Have you ever come across the word FORGIVENESS on social media and felt your stomach contract into a tiny little fist of resistance?
You too? Phew. It happens to me a lot. I’ve noticed there’s a direct correlation between high levels of stress in my life and an unwillingness to forgive. The more relaxed and connected to my best self I am, the more willing I am to be open to forgiveness.
Benefits of forgiveness
Forgiveness is the gift of higher spiritual healing that you only you can gift to yourself. You can’t make anyone else forgive you. You only have control over your own ability to forgive. For these reasons, it is powerful medicine. It is convenient. We can forgive ourselves and the people who’ve hurt us. The power lies within us.
Drawbacks of forgiveness
Forgiveness is terrifying because of the void that it creates when hurt, anger, blame, righteousness are no longer present or as strong as they once were. Forgiveness is not the destination; it’s part of the journey. To jump quickly to forgiveness without processing the other emotions around the source of hurt creates more harm.
Forgiveness can’t be forced
Forcing yourself into forgiveness would be like telling yourself to ride a bike for the first time and expecting a perfect outcome. Someone can tell you all about the fundamentals of riding a bike, but unless you practice consistently or you have the wisdom and patience that rivals the Dalai Lama, you’re going to fall down, lose your balance, and crash. As with everything else in life, we must set our expectations accordingly. We’d also be well-served to remember that we are comprised of different emotional parts. Forgiveness might really sound easy in one part of your brain, but a different part of your brain might be unable to forgive in that moment because it needs to go through some emotional processing first in order to be equipped to get to forgiveness.
How to forgive
My sister wife for life Tamara Grace is an expert on the topic of forgiveness. She was featured in an interview on the topic of forgiveness and you can watch her video here. Her brilliant take away on forgiveness is a formula that she practices regularly. Like other spiritual practices, she shows up and does her practice regularly. In the yoga tradition that I study, we practice every day to burn away impurities of the mind so that we can be the best versions of ourselves that we always desire to be. It’s maintenance. Like brushing your teeth. Like cleaning yourself and your mind.
Her formula is an acronym: REACH
R: Recall the hurt
E: Empathize with the person
A: Altruistic gift
C: Commit to forgiving
H: Hold on to forgiveness
Remember: forgiveness is a regular practice. Some days will be easier and some will be harder. The important part is to show up and try to forgive. And if you cannot, to give yourself some other tools to deal with your other very legitimate feelings that are getting in the way of forgiving the person who hurt you (and that person might be yourself).
The power of forgiveness
Beyond what we’ve already talked about, there is yet another powerful incentive to forgive: when you release someone of their responsibility for your emotional state, you become free. You cut the cord between you and that other person (or that other part of you). You take your power back. I recently heard Lutheran Minister Nadia Bolz-Weber talk about forgiveness in which she said that people who forgive are “dangerous” people. I interpret her use of the word “dangerous” in this context to imply that people who forgive are radical love warriors. Those who can forgive quickly are to be feared because by forgiving themselves and others, they are unpredictable, difficult to control, and hard to manipulate. They are radical love warriors and their capacity to process the feels, honor themselves, forgive, and move onward elevates their own potential and that of the whole world.
I invite you to be clean and dangerous in your forgiveness of yourself and others. I implore you to seek forgiveness first and honor what is truthful for you on this day. Use REACH. Stay angry if it’s the right thing to do, but commit to regularly checking in with your anger. Process it. Move through it. Confront it so that you can get it out of your own way. There’s a vast world of love on the other side.
By teaching ourselves to forgive those who have hurt us the most, we can change the world by filling it with it with our big expansive love for others rather than staying small and contracting inwards on our hurt.
Breathe and believe, beauties.