to make mistakes, we can receive and extend forgiveness. When we reflect openly and honestly in our life we can see the suffering that has led to our action and ensure to never repeat the same mistakes. We can hold this understanding in compassion and begin to offer forgiveness to ourselves.
“Without such mercy, we will live our own life in exile”. Jack Kornfield
There is a strength to forgiving. Forgiveness acknowledges that no matter how much we may have suffered, we will not put another human being out of our heart. We recognise that we all suffer at times and equally we cause other people pain. Just with the metta compassion meditation we can offer up forgiveness for ourselves and the people in our lives.
“For the pain I have caused myself, knowingly or unknowingly, for what I have said, thought or done, for the ways I have treated myself, been cruel or punishing or the moments I blindly react because of fear, anger or confusion, I ask for forgiveness, as much as is possible in this moment. I forgive myself and hold self with a loving, caring attitude.”
“For the pain I have caused you, knowingly or unknowingly, for what I have said, thought or done, for the ways I have treated you, been cruel or punishing or the moments I blindly react because of fear, anger or confusion, I ask for your forgiveness, as much as is possible in this moment.”
“For the pain you have caused me, knowingly or unknowingly, for what you have said, thought or done, for the ways you have treated me, been cruel or punishing or the moments you blindly reacted because of fear, anger or confusion, I forgive you, as much as is possible in this moment. I forgive you and hold self with a loving, caring attitude.”
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