I had a conversation with a friend this past week about forgiveness. I told her it’s not a word that I use often. To me, it implies that you are excusing the abuse or betrayal of another person. I was surprised to find that Mirriam-Webster defines the word forgive as, “to cease to feel resentment against (an offender).” Dictionary.com offers a definition closer to my own, which includes absolution. They define the word absolve as, “to free from guilt, blame or their consequences.” This is where the waters get muddy. You can forgive someone so you don’t harbor anger or resentment without absolving them of their own responsibility and repercussions. That’s not your job. You don’t hold any authority over them. Whatever your spiritual belief system is, Universal law says that actions have consequences. This concept is often referred to as Karma.
In other words, you have to choose the right kind of forgiveness.
The one that frees you from anger and resentment.
Not the one that absolves abusers from guilt.
So, what do you do in the face of brutal emotional assaults? Cheating husbands, unloving parents, greedy siblings, emotionally unavailable partners or backstabbing friends?
What about physical abusers? Rapists, muggers, violent partners or battering parents?
How do you move on?
First, you leave the decision of guilt, blame or consequence for God, the Universe, Karma or whatever you believe in. Again, that’s not your job.
Then, you protect and heal yourself.
How? First, move out of harm’s way. You may need to change or end a relationship. Once your new boundaries are set, you can work on healing through whatever modalities you choose: books, therapy, journaling, yoga, or working with a coach like me.
Then, you forgive the right way, by reframing your anger.
To do this, find a comfortable chair or cushion in a quiet place in your home. Take a few deep breaths and think about the person who harmed you. What do you know about them? How was their childhood? What were their struggles? Where have they failed? Are they in pain? Do they have hope for the future? Do they have friends who care about them? Do they have a partner? Do they suffer from physical or mental ailments that are diagnosed or undiagnosed? Are they angry and bitter? Imagine them as a joyful and innocent baby before the world took hold of them. Do you feel compassion for that baby? Can you generate a feeling of empathy for your adult abuser? Relax into these feelings and let them fill your heart. You should feel calm.
You can feel deep compassion for your abuser without allowing them to continue to abuse you.
This peaceful feeling will free you of your own anger. It will allow you to protect your heart and heal your spirit. You can repeat the exercise as often as you need to until you no longer hold resentment, anger or grudges toward those who have harmed you.
What about if you are the one who did something wrong?
What if you need to forgive yourself?
The process is the same. You are not in a position to absolve yourself from responsibility for wrong actions. Karma will take care of that. Every action has a reaction in this life or the next. In the bible, it says the children pay for the sins of their fathers to the third and fourth generations. Whatever you believe, consequences will happen.
It’s not yours to worry about. You cannot change the past.
You must, however, release yourself from self-directed anger and replace it with self-compassion. As Maya Angelou famously said, “When you know better, you do better.” Make a commitment not to repeat the offending behavior. No one is perfect, but with baby steps, we move forward into the person we want to be.
If you need to forgive yourself, repeat the previous exercise with yourself in mind. Think about your childhood and all the struggles you’ve faced. Aren’t you deserving of compassion? Let that feeling of compassion replace any self-loathing, guilt or shame. Remind yourself you are doing the best that you can and you’re working to make yourself even better. Sit in that knowledge for a bit and enjoy it. Remember who you used to be and look at how far you’ve come.
You can forgive yourself and others if you forgive them the right way.
I wish you passion, purpose and the realization of your fullest potential!
P.S. The photo is a quote from T.D. Jakes that hits the nail right on the head. Make sure to download my free e-book and sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss out on my upcoming workshops and retreats. Click the link below for more info. I have beautiful things in store for you! xoxo