What does it really mean to forgive? Oxford Dictionary describes it as the following: “Stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.” When we’re wronged by another human being, it can take years, sometimes lifetimes to overcome the hurt and the pain. We hold the anger and resentment in our bodies and in turn that can trickle down into our day-to-day relationships and communications in both intimate and professional relationships. It’s a grudge we’re holding onto. And in this resentment, we hold ourselves back from life. It stops us from being the person we’re capable of being. It trickles down into our perception and attitude on life and keeps us chained in a cycle of fear. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we’re condoning the incident that harmed us; it simply means that we’re freeing ourselves from holding onto the hurt.
Oftentimes we think we have let go, we think we have really forgiven the person, but an event can trigger the whole experience. We then find that the feelings, the anger, the resentment resurface all over again, often clouding our judgement and preventing us from really viewing a situation for what it is.
Anyone in a relationship that was based on infidelity, to business transactions that are based on mistrust, to family disputes that leave long-lasting scars—all these mark us and hold us down if we hold onto to them and keep on brooding the wrong that has been done. “Why me,” we lament and end up internalizing a victim mode. Being in that mode can leave us feeling empty and stuck.
There comes a point when we begin to see patterns repeating themselves and we must reflect on the reasons why. Yes, the wrong was done, but to move forward, we need to ask ourselves: what can we learn from it? What can that teach us about ourselves? And how can I let go of my anger so that I’m not deeply seeped in it, which prevents me from repeating my patterns again? Forgiveness is also coming to terms with the truth and accepting our truth, without judgment and blame. We let go of shame, we let go of blame, we let go of fear, and instead we let love, acceptance and peace come into our heart.
Several years ago I was introduced to a movement called “The Moment of Calm,” founded by the Spiritual Head of The Sadhu Vaswani Mission, Dada J.P. Vaswani. The Moment of Calm is a global initiative for World Peace. It aims to bring calm in the hearts of people through the power of forgiveness. It occurs on August 2nd, which happens to be the birth date of Dada J.P. Vaswani. Launched in 2012, it urges everyone to observe silence for two minutes at 2 p.m. to clear their heart of misgivings and breathe out an aspiration of peace and harmony.
I participated in this event in 2012 and it was a powerful experience moreso because I was making a conscious effort to let go of what I no longer wanted to hold onto. And this simple technique stayed with me since then. I no longer have to wait until August 2nd to practice this, but instead I make it a part of my everyday spiritual practice.
I found that by practicing a simple process of observing silence and clearing my heart of any hurt that I may still be holding onto helped me develop a spirit of tolerance and understanding. Another piece of this was realizing that I couldn’t do it on my own and praying for help to a higher power. It allowed me to become more tolerant of individuals and less judgmental—not only of myself but of those that may have hurt me in the past. Tolerance bridges understanding and in doing so it allowed the letting go process to be easier.
Dada J.P. Vaswani provides some great practical tips that can be used in the process of forgiveness:
Forgive – Every night empty your mind of the little hurts and grudges you have accumulated during the day. Every night as you retire to bed, think of the people who have wronged you through the day—wronged you, harmed you, cheated you or taken undue advantage of you. Think of them all then call out their names one by one and forgive them verbally. Actually say, Mr. XYZ, I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you. Dada adds, “Do not wait for the wrongdoer to come and ask for your forgiveness. Forgive even before forgiveness is asked. Until we begin to practice forgiveness, we will be haunted by the bitterness of the past and the past will continue to repeat itself.”
Empathize – Get an empty chair in front of you. Now imagine, the person you’re angry with or the person you need to forgive sitting on the chair. Feel your emotions towards that person. Hurt, anger, hatred, bitterness, feel all the emotions towards that person. Now, swap your position, sit on the other chair and imagine yourself as that person. Contemplate how that person might feel after hearing about the deep pain or hurt or anger. You will realize that the person must have felt remorseful, disappointed about his actions upon hearing the painful emotions. After this, go back to your original position and respond to that other person. You will realize this time that the anger or bitterness has shifted and you will feel compassion for that person.
Let go – Make a mental list of all the people in your life you’re holding a grudge against, close your eyes, and visualize a negative cord of energy attaching you to that person. Next take a deep breath and see that cord being cut with both of you gently floating apart, releasing the negative energetic bind. Continue to do this until you feel you have released the experience. If you’re still struggling, write an unedited letter to the offender expressing all of your feelings. Read the letter to a trusted friend or simply aloud and then burn it someplace safe. Visualize the energetic cord being cut while you’re burning the letter and silently repeat, I am FREE. Repeat the releasing process as needed and watch what shifts in your life.
The goal is to let go and by letting go we become more loving towards ourselves and more loving and kind in our daily interactions with one another. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive, forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” A simple yet powerful statement. By making the choice to forgive the wrong that is done to you takes courage, takes strength and takes perseverance. It’s choosing to free ourselves from the chains that bind us down and live free from fear.
Read more on this topic in FORGIVING THE UNFORGIVABLE: Effective forgiveness strategies by Master Charles Cannon»