Forgiveness of both yourself and others is good for you. Forgiveness will help you to heal by releasing the pain of self-condemnation, hatred and resentment.
You’ve probably been hurt, maybe even a lot, by many people. You’ve probably also hurt a lot of people as well. If so, your mind may be filled with bitterness and resentment towards others along with self-condemnation. These negative emotional states poison you. You will need to dissolve bitterness and resentment to fully heal.
You can’t really decide to forgive. Forgiveness is something that happens when you create the right conditions for forgiveness to occur.
Here’s what you should practice to allow for forgiveness to arise:
- Practice humility. See that you are flawed, just like everyone else. Let go of any grandiose need to be perfect. This will help you to not be so hard on yourself. Instead, nurture an authentic wish to be decent.
- Practice understanding. See that our selfish, hurtful behaviors stem from pain and ignorance. See that the neglect and abuse we suffered can condition us to be neglectful and abusive. See that all of us, including you, has a dark side not of our choosing. Everyone is driven by fear and desire that can trigger us to disregard the needs of others. See how easy it can be for you and others to be selfish and hurtful.
- Imagine yourself or the person you resent as a child. See that we all were once innocent. Reflect on the fact that no one chooses their genes, their character, their parents, or their environment growing up. See that if you were the person who hurt you, you may well have acted exactly as they did.
- Reflect on the harm you have done to others. Recognize that everyone manages their egos imperfectly. No one is invulnerable to harming others.
As you consider your harmful behavior, contemplate the role of your disease, ignorance, or situation in your actions. Your understanding will promote compassion for yourself.
As you consider others’ harmful behavior, contemplate the role of their disease, ignorance, or situation in their actions. Your understanding will promote compassion for others.
- Pray (in a way that is meaningful for you) for the person who has harmed you. Pray for yourself. This invites forgiveness.
- Give something to the person you resent. Perhaps a gift of something that they need. Pick up something for them from the store. Do something for them, like bringing in the trash cans for your neighbor. Give them a call to check in on how they are doing. It is difficult to resent someone when you are giving to them.
See that your resentment arises from unrealistic expectations of yourself and others. Accept people as they are and Reality as it is—a perfectly imperfect Universe that only seems imperfect from our limited point of view. Accept, while still holding others accountable for their actions.
See your role, if any, in the harm done to you. This practice takes some courage and meticulous honesty. How might you have put yourself in harm’s way?
Remember the sacredness of all things. All people are sacred and deserving of your utmost respect and reverence due to the mere fact of their existence, even with their evil and destructive sides. This may be difficult for you to accept. It is easier if you’re able to see your own destructiveness and if you recognize that all things and all people are perfectly imperfect and can only be as they are.
- Let go of injured pride. It was never about you in the first place. Treat others with respect and care because you are a respectful and caring person.
- See life as an opportunity for growth, liberation, and a deepening of your humility rather than focusing on whether you are being rewarded, harmed, or punished. Don’t focus on what you’re getting or not getting from others. Instead, focus on how you can become a more loving person and have more peace of mind.
- Contemplate on the fact that resentment and self-condemnation hurt you. Ask yourself if your resentments and self-condemnation bring you joy, or pain.
Forgiveness does not mean letting other people or yourself off the hook. We are all still accountable for our behavior and for the consequences of our behavior. It also does not mean that you necessarily have a relationship with someone who has harmed you. You need to protect yourself from harm even while you practice forgiveness.
Forgiveness of yourself and others heals.
Do what you can to assert and protect yourself from future harm.
Through your practice of forgiveness, may you live with a loving heart and a shield.