As we walk through life, we sometimes find stones in our path – or things happen to create a ditch in it. The ditches and the stones make us weary. Forgiveness is to flatten out the ground, so that our path going forward is smoother.
We often think about forgiveness in relation to another. However, whilst forgiveness helps relationships, the first to benefit is myself.
After all, whatever happened is in the past – yet we keep running that video in our minds again and again. We suffer today for something that happened, we keep re-living the pain. Our own thoughts and feelings bring the pain into the present. This pain adds a stone to our path.
Suppression does not work – we need to acknowledge, understand, and counteract the negative feelings of anger, sadness, or revenge that destroy our minds and hearts when we cling to situations that caused harm. Once we understand that, we can move on to freeing ourselves, as we are the prisoners of our own resentment.
Forgiveness leads to healthier relationships, greater psychological and spiritual wellbeing and higher self-esteem. It also brings physical benefits: less anxiety, lower blood pressure and stronger immune system. Forgiveness is a catalyst for change, and in the example of Nelson Mandela, moves us from anger to wisdom – and frees us to achieve greatness.
All religions talk about forgiveness, in their own way, as a liberating power, a strength, a way to elevate the spirit and an act of kindness. It is a way for the spirit to grow and be free from burden. There is no better investment of time and effort than to free your hearts to love.
First, we need to forgive ourselves – even for holding on to the grudge or for the guilt we might feel for being part of that situation. “I did the best I could with the resources I had at that time”. Then, establish a positive dialogue with the self: “forgiving the past would free myself for newness, for what life has to offer me”. Then we can cultivate a positive nature: practice meditation, gratitude, attention to the quality of my thoughts and feelings. And practice forgiveness on a daily basis: forgiving small mistakes (e.g. someone who steps on your foot in the subway) helps us to develop a big heart and practice generosity, understanding … and increase our capacity for forgiveness.
Then, I can reframe what happened. Instead of Instead of seeing “what they did to me”, look back and ask, “did they help me in some way”? Did something good come out of it? Could something good come out of it now?
As I define myself away from the pain and reframe the situation, I am able to forgive the people involved, to change our vision of them and to even (perhaps) be grateful for the learning. Every day, before going to bed, forgive yourself and others for whatever happened in that day and leave the past behind. Meditate on a life free from sorrow, and filled with peace and love. Self-forgiveness is tied in forgiving others, so it is important to exercise forgiveness to the self as well.
Forgiveness means allowing everyone to progress. I do not hold the mistakes of others in my heart. I interact with each person, each time, with the possibility that they might have changed. I nourish this vision of hope, benevolence and good wishes. It indeed helps others to change – and it helps me to be happy, open to the new and attentive to the “miracles” that can happen when we feel light and free.