Knowing how to forgive yourself and others can mean the difference between releasing negative feelings that tie you to your past with ease, or struggling with the same feelings of bitterness, guilt, and anger that hang on for years.
For small offenses and times we just take offense extra easily, it may be work just fine to decide to shrug them off and simply forgive and forget. Unfortunately, sometimes the hurt goes so deep that no matter how much you pray and will it, you simply cannot let it go.
Fortunately there are some mindset shifts and spiritual healing techniques that can make the forgiveness process easier and more likely to last.
Realize that forgiveness is primarily for and about you. Your goal is really to heal your mind and spirit. It is about releasing yourself and others from reliving and revisiting past events that caused you pain. When you forgive, you release stuck energy and heal yourself spiritually. This healing affects all levels of your being.
If others were involved, they may or may not change or even feel sorry. They may not even be aware, or care, that they did something to offend you. Be okay with that.
If someone does ask for forgiveness, that may help you feel better and make it easier to forgive and restore the relationship, but get that it is still not primarily about them.
Fully accept that the past is gone. It lives only as an illusion in your mind and only has the power you give it.
Nothing can change what happened. It is over. You have to choose whether you want to continue living with regrets over a past you cannot change, or choose to energize a better present and future. You can keep revisiting and giving life to the negative in your mind, or you can choose to release it.
Acknowledge that you have full responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and actions, regardless of what the other person did or said to you. No one can make you think, feel, or respond in any way.
Yes, they might know how to push your buttons, but how you respond is your doing. Step into your power and assume your responsibility. Really, do you want to give others power over your thoughts, actions and feelings?
Ask yourself if you want to keep punishing and hurting yourself because of what someone else did? They may have hurt you when they wronged you, but after that, all the ruminating, reliving, mental torture, and how you changed in response is all you. Again, do you really want to give someone this kind of power over you? Hopefully you said no. Knowing how to forgive and releasing the past puts the controls back in your hands, where it always was.
There are several processes for how to forgive. Most are effective if you use them with intent, non-judgmental awareness, and an open heart.
The following technique is effective for forgiving others because it helps you engage your senses - mentally, emotionally, and physically, and not gloss over things that may come back to haunt you later. If you let yourself get into it, you may even find yourself having a bit of fun.
This how to forgive process is basically the same for big offenses and small ones, although some resentments may require you to dig a little deeper. Modify the technique slightly if you are forgiving yourself.
Note: If you are dealing with a very traumatic event, it would be wise to enlist the help of a skilled mental health professional.
Step One - Take some time to write down all your feelings about what happened. Do not censor them. Hold NOTHING back. Let every vile, judgmental thought about yourself or the other person come out. Write down every horrible thing s/he did and said to you. Express your feelings about it. Really let it all out.
Step Two - Depending on the incident and your level of trauma, you may want to skip this step or just start here. Use good judgment. The idea is not to traumatize yourself more. However, do not just skip this step because it seems silly or you only care about your own perceptions.
You are going to explore points of view. This is similar to the idea of walking a mile in another man's shoes before judging him.
Step Three - Is there something positive that came out of this negative experience? Open yourself to the positive. Perhaps you learned a lesson, realized something, or took a life turn that worked out for good. Sometimes the good that comes out of an undesirable situation is far greater than the hurt and pain we feel about it.
Even when some people grudgingly acknowledge this, they still refuse to forgive. Instead, acknowledge your hurt and then express gratitude for all you learned and how you were helped. This is your new focus.
Step Four - Release the person from the energy of the incident and from the 'energy cord' this created between you. Some people like to visualize themselves cutting the cords with scissors and letting the energies return to the light. Get into the visualization and cut all of them - top, bottom, front, back and both sides of you.
You may also want to visualize creating a bubble in front of you. Put this person and his deeds into the bubble and let them float away. If this is someone you still want in your life, or yourself, just put the words or deed in the bubble and send that off. Tell them, "I release you" or "I forgive you". Tell yourself that you are freeing yourself from this.
Step Five - Destroy the paper that you wrote the story and your feelings on. Burn them if you can. Offer gratitude and thanks for the release you have been granted for your 'mistakes'. Give thanks that you have released this. Say a closing prayer if you like.
Step Six - From this point forward, it is no longer about how to forgive (unless you missed something). It is about holding a space of love and forgiveness in your mind and heart. If you are ever tempted to revisit this story with negative emotion, stop yourself immediately. If you have been holding onto hurts about this incident for a long time, your thoughts and emotional responses may now be a habit. Like any bad habit, you have to refuse it mental airtime.
Think about something or someone you love instead. Or offer a blessing. This has helped me a lot. When tempted to sink back into a negative vibration when thinking of this incident or person say, "Bless you" or something of that sort. Expand it, if you feel inspired to do so. Offer this blessing with full sincerity. This practice alone has given me feelings of peace, compassion and love. It shifts your energy quickly.
This practice is not 'forgive and forget'. You will no doubt remember - that is how your brain is wired. It is about releasing the emotional and energetic charge of the event.
Remember, we have all fallen short. None of us are in any position to hold another in judgment. After offering your blessing, think of something else. Eventually your mind will revisit this incident less and less until you detach from it completely.
There are many methods for learning how to forgive. The above tips and steps should take you far. For the times when we are really resistant, you may need a bit more help.
Energy flow and meridian tapping techniques can really help you shift your energy and perceptions quickly. I've seen people let go of incidents they were holding onto for 50 years in less than an hour. If you are struggling to let go of old issues, you owe it to yourself to try them.
Another method that inspires healing and profound shifts in perspective is the Ho'oponopono prayer.
Two other methods you might like to explore are "The Work" of Byron Katie and Colin Tipping's "Radical Forgiveness". Both of these methods challenge traditional thinking and help shift your perceptions.
Please be aware that forgiving doesn't mean nothing else is required. If the incident is totally in the past, or the person is dead or gone, this may be the case.
If further steps to resolve the issue or make amends are required, then you still have to take care of this. Forgiving yourself is not about ignoring obligations or pushing things under the carpet. If you owe a debt of money or deeds or kind words, then pay it. If someone is indebted to you, then you have to decide to let it go or to move forward to a resolution.
Forgiving first will help you move forward from a higher place.
Just knowing how to forgive is not enough. You have to do it, sometimes every day. Make a commitment to forgiving yourself and others. If you make a half-hearted attempt, not much will change for you. Once you learn how to forgive from the heart, and choose this response quickly instead of 'stewing', it will become much easier and at times even automatic. You may even find you pick up regrets and resentments much less often.
As you release anger and lower vibrations associated with an unforgiving spirit, and welcome into your being the higher energies of compassion, mercy and pardon, you are in a position to make empowered choices and benefit more from the healing energies of your mind, body and spirit.