“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
Lewis B. Smedes
Only You Can Set You Free
When someone has harmed us and we are filled with bitterness, disappointment, resentment, when we are holding a grudge, we feel “weighed down,” burdened. We are chained to the person or the situation until we are able to move past the hurt. Our vibrational energy isn’t as high as it could be because of our negative thinking. We can feel depressed and anxious, our work and relationships can become difficult and even our health can be adversely affected. These are things we are doing to ourselvesby not knowing how to forgive…or, if we know how, just not being willing – YET. For optimal health, we want to get on to the forgiving as quickly after the harm was done as possible, but it isn’t always that easy.
Did you know Suffering is Optional?
The pain of loss and grief, dashed expectations, betrayals and so on are inevitably part of life on this human plane. Over time we can learn how to grieve our losses constructively (the subject of another day) and we can develop coping skills and add them to our store of RESILIENCE. Suffering comes from cradling pain to our bosom, rehearsing our losses and grievances rather than releasing them into the Flow of Life, being able to say, “Oh well.” “That happened.” “It hurt a lot. ” “BUT I won’t let it run/ruin my life.”
No matter if the harm was very big, costing you something you truly valued and were very attached to, or even perhaps involved abuse, the past is gone and whatever happened, happened. It does not define you unless you want it to. “Oh Well.” You can’t change the past, but you can change your future.
If someone has caused you harm, especially deliberate harm, it is tempting to hold a grudge, to want to hurt them back, to call them names behind their back, gossip about them. Most of us want something really bad to happen to someone who has harmed us – at least until the person admitted his or her fault in the situation, apologized, asked our forgiveness. But what if they aren’t sorry? What of they never apologize? Does that mean you have to carry this anger and resentment around with you your entire lives? NO! When you forgive someone, you can let it go, and you can move on with your life. When you forgive, you are less likely to carry the baggage from the hurt into other relationships, other parts of your life.
You have the right, the responsibility even, to set healthy Boundaries.
Before we go any further, a word about boundaries – yours. Forgiving past hurts and deciding how close you want that person to be to you in your life are two separate things. Just because you have forgiven someone does not mean necessarily that you must have a close relationship with them or even ever see them again. You don’t even have to tell them if you don’t feel like it – it’s none of their business! You are the only one who can decide whether it is good for you to spend time with anyone else, only you know f you want to tell them anything ever, and you do not have to justify your decision in any way, to any one.
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds…” Bob Marley, Redemption Song
What you are doing is telling your lizard brain (fight or flight), “Never mind, relax, you don’t have to keep protecting me from this harm – I’ve got this.”
Healing Resentments – What does it take to forgive?
- Before we can forgive, we must release our grip on something or someone, wanting them to do or not to do something, realizing that grip is keeping us grounded – when we are born to fly.
- We have to give up trying to control the uncontrollable…other people’s choices…past, present or future.
- We have to release our judgments about things we believe SHOULD NOT be… the way they clearly very much are.
- We have to release any thoughts of harm coming to the other person/people.
- In fact, we must learn to consciously replace thoughts of retribution every time with thoughts of blessings. This step alone can bring tremendous freedom and relief. It’s very simple – but definitely NOT easy.
- I invite you to take a journal out and write about the 4 points above for 20 minutes regarding a resentment you are holding. Maybe to start out, you should not pick the biggest hurt that has ever been done to you. Give yourself another 20 minutes tomorrow and tomorrow until you are all “written out.”
If you are so inclined, let me offer some Healing Exercises
- Affirmation Say or write this several times morning, noon and night.
I forgive everything and everybody of the past or present that can possibly be forgiven, including myself. Anything that has harmed or offended me, I forgive. They are free and I am free, to live our lives.
Find a spot where you feel comfortable and safe. You might want to light a candle or turn on a soft light. If you have an altar, you could put the candle there, and as you light it, declare your intention: “I wish to forgive everything and everybody of the past or present that can possibly be forgiven, including myself. I want to be free of everything that is heavy or negative. I want to release all rancor and negativity so that my heart and mind can be fully open to live and to dream, FREE of the past.”
- Select a grievance you wish to release. Don’t pick the most difficult one.
- Start your practice by focusing your attention on your breathing, not controlling it, just being with it. If you start to drift, perhaps looking at the candle would help you to focus on at least 20 breaths. Relax any muscles in your body that are tight as you become aware of them.
- Maintaining the focus on your breath, allow your attention to include your heart and the oxygen exchange that is happening there as you inhale, the CO2 and any other toxins leaving your body as you exhale.
- Imagine you are breathing THROUGH your heart. This is called, “Heart Breath.”
- Still focused in your heart breath, imagine yourself in a beautiful, safe place, perhaps a spa or retreat center, perhaps on a beautiful island, a forest, a mountain. You may bring a pet with you if you like. This is your private mystical place. Decorate it to suit your fancy. I like to involve senses of smell and hearing, so perhaps you hear the birds call and smell fragrant flowers or the salty air.
- Add a soft, warm smile to your practice now, after all you are somewhere beautiful and safe where you WANT to be, your heart and lungs are working together to nourish your body and remove any toxins. You are being good o yourself and you deserve a smile. This smile is actually a secret “magic sauce,” don’t leave it out – it helps the heart chakra to open and stay open.
- You may begin to feel a warmth in the heart area, a sense that the heart is expanding, a sense of Love and Peace is rising within you.
- Now – and only now – call your grievance to mind.
- Consciously soften your heart around the grievance by softening your shoulders, relaxing your face, still smiling gently. Breathe consciously, perhaps even count your breaths, to keep your focus inward.
- Now, notice anywhere in your body you are holding the tension around this hurt, and consciously tense and relax those muscles. As much as anything else, you want your body to release this hurt. It doesn’t want to keep it.
- (Still smiling)-spend some time in a consciousness of forgiveness regarding this grievance:
Say or Write: ________ Any way that you have offended me, I forgive. I forgive you everything of the past or present that can possibly be forgiven. I send you blessings of Love. It’s done. I wish you health and happiness. You are free and so am I.
Picture the person and send the person (or yourself) blessings or Angels of Love, wishing for them every happiness you wish for yourself, until you feel complete.
- Then blow out the candle or turn out the light and say, ”It is finished, I release this forever, it’s over and done with.”
- Now a celebration is in order! You are lighter, hallelujah! Go give yourself some healthy, fun self-love to celebrate your freedom.
You can repeat this with each other particular person, event or situation against which you find yourself harboring anger, upset, resentment, etc. I recommend you do this work in several sessions, especially If you find in this process you have some self-forgiveness work to also do, since we are always party in some way to the situation.