The Power of Forgiveness
A huge problem in modern society is the idea that revenge is a good option
All who are interested in progressing spiritually must address aspects of their past that are out of accord with their Divine nature. In other words, we all carry misconceptions, often based in wounding from childhood that conflict with a life in accord with our highest purpose.
Becoming aware of these concepts and how they influence our thinking and feeling is essential and a necessary step for true spiritual growth. Being healed and reducing our reactivity is another critical step along the Way.
Everyone Carries Some Anger from the Past
One thing you can count on is that the majority of us who want to evolve spiritually, despite all our good intentions, are carrying anger inside us from our past. This stems from the fact that we as people lack the refinement and development to treat each other consistently fairly, justly and considerately. We hurt each other despite our desire to do the right thing.
A huge problem in modern society is the idea that revenge is a good option. We often encourage each other to strike back at those who have wronged us. But this approach will never bring peace or resolution. It misses the very basic spiritual principle of karma in which what you put out is returned to you.
Yet no matter how many times this teaching is drilled into us, when we are hurt, wronged, betrayed in some way, often our knee jerk reaction is to begin planning a way to get back at the one responsible. In a lot of ways, we simply can’t help it. We haven’t been taught an alternative process to work through the hurt and anger that comes about when we feel wronged or mistreated.
Disconnecting Emotionally is a Common Response
Another common response or reaction is to disconnect from the person who hurt us and write them out of our lives. This is our way of punishing the offender, by denying them any further involvement or any more of our personal attention.
So long as this is the reaction, it too is an unevolved way of dealing with conflict. It is true that in some cases, some space or distance is appropriate. However when it involves the closing of one’s heart to the other, it is an act of protection which is born out of fear and thus at odds with that which is spiritual.
The fastest way to move through hurts caused by another, whether they be fresh from current relationships and interactions or uncovered wounds deep in us from our upbringing, is forgiveness. It is the Way that all true Christ centered spiritual teachers guide their initiates in order to allow the healing miracle of the Higher Divine Powers to come in and work upon us.
While we acknowledge that forgiving someone who hurt you or who intentionally used or mistreated you is tough, the thinking that is prominent in our culture that refuses to forgive, is extremely dangerous. It will effectively halt all deeper spiritual progress as it stubbornly clings to a righteousness that is essentially useless.
Believing that someone doesn’t deserve to be forgiven for the degree of their actions or for their lack or remorse is a sign of spiritual immaturity. We have a backwards concept alive in the mind here that unless a person apologizes sincerely for their wrong against us, we are under no obligation to forgive them. In fact, it might be perceived as weakness on our part if we do forgive. This is utterly ridiculous and is completely selfish in nature.
We have a perfect system set up whereby forgiveness will liberate our hearts and minds from the grip of painful emotions. The perpetrator may also be liberated to some extent by our choice to forgive and perhaps this is why people refuse to do it.
But returning to karma, if we take the higher road and forgive, we set in motion an energy which liberates us and them and thus begets greater liberation. In turn, it is a great example for those around us to see us take this course and hopefully might inspire others to follow suit.
Forgiveness Means to Givel Completely
The meaning of the word ‘forgive’ is to give completely and doing so brings us into accord with Divine Action, the highest way of being. It is our human condition that wants to contest such an action whereby we feel the right to punish others for their wrong. But we are not asked to judge in this way. We are supposed to forgive and thus end the cycle of negativity by not returning wrong with additional wrong.
The truth is that people who put out harm towards others, whether it be consciously, intentionally or accidentally will call back to themselves a karmic debt. We needn’t worry about managing that process. God is much more organized and efficient in its handling of everyone’s good and bad deeds.
Our task is to develop an internal process in meditation to establish a pattern of forgiveness when we feel wronged. I say this because it won’t be possible to live in this world and to avoid being hurt or mistreated if you are relating regularly with people. It is a fact of life so the sooner you take on this practice, the faster you will heal and the less time you will spend in negative states of mind.
The act of forgiveness involves getting in touch with your feelings and making the decision. For day to day incidents, getting in touch with feelings is easier since the activities are much fresher. For the long buried wounds, either from old heartbreaks, childhood friend conflicts or most commonly, family of origin wounds, you will need the Light and generally a spiritual Teacher to help you recognize what needs to be forgiven.
In either case, the process is similar. Begin by entering a meditative state. Often, it is a good idea to begin your session with a particular incident or person in mind that you wish to forgive. As you settle within, bring your consciousness to your heart center and focus on the feelings alive in you surrounding the person or incident in question.
An Example of the Forgiveness Process
I will describe the process using a simple example. Imagine John, a co-worker and a peer came to your area at work and said something to you that felt weird. It felt strange because he was passive aggressively jabbing at you for something positive you accomplished.
Instead of recognizing the good accomplishment, he cut you down with his words and belittled your accomplishment. A little while after he left, you could feel something was disturbed inside you but you couldn’t pinpoint what had happened.
In your meditation, you settle into your heart and can feel that you are angry because you felt attacked. You call the Light to reveal what happened and you realize that John said some mean things to you about your work that hurt (since you really poured your heart into the project he was criticizing). As soon as you get in touch with what is going on, notice what your tendency is to do.
Be Alert for the Temptation to Retaliate
For many, the impulse is to retaliate somehow or to seek revenge or to give him the silent treatment and speak negatively behind his back. Those are impulses of the ego trying to protect and manage your environment. It is ok to notice these ideas but do not feed them or indulge them by playing them out mentally. Instead, take conscious control of the situation. Tune into the higher part of you that knows forgiveness is the quickest way to heal.
Next, take a few moments and rest in the feelings. It is best to move deeper beyond the anger since anger is generally masking deeper feelings of hurt and sadness. Let the pain breathe a little and feel it as deeply as you can. This is the equivalent of not clenching up when you get hurt physically.
Relax and let the pain be. It will subside. Think of a child who gets hurt. They come running to their mother who holds them and speaks in a comforting way as they cry. Within a few minutes, they are renewed by their mother’s love and the pain is mostly gone. You can do the same for yourself in meditation. Acknowledge the hurt, comfort yourself and stay with it for as long as it hurts.
Next, call to mind the person whose action caused your pain. Notice if this ignites the angry or hurt feelings but don’t try to control the process. Keep in touch with the higher part of yourself that is non-reactive and is observing the work you are doing.
This part, or this voice within you is your anchor. Its job is too guide you to a place where you forgive the person. At this point, some may become aware of a ‘nugget’ inside that is like a hard stone of anger that you can’t get rid of. It is the part of you that doesn’t want to forgive, doesn’t see the point, doesn’t know how or is simply too lazy to do the work.
Despite this nugget, know that the conscious part of you can override this stubborn aspect and decide to follow through with the forgiveness process. It is a young and emotionally underdeveloped part within us that refuses to forgive. But our higher self knows that forgiveness is the key to our liberation. The younger part lacks the knowledge and experience and hasn’t yet learned that giving up the anger and righteousness is the true way to freedom.
If you get stuck and can’t seem to move through to a place of willingness to forgive, ask within by way of an internal prayer to God for some help to see the situation differently. It might be that you need a fresh perspective on the person who hurt you in order to let go of your anger.
In the example provided, calling for Light upon John, you might receive a message that he was jealous of your work and nervous that you could excel past him by your talents. Then you can check inside yourself to see if you can relate to that feeling. Finding compassion for the wrongdoer is always a great way to break apart that stubbornness. Remember that most people are acting negatively without conscious intention. They often think they are being helpful.
If you sincerely examine yourself, you are likely to find that there is part of you that is just like the person you are trying to forgive. This tactic helps you to recognize that you and they are not very different and that the underlying reason they hurt you was based in ignorance, fear and pain as opposed to malicious intent to slow your progress and cause you harm.
Forgiveness will be Possible if you Allow your Feelings to Air Out First
Generally, if you hit this point, it becomes much easier to move through and forgive completely. Your heart opens and you feel compassion for them. This only works if you spend the initial time allowing the hurt feelings to breathe and express. Make sure you give that step ample time. Then, reach a conclusive and decisive state of mind that you forgive the individual and state internally something like this;
‘I forgive (name) for (briefly describe what was done). I release (him or her) and ask that they be blessed in order that they may see their actions and notice how their actions affect others. I release all intention to repay this wrong and ask that whatever burden this has caused me be lifted from my heart and mind.’
Feel free to play with the words as you see fit. But the essence of your statement is that you vow not to retaliate and that you hope this person will become aware of what they are doing so they might change (but you aren’t attached to that happening).
Remain in meditation for a little while longer. In the best case scenario, you will begin to feel liberated from the negative emotion and an inspiration of what to do next might come to you. You will know that something profound has occurred within you when the emotional charge has drained away.
In other cases, you might be aware that the charge has lessened but not gone away completely. This is ok and it might be that you need to say some things to this person before you are ready to return and try again.
In the case of parents or people who hurt us over an extended period, it will often take several rounds and some time before the forgiveness is thorough and complete. But the process is the same each time.
Enter into meditation. Tune into the feelings around the person or incident. If only anger comes up, try to go deeper and feel the pain, hurt or sadness that is generally beneath the anger. Allow the feelings to be, express and run their course. Comfort yourself through this period as a mother holds an injured child.
Do not rush this step! Allow the higher self to then lead you through a conscious decision to forgive. If you hit the nugget, ask for Light to come and show you more. Be alert for insights about the situation to rise from within that help you to open your heart and achieve compassion. Choose to forgive and state your forgiveness aloud or in mind. Then sit for a few minutes and let the change of state come over you.