Over the weekend an old acquaintance I hadn’t seen in years directed some very hurt feelings towards me. It truly took me aback and made me feel confused and bad about myself. I don’t know what she was upset about, but I do believe it had more to do with her than me. It’s been hard not to relive those moments in my head and feel distressed. I’ve found this to be a good time to practice forgiveness.
In these kinds of situations, it’s really easy to hold onto the pain and to judge the person sending out negativity. It was my first, knee-jerk response. Withdrawing and protecting myself is how I got by in life when people were harsh towards me as a child and teen. Now, as an adult, I’m working on that most difficult of dictums – bless those who curse you.
When people lash out in pain, they are hurting. They need love. They need some kind of help and they have nowhere else to get it. As Conversations with God says, “All attack is a cry for help.” I believe that this woman was crying out for help. It’s so much easier to judge her and close the door on her. It’s been harder and more healing to see past her pain by blessing her – by not taking her attack personally and sending her love. I doubt I’ll see her again anytime in the near future, but by forgiving her and sending her love, I free myself and her.
Some days I find myself overtaken by difficult memories of the past. I remember things I wish I would not have done, or things I wish I would not have said. It can be painful to recall those moments, and too easy to dwell on them. Here are some techniques I work on to let those old memories go.
Thought-stopping – When I notice that I am dwelling on these past moments too much, I catch myself and actively replace those thoughts with a positive thought or a thought that brings peace. Or I will notice I’m dwelling on these past moments and stop myself by taking a deep breath and saying a mantra like “I love myself.” This takes a lot of effort and, honestly, I am not very good at doing this, but I work on it.
Healing the Past – When a past moment is sitting too heavily in me, I will spend time visualizing the past moment and reliving it with love. I practice opening my heart in that moment and pray that any harm that came out of my actions or words will be mollified. This practice has been really helpful and beneficial to me.
Making Amends – When I know something I’ve said or done has been hurtful to another, I reach out to them and ask for forgiveness. This is similar to the fifth step in the Twelve Steps. I was in high school the first time I made amends in this way. I apologized to a girl my friends and I were mean to in fourth grade. We used to run away from her and hide from her. There was no rhyme or reason to it. As I got older, I realized how awful this was, especially once I was bullied in middle school. I ran into her one day and told her how sorry I was for what we had done to her. It took a bit of courage, but was easier to do than I expected, and I hope it helped both of us heal. I’ve done that in other ways since, but I will always remember the first time I apologized for hurting someone.
Connecting to Love – The best way to forgive yourself is to connect to God’s love, the Big Love in your heart. When you sit in silence and feel God’s love cover you completely, you are already forgiven. It is that easy. God loves you for who you are, and you can return to God’s love at any time.
It’s ok to let go of the past. We are all here to learn and grow and heal, and we are all still learning. You can forgive yourself for what you did in error, before you knew a different way. We all make mistakes. Make amends to those you may have harmed. Become the person you know you are.
What is forgiveness? For years I read and talked about forgiveness, but never understood what it meant. Sometimes, even thinking about forgiveness made me mad! It’s not fair to be hurt and feel in pain, and well-meaning quotes like “forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it” only made me more confused and angry.
Even though people spoke to me about the importance of forgiveness, it took years for me to understand it, as well as a lot of healing, therapy, alternative healing, and prayer. Eventually, I realized that to forgive I just needed to let love back into the parts of my heart that had been wounded. I had to learn to stop thinking about all the things that had hurt me, and get back in touch with myself and the love that always lived in my heart.
I think about Jesus on the cross forgiving those who crucified him. That’s such a powerful act. Jesus knew his relationship to God, and knew all the love he was – and nothing anyone did, even killing him, could change that. He forgave them because they didn’t know what they were doing.
On a smaller (much smaller) scale, I have learned to forgive people who didn’t mean to hurt me – even people who have hurt me deeply. They did not know what they were doing. They were merely acting out their own scripts and dramas. Their actions do not reflect on me, and do not change the love I am and was born to be. It really does have less to do with the other person, and everything to do with me.
“Forgive and Live” has been a mantra I say to myself to remind myself of how important it is to forgive. Forgiving frees me to live the life I was born to live.