Forgiveness is not about rationalising or intellectualising, it is about a change in our feelings. It is about ‘me,’ the other people involved and the situation. Until there is this change in our feelings nothing really shifts.
In today’s society we learn to cut our heart (conscience) off from our heads; we repress and deny our feelings. Eventually we find that either we hit a brick wall or ‘fate’ presents itself. Here ‘fate’ is in fact ‘ourselves’ trying to get our attention, when we have buried something deep inside that we are unconscious of it until it presents itself to us as fate. Prior to this there would have been many smaller signals – only we will have ignored them as we know to face it will be painful. ‘Fate’ in this sense is the voice of our conscience wanting us to see what we need to change so that we may be free and happy once again. This is the part of the soul that is deeply truthful seeking to open up the door to truth.
The first thing that traps us in sorrow is the ‘I’ of ego. As we become more orientated around this ‘I’ the sorrow we take increases. Here anger is born, this either manifests externally (as revenge for example) or we internalise it (we beat ourselves up and tell ourselves that we are no good.) We get so used to living like this that we think that this is ‘how it is’, or we would be apart from those occasional glimpses of something more- of real happiness.
Whatever the situation we are presented with, the loss of a job or house; relationship breakdown; physical illness, all these situations cause a fundamental breakdown in ‘I’ and this can be very painful. The question they pose to us is the same: What do I need to look at, learn, change here?
First is the desire for change, and the first act of seeking forgiveness is to say ‘I’m sorry’ – whether to another or myself. This ‘sorry’ comes from a deep place within; it is a seeking of forgiveness and a knowing that you no longer want to continue in this way, that you want to change.
Imagine your current situation. Allow it to surface on the screen of your mind. Now watch and observe yourself in this situation as if you were watching someone else- not yourself. See their thoughts and behaviour. What is that person deeply looking for? Needing?
There is also a need to de-sensitise the ego. We need to step back and begin to put things in perspective. When something happens we need to be able to objectively revisit it, preferably with someone safe, to take the emotion out of it. To do this we first need to come into a space where we feel safe, otherwise it will be too painful to go back.
A safe place and someone safe: this is where God can come in. Allowing a Higher Being to enter our lives and to receive His support heals the soul and makes it whole again. All relationships are a give-take – they have their conditions, limitations, bondages. God is unconditional and a connection with God heals. We touch something very pure and that has no expectations (we don’t feel that we have to give anything back). This allows our heart and attitude to soften and we become more fluid inside. We no longer feel that we need to defend or prove ourselves, and we come to see how everything that comes to us in life comes for our own benefit and to help us heal and grow. This relationship can heal all relationships. When we allow this energy into our life and let it be our support and backbone we heal and begin to feel good about ourselves again. All it takes is wanting to change – this is enough to allow God and life to respond, to present me with an opportunity to be able to receive from God.
Also, we need to begin to reflect deeply on the self; to take that first step of courage to look inside. What do you deeply need / want? Once we can identify this we can fill ourselves with that and clean out the old feelings. Then feelings of mercy awaken within the self and it is these feelings that bring healing. Mercy is higher than compassion, besides empathising it also is the giving of benevolence. When we have experienced a lot of pain we close doors. Mercy opens doors, deepens our listening, and changes our awareness. Gratitude emerges and gratitude strengthens us spiritually.
A person was very badly injured in an attack, for two months after the attack they felt very angry. Then an ‘elder’ came to see them and suggested they begin to write down 10 things a day that they were grateful for. They decided to give it a go and slowly found that things really did begin to change. They became stronger and this enabled them to re-visit the incident (with professional help) until eventually they could go back without the emotion coming back too. Three months later they found that they had accumulated enough gratitude to let go and move on.
Bringing closure. The circle of pain begins with a single act or behaviour that caused me to take sorrow. An act of kindness and mercy closes the circle. This isn’t necessarily about going out and fixing things. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all – just become full of love and good wishes and to sustain these feelings within the self. Life then presents us with a situation to bring closure. Often the greatest service we can do is just be there – to support. People want hope, peace, belonging… if I can fill this in me I can become a candle flame that sparks the same feelings in others. This is change at a very deep and quiet level.
- Hard to let go? It is because we are saying goodbye to a very old part of our self and entering into new territory.
- Something keeps repeating / we keep recalling a situation? Often this is because we haven’t learnt the lesson / we lack the spiritual power to let go. An example: there is a situation and I ask myself: What lesson is there in this for me? Humility? Self-respect? Love? Acceptance? Whatever it is focus on that – research into it, ask others about it… By focusing on that quality it automatically grows within us and then we find that the original situation becomes irrelevant to us. ‘What do I need to learn?’ is often synonymous with ‘What do I need to give?’ Situations often come because they bring out in us a deeply buried quality.
- Saying sorry? When we say sorry it needs to be accompanied by a commitment to having a greater accountability for ourself / our behaviour. Make yourself accountable to your own goodness and accompany this with a deep and determined thought that you are not going to do that again. When we do this something dissolves and you know that you wont do it again. Making ourselves accountable builds our muscle to change.
- Can’t forget? Expecting the same to happen again? Here we have noted another’s shortcomings and this has become the basis on how we relate to them. Re-contextualise them, note at least one good quality about them and decide to see the best and draw the best out of them.
- Forgiven but not forgotten? It maybe that what we need to do is to forgive ourselves too. We need to also forgive ourselves for having created our pain. Forgiveness re-wires us, otherwise the old patterns just keep re-emerging. New situations activate the old wiring. Here, it is often a case of not engaging, but of re-focusing instead on what you want to create and build. Feed this and not the past and then we find we can apply a full stop to past. Forgiveness liberates us, frees us and what mattered before just doesn’t matter anymore.