“Inner peace can be reached only when we practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past, and is therefore the means of correcting our misperceptions.”
~ Gerald Jampolsky
Forgiveness is a powerful tool for cultivating peace and joy. The intention to forgive, just like the intention to be mindful, is essential to the practice because it provides an opening and space to make a choice to respond rather than react. When we connect with ourselves in that space, we can see the possibility of forgiveness.
The obstacles that may prevent us from forgiving are feeling hurt, angry, betrayed, a lack of compassion and/or wronged. These emotions typically fuel our reactions and misperceptions, and lead to an endless cycle of suffering.
As we draw upon the wisdom gained through meditation, journaling and other self-nurturing practices, we are able to recognize the difference between what is and what we say about what is. As we deepen our awareness of this difference we are able to see how we unwittingly contribute to our own suffering. With this new insight we can extend forgiveness to ourselves and then to others.
But like with most growth, forgiving is uncomfortable and sometimes even painful, so what would convince a person to embark on such a journey?
For one, according to research by psychologist Fred Luskin and colleagues at Stanford University “forgiveness can reduce stress, blood pressure, anger, depression, hurt, and can increase optimism, hope, compassion and physical vitality.” (2010)
Another reason is the potential for freedom and liberation. Lance Marrow put it well in saying, “Not to forgive is to be imprisoned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business. Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another’s control…to be locked in a sequence of act and react, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always. The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past. Forgiveness frees the forgiver.”
I have found that forgiveness allows me to live more authentically, with deep compassion and a wide-open heart. Forgiveness helps transform my experience of feeling victimized to feeling empowered and deepens my relationship with myself, and the world. I believe that forgiveness encourages more trust, compassion, kindness and love in this world.
“Love is an act of endless forgiveness.” Peter Ustinov
Now most of us have many people to help us in our practice of forgiveness…those “teachers” or people in our lives who trigger us, giving us the opportunity to grow in our awareness and knowledge of ourselves and the process of forgiveness.
I would like to invite us to be deeply grateful for these teachers who help us learn about ourselves, cultivate compassion, and develop an ongoing practice of forgiveness of ourselves and others.
My daughter Fiona has been one of my best teachers and has taught me so much about the process of forgiveness. When she was very young we developed a practice called “Starting Over”. To stop a conflict from escalating either of us could apologize and ask to start over.
What made this process so effective is that we agreed ahead of time that the other person would accept the apology, let go of the hurt and start fresh. Our practice of starting over has been transformative and has deepened our relationship with each other and ourselves.
The second step of the practice of starting over is often the most difficult – letting go – especially when we have been hurt badly and are holding on to the pain and suffering. These situations, however, allow us an opportunity to look at what happened versus the story we have been telling about what happened, which often continues our pain and suffering. After we acknowledge and affirm our own experience, we can then open to compassion for ourselves and the possibility of forgiveness that follows.
“True forgiveness is not an action after the fact, it is an attitude with which you enter each moment.” David Ridge
Knowing that we have the power to forgive ourselves in any moment and make the choice to forgive others is deeply nurturing and empowering. It is truly a super power and an essential tool in our self-nurturing practice that both connects us and liberates us.
May you cultivate the ability to enter each moment with an attitude of forgiveness so that you can continue to nurture peace in the world from the inside out!
Sending you so much peace, love and gratitude,
Kelley Grimes, M.S.W.
Counselor, Author & Speaker
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