We all have been hurt. All of us have at least once felt the bitter knife of betrayal in our backs. Feeling pain and even suffering from betrayal are parts of life though. It may be necessary for us to grow. But it is difficult. When we have been hurt by someone, it can be exceptionally hard to find forgiveness within ourselves.
Yes, there are times when forgiving comes easier to us. And then there are times when it can take days, months, or years. And yes, some offenses are easier to forgive, like for example the person who cut us off in the parking lot today or the friend who accidentally confused the time you were supposed to meet. But there are also other things that are not as easy and which involve a complex emotional turmoil like such as sexual abuse, you have been cheated on by your spouse, or other violent acts that have been done to you.
Although it might be particularly hard to forgive such offenses, holding on to the resentment and bitterness can seriously impair your mental and physical wellbeing. It not only triggers stress, but it also increases blood pressure, and makes you physically ill. As a result, not overcoming the grudge that you hold can make you feel even worse than you already do. Forgiveness can help you to liberate yourself of the pain and take back control over your life. By forgiving others, or even yourself, you are no longer the victim. You are able to take responsibility for your own actions and as a consequence free yourself from the hold the other person has on you. It is a crucial step towards finding inner peace and happiness. And most importantly, mindfulness can help you achieve that.
What is Forgiveness?
First and foremost forgiveness is a complex emotional process. A process that might have to be revisited over and over throughout the course of your life. Forgiving is about recognizing your own pain. Acknowledging your feelings towards an offense, a betrayal, or a wrongdoing, but not letting yourself be defined by it. It is moving on from the past instead of holding on to bitterness and anger. Most of all, forgiveness is a conscious decision to let go of that resentment and thoughts of revenge. By doing so, we intentionally decide to improve our wellbeing and take charge of our own life again. And in the process we learn to develop genuine compassion towards others, especially people who have wronged us.
However, forgiveness is not diminishing the seriousness of an offense that has been done to you. It is not excusing or approving actions that have been taken. Furthermore, forgiving does not mean that you will have to make up with that person or pretend like the wrongdoing has never happened. In some cases there cannot be “forgive and forget”. The hurt might still be there. You just lessen the severity of it by liberating yourself.
Forgiveness is more about healing wounds that have been inflicted accidentally or intentionally. It is about finding the strength within you in order to let go of the hurt and take the path towards inner peace and contempt. So that in the end, you can be free of the anger and all its destructive powers.
Forgiveness can have a variety of benefits on your overall health. It can:
- create healthier and more fulfilling relationships
- improve your mental health
- lower your blood pressure
- increase your self-worth and self-confidence
- lessen anxiety, stress, and anger
Forgiveness and Mindfulness
To understand why forgiveness and mindfulness are so closely connected, we should look at the nature of mindfulness first. What is mindfulness in its essence?
First of all, mindfulness is really a state of being in which you practice self-awareness. It is the quality of being conscious of something. Furthermore, mindfulness will bring awareness to the present moment. The pain of the past and the worries of the future are not the focus. It is about accepting feelings and thoughts just the way they are right in this exact moment.
Moreover, mindfulness disconnects from the notion of there being a right or wrong way of feeling or thinking. Self-acceptance and accepting others for who they are with their own thoughts and feelings are at the heart of being mindful. Everyone has a different story, a different background, that made them into the person they are today. Knowing that, we can focus on the moment by acknowledging and recognizing things as they are (not as they were or will be).
What are the benefits of practicing mindfulness?
Mindfulness creates space for a variety of benefits that contribute to your mental and physical wellbeing. It
- creates a space for positive thoughts and feelings
- reduces stress and negative emotions
- increases empathy and compassion
- improves relationships
- can enhance your focus
- improves your self-esteem
- improves your mental health
Why can mindfulness help us to forgive?
Taking all of the above into account, mindfulness can help us to accept our feelings as they are without judgement. Anger, sadness, betrayal all those feelings are okay and have a place. Exploring those emotions helps us to recognize what is hurting us the most. And through contemplation we can discover a willingness to treat ourselves with good intentions. By going through the process of mindfully forgiving others, or even ourselves, we realize our own self-worth and that we are independent of our mistakes and shortcomings. Through mindfulness practice we can ultimately restore a sense of self-respect that will greatly enhance our ability to overcome the hurt or pain caused by others.
Secondly, Mindfulness can support our own willingness to overcome self-resentment and at the same time fosters compassion and love towards ourselves. We can make the transition from self-estrangement to a feeling of being at ease with ourselves.
In other words, forgiveness can come more easily to us if we are in a place of acceptance. An acceptance of ourselves, and the present moment.
Additionally, forgiveness as a process reveals that to every emotion and every feeling there are different layers. And some go deeper into our being than others. Sometimes similar situations can bring out old pain that needs to be revisited on a deeper level. It can be a task of a lifetime to be faced with an issue until it is healed completely.
As an illustration, imagine a bunch of circles of different sizes inside of a big one. And at the core you have your true essence. The core is your deepest and most essential form of being. Now, imagine that a feeling starts entering the circle from the outside and gradually moves deeper into the different layers until we are able to heal the wound in our soul. And the more you practice mindfulness, the stronger is your ability to forgive.
Tips to Find Forgiveness Within You:
One thing that mindfulness can help tremendously with is gaining inside to different perspectives. Take on the other person’s point of view. What led him to behave in such a way?
Ask yourself: Why would that person behave like that? What is his or her story and background?
Listen to what the other person is really trying to say or to express.
What lies behind the other person’s anger towards you? What lies at the bottom of this issue?
Every one of us suffers at one point in their lives. It is universal. And underneath every form of anger lies a deeper hidden pain or hurt that expresses itself in that way. Anger can be a form of protection to not have to be vulnerable. But once you start being mindful with yourself and others, you’ll ultimately learn that true strength lies in exactly that: showing your vulnerability and owning it.
Still, understanding the other person’s backstory does not excuse any sort of bad behavior that they have treated you with. Those are two completely different things that we need separated at all times.
Share Your Pain
I am not talking about gossiping in a negative way about another person. I am talking about sharing pain so you can find relief from it. Expressing hurt feelings is part of the process of forgiveness. In doing so, you can gain a more objective perspective onto your own emotions and discover yourself.
You could write a journal, use guided meditation, or join a self-help group. It is also very helpful to start talking about your pain with a trusted and loving friend or a professional.
Related Post: 7 Easy and Simple Tips to Practice Self-Care Every Day
You Cannot Change Others
Forgiveness is not about changing the way the other person behaves or acts. We could never claim the right to do that. Change can only come from within. A person has to decide for themselves if they want to change, and if so, how. It is not our job, nor our responsibility. We are not above others that we could righteously appoint ourselves to being the judge of them. We can only change our own perspective and the way we view things.
On the contrary, we could look for the good in others instead. We could focus on their strong qualities as opposite to finding faults and weaknesses within them.
Feel Your Pain
Honor and acknowledge the way you feel by giving yourself permission to hurt. Allow the space necessary to experience it. It might not be pleasant, but still, hold that discomfort and respect yourself enough to feel it. And if you do so, ask yourself this question: What do I need right now? What will help?
This way you can figure out whether you’re ready to free yourself of the burden or if your heart needs more time. Either option is okay and needs to be accepted non-judgementally.
Name Your Feelings
A study at the UCLA has shown that putting emotions into words reduces the pressure on the amygdala (emotional center of the brain). Therefore, the brain can focus more resources on our prefrontal cortex (the rational part of our brain). Doing so gives us a more objective view of things. We don’t get caught up in the downward spiral of our pain. By reducing pressure on our system, we additionally reduce a great source of stress.
Forgiveness is a process. It takes time to self-explore and overcome the emotions that inhibit us. Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t pressure yourself. You’ll be ready to forgive in your own time. Love yourself and be kind. Some things can be forgiven quicker and take less time. Others take years. Keep up the mindfulness practice. Tune into your thoughts and feelings every once in a while and explore what the current status is. There is no rush to things. Everything is the way it is.
The Ho’oponopono Mantra is part of an ancient Hawaiian forgiveness and reconciliation ritual. The Hawaiian dictionary translates Ho’oponopono in short as “to put things right”. In an old family ritual led by a healer or elder everyone attends a sort of family conference with the aim to overcome old wounds in the soul and find healing by forgiving each other. The ancient Hawaiian people believed that when you are angry for too long, you will get physically sick as a result. This ritual is supposed to invoke mental cleansing by reconciling with each other.
The modernized version enables you to do part of the Ho’oponopono by yourself. In the simplified version only the mantra remains:
I forgive you.
I love you.”
Repentance, forgiveness, gratitude, and love are the forces behind this ancient powerful mantra. By repeating the words out loud or in your head over and over, the feeling consequently becomes more powerful. Find inner peace and balance by using this mantra to help you find forgiveness. And you can practice it whenever, wherever. Say it in the shower, for instance, or in the car. While being on your morning commute to work, and again while cooking dinner. By all means, write it down and stick the note to your mirror. In the long run, you will notice how much of a difference this mantra can make in your life.
Sometimes the pain we have to go through overwhelms us. We get caught up in the feelings of the past, which leads us away from the present. If that is the case, then try one or two breathing exercises to come back to the moment. It can be as simple as closing your eyes for a minute or two and focus on inhaling and exhaling slowly and steadily. While doing so, feel the raising of your chest and the way your breath spreads through your body until it reaches your toes and your fingertips. Hold it for three seconds and then let go on the next exhale. Notice where the pain manifests in your body. When you inhale next, breathe into that particular area. And on the exhale breathe out the hurt.
At the same time, you can imagine inhaling a healing form of energy (It can be in the form of a warm light that spreads through your body, or maybe you want to imagine standing in a green and lush forest breathing in the earthly scent of fresh wood and grass to ground yourself).
Practicing affirmations can be another powerful tool to guide you through the process of forgiveness. Affirmations are essential contributors to changing your mindset. If you slowly and gradually want to change the way you think about something and bring more positivity into your life, this is the way to do it. Practicing positive self-talk not only reduces stress, but it also empowers us. Practicing mindfulness with ourselves resets our thinking into positive patterns that strengthen new neural pathways in our brains. As a result, affirmations have the capability to eliminate negative self-talk and the resentment we might feel over a wrongdoing that has been done to us.
Related Post: Positive Thinking: 59 Affirmations to Practice Daily
Here is a list of affirmations that can help you through the process of forgiveness:
- I honor and acknowledge my pain.
- I live in the now and are responsible for my own life. I take charge. The past does not affect me anymore.
- I forgive myself/(put in the name of a person) for being imperfect. I am/ He/she is only trying to live their life to the best of their knowledge.
- I follow the path of forgiveness. Life becomes easier and enjoyable. I can draw strength from that.
- I understand and I feel compassion for myself/name of other person.
- I am a kind, compassionate, and forgiving person. I trust in the universal love. Life leads me onto a path of happiness and growth.
- I free myself of the resentment and anger that I feel towards past experiences.
- I choose a drama free life. I make peace with anyone who has done me wrong.
- I give myself the gift of forgiveness.
- The past is over and done with. I live in the present moment and enjoy every minute of my life.
- The pain of the past can be healed. I choose to indulge in the healing process a little bit every day.
- He/She did the best their good with the knowledge that they have been given at that particular moment in time.
- I grow stronger and healthier every day that I surround myself with love and forgiveness.
- I am no longer imprisoned by old patterns. I let them go. I am at ease with myself and others.
- I forgive everyone for doing what I perceived as wrong and hurtful. I send them love and compassion.
All things considered, forgiveness is still an incredibly complex process that takes time and patience to overcome. But despite that, being able to forgive and see the world in a more positive light will empower you to live your life to the fullest and to realize your full potential. As long as we are mindfully letting go of what holds us back, we will constantly increase the quality of our life, and allow space for happiness and peace to come to us.
Affirmations, breathing exercises, as well as other mindful practices that enhance compassion and empathy can help us through the process of forgiveness. In the end, it is you who makes the conscious and deliberate choice to free yourself of your burdens and live the life who have always dreamed of.
With this in mind, be proud of the person you are today. Everything that as happened to you throughout the course of your life, led you to this moment of healing.
What holds you back from forgiving others? And what helps you to view people who did you wrong in a more compassionate way?