I received this article in an e-mail today from OM Magazine. I thought it might help some clients to let go of “stuff” from the past.
Forgiveness is Power
By William Fergus Martin
Forgiveness: are you as forgiving as you would like to be? If not, then this probably means that something is blocking your natural ability to forgive. We all want the freedom, peace of mind and happiness that forgiveness brings. Yet it is one thing to want to forgive; it is another to really be able to do it.
We may tell ourselves that we “should” forgive. Yet, that just seems to add to our burden and does not help. Trying to push, bully or cajole ourselves into forgiving gets us nowhere and may push us into false forgiveness, which does not bring the sense of completion and resolution that genuine forgiveness brings. In fact false forgiveness can keep us locked into painful situations, abusive relationships, unworkable partnerships, etc, rather than giving us the wherewithal to free ourselves from them.
Forgiveness may be part of the religious teaching we grow up with or still adhere too. Yet, most religious teachings seem to tell us that we “should” forgive, but say very little – if anything – about how to actually do it.
We can end up feeling a niggling, or even achingly painful, sense of guilt that we are not the person we would like to be as we store up old resentments and don’t know how to release them and set ourselves free. The idea of forgiveness is then feeding our sense of guilt rather than liberating us from it as intended.
If we look at why we have not forgiven a particular person or situation we might find that we are afraid to do so. We may be worried that we will place ourselves in harm’s way again if we forgive. We might feel that whoever hurt us will then just hurt us again in the same way. Unless we see any real evidence of change in that person common sense tells us that is not only possible, but also very likely that they will just do the same again. How then can we forgive them? What is called for in those situations is tough forgiveness. Tough forgiveness is where we forgive the person, but put clear boundaries or conditions around how we reconcile with them. We want to forgive them, but we have the right to see some sign that they have changed before we establish a relationship with them.
If they are a habitual criminal, unrepentant abuser or in denial of wrongdoing we can forgive them, but decide to have no more to do with them. In fact that decision makes it easier to forgive, as we no longer need to hold ourselves back from forgiving them out of fear.
How then can we forgive? What do we do? How do we go about it?
It is easier to do something if we are clear about what it is we are actually doing. What do we do when we forgive? When we forgive we are letting go of the desire to punish. It is as simple and profound as that. Holding on to the desire to punish is painful – often more painful than the original hurt. We hold on to pain to remind us to “not let that happen again” – as if pain were some kind of fridge magnet. When we forgive the pain goes away.
Forgiveness is different to reconciliation as that means that we are re-establishing or maintaining a relationship. Forgiveness and reconciliation often go together, but not always. It is the assumption that they must go together that often blocks us from forgiving. The fear of being further abused or harmed will block us if we feel we must reconcile with someone who hurt us and is likely to do so again. What sane person wants to get back into a situation where they are very likely to get hurt again? That is foolishness not forgiveness. Once we realize that we do not have to reconcile with them, or that we can engage in tough forgiveness if we do want to reconcile but want to protect ourselves, then we have much more room to maneuver and can more freely forgive.
In order to forgive we need a technique or method, which allows us to do so. Yet, this method needs to respect the legitimate needs of the parts of us that may not want to forgive – at least not yet – and helps them get onboard too. Here is one way to do it.
The Four Steps to Forgiveness:
The Four Steps to Forgiveness includes not only our higher impulses in wanting to forgive but also includes our current gut feelings about the event. By having a step where we focus on the benefits we gain from forgiving we create a bridge between our ideals and our gut feelings and allow any gap between them to be resolved as part of the act of forgiveness.
It is best to do the Four Steps in writing till you get some experience.
Step 1: State whom you need to forgive and what for.
Step 2: Acknowledge how you currently feel about the situation. This is best if it is your honest gut feelings, not the nice, polite or politically correct version.
Step 3: State the benefits you will get from forgiving. These will mainly be the opposite of what you are currently feeling. Sadness will become happiness, anger will become peace and heaviness will become a feeling of lightness and so on. If you are not sure about the benefits just choose a few general good feelings which you would like to have for now, happier, more at ease, more confident etc.
Step 4: Commit yourself to forgiving. This is simply stating whom you intend to forgive and the acknowledging the benefits that come from forgiving.
Typical you will end up with Four Steps, which looks something like this:
Imagine your friend John has started avoiding you and you cannot find out why. Write out the steps then say them (out loud or silently in your mind) till you feel some relief. Experiment and play around with the steps to see what works best for you.
1. I am willing to forgive John for avoiding me.
2. I now choose to release my feelings of sadness, anger and fear. You can choose to do additional emotional release later if you need to.
3. I acknowledge that forgiving John benefits me, as I will feel happier, healthier and more peaceful.
4. I commit myself to forgiving John and I accept the peace and freedom which forgiveness brings.
In this example someone’s girlfriend, Janet, ended the relationship.
1. I am willing to forgive Janet for leaving me.
2. I now choose to release my feelings of regret, abandonment and fear.
3. I acknowledge that forgiving Janet benefits me, as I will feel clearer, happier, and more able to create better relationships in the future.
4. I commit myself to forgiving Janet and I accept the peace and freedom which forgiveness brings.
If you know someone who can benefit from the Four Steps to Forgiveness the details of what it is and how to use it are freely available here: http://forgiveness-is-power.com/4steps-forgiveness/
To learn more or to purchase the book, click the book cover or visit FindhornPress.com
About the Author
William Martin has been involved with the Findhorn community in different roles for over 30 years. He also worked within the computer field as a Freelance IT Contractor to BT, and Apple Computer UK. Additionally, he developed and delivered courses, which combined Computer Training with Personal Development. Community living offers many opportunities for Forgiveness, and William champions an open and secular approach that can support many more people in everyday life, regardless of faith or philosophy.