Forgiveness (which includes the ability to not only forgive others but also to forgive yourself) is key to psychological fitness, inner peace, contentment, fulfilment, and is an essential prerequisite to spiritual growth.
Neglecting to forgive someone who has hurt you becomes a stored memory and can negatively affect your emotional wellbeing and psychological health indefinitely.
And as the Chinese proverb describes – ‘If you are going to pursue revenge, you’d better dig two graves!’
Thoughts of revenge and retribution usually lead to feelings of resentment, anger, and even hatred; deep-seated emotions like a poison coursing through your veins, and so toxic for your health and wellbeing. We only punish ourselves when we refuse to forgive.
Here are ten time-tested steps to foster feelings of forgiveness for someone who has hurt you.
Step 1: Acceptance
Accepting that you can’t change the past, or other people’s perceptions of you, but that you can change your own attitude and view of the world. Accept and embrace every experience in life, the good and not so good, as an opportunity to grow. Accept that you have the power to choose how you respond to any given situation. Understanding this power to choose, that you are responsible for how you think and feel, can be a real gift. Appreciate that you have the power to let go of hurts and also to learn from them. This heightened awareness can provide you with new clarity and insights to foster a spirit of forgiveness. This always reminds me of the age old serenity prayer
‘Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference’
Step 2: Balance
Remember the underlying natural state of balance, harmony, and connectedness in all things. Your physical health, psychological fitness, emotional vitality and spiritual wellbeing are all deeply interconnected. Each supports and is supported by the others. So no matter how bad things appear or how challenging things become, stay connected to your spiritual side. Radiate more positive energy. Let your light shine.
Step 3: Your words have power
Before you speak, listen. The words you use have power and meaning. Wherever your words go, your energy flows. Speak well of others and you will feel uplifted. Don’t spend time or energy speaking of past hurts or mulling over perceived injustices. And speak well to yourself, quieten your inner critic and experience a new assuredness and lightness of being.
Don’t end your day on a bad note by holding on to negative thoughts or emotions. Give your subconscious mind the gift of peace by using positive affirmations to end each day well.
‘I am fulfilled, I am peace, I am love, I am forgiveness’
Step 4: Let go of the past.
There’s a wonderful African proverb –
‘You can outrun what’s running beside you but not what’s running inside you’
At the risk of stating the obvious, the past has had its day. Let it go. Learn from it certainly; in fact the past can be a wonderful teacher. But holding on to past hurts and grievances is ultimately self-destructive and takes from your ability to enjoy the present. Let the past go and live more in the present moment. Being more mindful and present is a gift to your sense of wellbeing – fostering feelings of forgiveness and liberty
Step 5: Let go of the need to be right or to control others
Needing to be right implies rigidity and lack of flexibility, not a good mind-set for forgiveness, compassion or tolerance. And stop telling people what to do if and when they are perfectly capable of making their own decisions.
The poet Kahlil Gibran reminds you –
‘Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of
Life’s longing for itself. They come
Through you but not for you …..’
When you stop trying to control others according to the whims and demand-led expectations of your own ego, you can release feelings of frustration and experience lightness.
Step 6: Stop living on the offensive!
It’s easy to take offence, to become affronted if you choose to. It’s your choice! Just remember that no one has the power to make you feel uncomfortable without your permission. Let go of petty resentments. So stop blaming and complaining. Don’t be so quick to take things personally. And don’t hold on even if you believe you’re right and you have a right to! Before you judge, forgive.
There’s an old Sioux Indian saying:
‘Don’t judge a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.’
Everyone sees the world through the lens of their own experiences; committing to really understand the position and world view of others makes it so much easier to forgive.
Step 7: First change yourself
Embrace those negative emotions -face your fears, address anxiety and anger, evade envy, let go of guilt. Bring more heartfelt positive emotions and feelings into your life -feelings like inspiration, and enthusiasm and good old-fashioned fun. Lighten up, laugh more and learn to live more lightly; allowing needless negativity to dissolve away.
Step 8: Build a gratitude habit.
Expressing gratitude regularly, by remembering to truly want what you have in life; engenders forgiveness, freedom from regrets of the past, anxieties about the future, and freedom from envy about what you don’t have or who you are not.
End each day well. Ask yourself what good did I do today to support others? What am I grateful for? Expressing gratitude can be a wonderful antidote to feelings of hostility, envy or needless negativity.
I’m reminded of the wonderful Persian poet Saadi who wrote in The Rose Garden in 1259 –
‘I bemoaned the fact I had no shoes
Until I saw the man who had no feet.’
Step 9: Be kinder and more compassionate
Live more from your heart, embrace heartfelt compassion and forgiveness, for there’s more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than there is for bread.
Thousands of years ago, the philosopher Plato wisely wrote that to be kind to everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Committing to being the kindest and most compassionate person that you can be is a gift not only to others, but also to yourself. Compassion is heartfelt empathy and concern for all living creatures.
I’m inspired by the Dalai Lama’s commitment to compassion and the soothing words of his loving-kindness meditation
‘May you be loving, may you be healthy, may you be happy’
Step 10: Be the change
Gandhi, the Indian statesman wrote to ‘be the change’ you want to see in the world. While it can take two to tango – someone needs to make the first move! Become more of a leader in your own wellbeing.
If you want more love in your life, be more loving. Let love be your path. If you want more peace in your life, be more peaceful. Let peace be your path. If you want more forgiveness in your life, be more forgiving. Let forgiveness be your path.
The Chinese Bamboo Tree, my favourite tree and a wonderful metaphor for health and vitality, grows tall and strong, yet is also flexible and adaptable. True strength in life requires flexibility, tolerance and forgiveness.
Remember the only person you can change in this life is YOU!