In life, we inevitably face ups and downs, challenges, less than optimal outcomes, and situations that are painful. However, it took me some time to realize how I held myself from progress by holding onto life’s struggles through unforgiveness. Before I decided to live my life more intentionally, the practice of forgiveness did not play a major role in my life but I came to find out how essential it is.
Do any of these thoughts sound familiar to you?: “They hurt my feelings!” “Who do they think they are?” “How dare she treat me that way?” “What they did to me was terrible and I don’t know if I could forgive them!” “Seeing him do the very thing I told him not to do makes me upset!” “I wish that never happened.” “How could I have done that? I’m stupid!” Do these thoughts make you want to forgive anyone? Probably not. How do they make you feel? Not great, I’m sure.
Unfortunately, we tend to be unforgiving of others in life but we are also our harshest critics and the most unforgiving toward ourselves. One of my favorite definitions of forgiveness comes from Oprah: “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different, it is accepting the past for what it was, and using this moment and this time to help move yourself forward.” Hearing this quote changed the way I viewed forgiveness and it helped me to realize and accept that what is done, is done. I can’t go to the past to change it but what I can do is accept it so that I can move forward with my life. At this point you might be thinking forgiveness is not for you. You may have the mindset that anyone who hurts you must pay. However, forgiveness does not mean you condone what happened, it simple means letting go of the bitterness and negativity so that you can have the freedom to live your life. It is easier said than done, I know! Of course, there are many times when our ego wants to hang on to a grudge but we need to remind ourselves that forgiveness is for us and not the other person. It is about turning our wounds into wisdom, as Oprah would say.
When I first learned about forgiveness, I used to pray and ask for forgiveness for myself and others. That was helpful, but not intentional enough for me so I started researching forgiveness which led me to the Hawaiian tradition of forgiveness. The Hawaiian tradition of forgiveness consists of 4 simple steps that I use as a mantra:
I forgive you
I am sorry
I love you
I implement it by making a list of the things that need forgiveness in my life. I put my finger on each item and repeat the above mantra. I have found this to be very helpful to me, and I hope it is just as helpful to you! As always, self-experimentation is the key to opening up new possibilities in your life so I encourage you to practice forgiveness and see for yourself how it works. Imagine yourself living a life with an unforgiving heart and a mind full of negative thoughts as the examples mentioned earlier. Do those thoughts help you? If not, it’s time to try something different. You will be pleasantly surprised. Picture yourself with inner peace as a result of forgiving. How will that feel? Instead of being stuck dwelling on the past, you can move forward.
In the words of the great Maya Angelou, “it’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive.” Give it a shot!
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