Knowing how to forgive yourself and others means the difference between releasing negative feelings tying you to your past or struggling with the same feelings of bitterness, guilt, and anger for years.
It may work just fine to shrug off small offenses or those we took on too easily. But for hurts that go deep and won't let go no matter how much you wish it or pray over it, mindset shifts and spiritual healing techniques can make the forgiveness process easier and more likely to last.
Realize that forgiveness is primarily for and about you. Your goal is to release yourself from the trauma of reliving and revisiting painful past events. When you forgive, you release stuck energy, the identity of being a victim, and heal yourself spiritually, mentally, and sometimes even physically.
If others were involved, they may or may not change or even feel sorry. They may not be aware, or even care, that they hurt you. Be okay with that. The process is not about them whether they ask your forgiveness or not.
Fully accept that the past is gone. It lives only as an illusion in your mind and only has the power you give it.
The past is over and cannot be changed. Choose whether to continue living with regret by not forgiving yourself and others, or choose to energize a better present and future that makes you happy.
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 act in any way.
Yes, they might know how to push your buttons, but your response is your doing. Own that knowledge, claim your power and take responsibility for yourself.
Ask yourself if you want to keep punishing and hurting yourself because of what happened. After the initial incident was over, all the ruminating, reliving, mental torture, blame, shame, guilt, maneuvering et al is your doing. Again, do you really want to give someone or something this kind of power over you? Hopefully your answer is a resounding, "NO". Knowing how to forgive and releasing the past puts the controls back in your hands where it belongs and always was.
Read about what forgiveness is and is not, and how it affects your life and health to lay the groundwork for how to forgive and clear up some common faulty perceptions that keep you in the cycle of holding on.
There are several processes for how to forgive. Most are effective if you use them with intent, non-judgmental awareness, and an open heart. Be gentle with yourself.
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 have fun with it.
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
Take some time to write down all your thoughts and 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.
Before you begin writing - and it is important to write, not just think about it - sit quietly and let the incident come to the surface of your mind. Notice the primary feeling that arises with it. Is it anger? Fear? Sorrow? Then ask yourself what emotions are behind it. For example: you may feel furious in the moment, but underneath that you feel hurt, disappointed, or shocked.
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.
In step three of the 'how to forgive' process, you will be looking for the silver lining in the cloud, the diamond in the lump of coal.
Is there something positive that came out of this negative experience? Open yourself to the positive. Perhaps you learned a lesson about yourself, the other person, or a situation you are in. Perhaps you realized something, or took a life turn, that worked out for good when you acted on it. Sometimes the good that comes out of an undesirable situation is greater than the hurt and pain we feel about it.
Even when some people grudgingly acknowledge the good that comes out of what they perceive as bad, 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.
Release yourself and 'the perpetrator' from the energy of the incident and from the 'energy cord' this created between you. You can visualize yourself cutting the energy cords with scissors and letting them return to the light. Get into the visualization and cut all of them - top, bottom, front, back and both sides of you.
Another visualization is to create a bubble in front of you. Put this person and his deeds into the bubble and let them float away. If you still want this person in your life, or it's yourself, put the words or deed in the bubble and send that off. Say, "I release you" or "I forgive you". "I am freeing myself of this."
Remember the paper you wrote all your hurtful, resentful thoughts and feelings on in step one? Now it is time to destroy that paper. Have a little ceremony and burn it. If you have a fire pit or a bonfire, throw it in there!
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.
From this point forward, the process 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 immediately. Do not allow yourself to go there. Break the habit of giving this memory mental and emotional airtime.
Instead, think about something or someone you love instead. Or offer a blessing. When tempted to sink back into a negative vibration about this person or incident say, "Bless you" or something of that sort, and expand that blessing with full sincerity. This practice alone will fill you with feelings of peace, compassion and love. It shifts your energy quickly.
This is not 'forgive and forget'. You will no doubt remember, at least for a while. 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 the incident less and less until you detach from it completely.
The process of how to forgive fully goes beyond feelings and mindset. Forgiveness is not pardon, although the two may accompany each other. There may still be consequences to be endured, obligations to fulfill, or amends to be made.
Saying "sorry" is easiest and may sometimes be enough. Saying "I was wrong, forgive me for..." is harder, but an important part of the process. Those words can be amazing difficult to say because we don't like admitting we were wrong or intentionally acted badly. Making restitution, especially when the cost is high, usually meets with the most internal resistance.
Whatever needs to be done to resolve the situation, starting with forgiveness will help you move forward from a higher place.
There are many methods for learning how to forgive. The above tips and steps should take you far. For those times when forgiving yourself or others is difficult, the following methods can help.
Making the process of how to forgive part of your daily life will greatly enhance your health, relationships and happiness. Imperfect humans make lots of mistakes, on purpose or not. Learn to let go and move on with your life. Aim to look back a whole lot less on the times you felt hurt and victimized. Look back at yourself and those involved with compassion and lovingkindness. We all suffer at times. Look back a whole lot more on the times that made you feel loved and valued and when you helped others feel that way. Look back at those times and smile. Then look ahead to the future and smile more.
How to Forgive page updated 10/2020