I consider forgiveness one of the most powerful and spiritual things we have the ability to do as humans. Yet it’s often misused and misunderstood.
First let me address the misuse – or rather the idea of moving into forgiveness too early. An important part of the healing journey is to express and release the feelings we stuffed inside. Usually, when a painful event happened in our past we had to go into survival mode and couldn’t express what we needed to in a healthy way. Even if we did express our feelings, chances are it usually wasn’t greeted with compassion.
For example, let’s say you were abandoned or abused as a child or young adult. You may not have had an emotionally mature or capable adult around to hold a space of compassion for you and tell you that you didn’t do anything wrong. So, it’s important that as an adult you feel and express those feelings in a healthy way. Because I know from my own personal experience how important it is to feel the feelings that are attached to the painful experiences in our past.
I teach about this in detail in my one-on-one coaching program.
In the personal development space, I see a lot of to “forgive” as a spiritual practice. But if we jump to forgiveness too quickly without first acknowledging and expressing any anger, sadness, or shame inside, we’re indulging in spiritual bypass. This means we’re attempting to forgive something in our mind without first moving it through our emotional body. If we don’t do this, we won’t experience the true freedom that comes from forgiveness.
Once you move through and release pent up emotions, then you can truly tap into the transformative power of forgiveness. Thru forgiving others and ourselves, we become free from resentment, blame and old hurts that are obstacles to our well-being and success. This is when forgiveness also truly becomes a spiritual practice because it requires that we look at certain situations in our life without judgment. That we stop seeing things as good, bad, right or wrong and instead see everything with neutrality.
I understand that this is easier said than done … which brings me to breaking down some of the misunderstanding around forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t an easy concept since we’ve been conditioned to live a little too much in victimhood. We often get into the habit of blaming someone else, ourselves, or a combination of both, for the challenging events where we felt hurt or harmed.
Our egos get really attached to being right, which often perpetuates blame, resentment, and holding on to grudges. We resist forgiving because we believe we were wronged and think we need to hold on to our judgments of a person or situation to feel justified. What is key to understand about forgiveness is that it’s not about letting someone else off the hook — it’s about setting you free. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we’re agreeing with or condoning what happened.
Forgiveness does mean we’re letting go of the judgments and pain we’ve been holding inside. What happened, happened. You can continue to blame and be angry and think you were wronged but honestly your life is not going to be as good as it could be because hanging onto all that stuff takes up a lot of energy and keeps you at a lower vibration.
And from what I’ve learned from my own experiences, and coaching so many people, is that often the people that we perceived wronged or hurt us the most are our biggest spiritual teachers and catalysts for growth. Think about it, hasn’t a painful situation been a huge reason why you’re on this path of growth?
Can you change your perception of a situation you’ve deemed unforgivable and see it as something your soul chose for you to experience to grow in a certain way?
Now I know you may be thinking…why would my soul have chosen to be abused or betrayed? The best answer I can give you is for YOU to ask your inner guidance that question. I suspect if you get really quiet and listen inside, you will arrive at an answer.
Also, when it comes to forgiving someone else, it’s not something that has to be done face-to-face with anyone. Forgiveness is an inside job.
I invite you to set yourself free by seeing the people in your life, including those you judged as harming you, from a more spiritual, less judgmental perspective. Be willing to see their life curriculum and know that they’ve experienced things that have been painful. Their own pain and unresolved issues have triggered behavior that may have been the source of yours. People who seemingly harm others are coming from a place of profound disconnection. Everyone is truly doing the best they can. Even if you feel passionately that they knew better or could do better, it’s unreasonable to expect people to act the way we would have acted in a similar situation.
To experience the liberation and transformation that comes from forgiving, we must be willing to drop our expectations of others and forgive them for any suffering we have accused them of causing. Be a seeker rather than a victim by seeing their pain and having compassion for their human experience rather than holding on to pain and blame. And just a reminder here…you do this, with self-compassion, AFTER you move through the hurt feelings.
And finally, I want to speak to the person who is often hardest to forgive: yourself. When we’re plagued by regret, we buy into the misunderstanding that if we forgive ourselves, we may be letting ourselves off the hook. Or that we won’t learn the lesson we need to learn. This could not be further from the truth. We all make so-called mistakes. The process of forgiveness recognizes that we are all humans doing the best we can at any moment in spite of the fact that our performance falls short of our expectations. Please release the expectation that you are supposed to get it “right” all the time, be kind to yourself and drop the shoulda/coulda/woulda’s.
If you continue to beat yourself up, forgiveness isn’t possible because you cannot transform when you’re still harboring judgments.
Remember, we choose our inner response to everything in our life and holding on to all that anger and harboring resentment against yourself or others offers no relief from our pain. You deserve to be free – it’s time to let go through forgiveness. And if you feel really stuck, I highly recommend joining me in my one-on-one coaching program. You can learn more about that by going towww.karenmcguirecoaching/breakthrough.