The Heart of Forgiveness - Creation.begins

The Heart of Forgiveness

woman sitting on beach sand near bonfire at twilight, the image of a heart drawn in light in front of her.
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The Heart of Forgiveness10 min read

Forgiveness is vital for emotional healing, improved relationships, and self-growth. When we hold onto grudges or negative feelings towards others, we are effectively hindering our own progress and well-being. By choosing to forgive, we give ourselves permission to find peace and move forward with our lives. Often seen as a challenging virtue, the process of forgiveness can be transformed into an empowering practice by cultivating compassion and empathy for anyone we believe has wronged us in some way, including ourselves. When we choose to stop feeling resentment, we are not only releasing ourselves from these negative emotions but also creating a ripple effect that inspires others and promotes a more harmonious and compassionate society.

Forgiveness is much simpler than we allow it to be. Essentially letting bygones be is achieved by letting go of the hurt and animosity you have for the persons you would like to forgive. The process of letting go is the more difficult part because this part requires healing to happen, and far too many people seem to prefer holding on to their grudges than willing to let go and move on.

two coffee lattes in yellow cups, and a poster reading "exhale the past" on a brown wooden table

photo by Toa Heftiba

The Art of Forgiveness

There is so much benefit that can be attained by letting go of hurt. Holding onto grudges and resentments can lead to prolonged feelings of anger, bitterness, and sadness, which can take a toll on one’s emotional and mental health.  It doesn’t take much observation to notice that people who are emotionally free are lighter and happier, while those that harbour negative emotions and let those emotions dominate their lives often aren’t having a good time of it. Forgiveness allows individuals to release these negative emotions and promote healing. Healing is only possible by letting the past go and allowing things to change for the better.

As one’s emotional and mental health improve, so too does one’s relationships improve. Unresolved conflicts can strain relationships, both personal and professional. It is difficult to have meaningful, uplifting or productive engagements  with people we have negative feelings for. Little snips always escape and the underlying distrust will find a way to reveal itself. Forgiveness can pave the way for reconciliation, trust, and understanding, fostering healthier and more sincere connections with others.

The act of forgiving can also lead to increased self-awareness, empathy, and resilience. By choosing to forgive, we take control of our emotional well-being and demonstrating a commitment to personal growth.

Breaking the Cycle

When we forgive, we choose not to perpetuate the cycle of hurt and negativity. This decision can have a far-reaching impact, potentially inspiring others in your orbit to perhaps practice forgiveness in their own lives, essentially empowering the community as a whole. As more people embrace forgiveness, our collective emotional well-being improves, fostering a more empathetic and understanding community.

Of course, it all starts with us as individuals. Just like every other avenue of self-empowerment, we must commit to walking the path alone. We can certainly wait in the hope that others will lead the way for us, and there certainly will be people who do, but that could be a long wait. And sometimes all it takes is one person making the effort to break the cycle to inspire others who were sitting on the fence.

We could all benefit from developing and maintaining habits of reflective practice, perspective-taking, and self-compassion. These are all crucial behaviours in cultivating forgiveness for ourselves. Reflective practice enables us to examine our feelings and reactions, while perspective-taking allows us to see situations from the other person’s point of view. We will always have blind spots that prevent us from knowing the entire picture. In fact, usually we can safely say that we don’t know more than 20% of the entire story, if that.

It takes work to be able to imagine yourself not just in another persons shoes but living in their body, with their resources, and their experiences. We could never fully understand another’s perspective but we can acknowledge the viewpoint they present to us, whether we agree with it or not, and see the scenario from more of their perspective. Both compassion for others and self-compassion helps us acknowledge our own emotions without judgment and lets us recognize our shared humanity.

Take time each day to reflect on your emotions and interactions with others. Acknowledge any feelings of anger or resentment that may arise and try to understand the underlying reasons for them. Through this regular process we expand our perspective and allow ourselves a more bird’s eye view of the situations we may have been more myopic about.

Put yourself in the skin of the person who hurt you. This doesn’t mean condoning their actions, but rather attempting to see the situation from more of their point of view. This can help you understand their motivations and foster greater empathy. Acknowledge that they are different to you. Their upbringing was different, their education was different, the way their brains work is different, their outlook on life is different, there is so much that can be different in both your perspectives. That difference is probably key to why they act in a way that you wouldn’t.

Again, this is not to condone anybody’s actions. Even if you understand why they did something, it doesn’t mean you need to accept it. Having an adult conversation with the person will help you both unpack the differences and determine whether you can continue your relationship together or not. Compassion doesn’t mean enduring someone who is diametrically opposed to you. We are all on different paths and sometimes those paths diverge in a way that prevents us from having a significant relationship.

Compassion for yourself means being okay to let go of relationships that no longer serve you, and move on to ones that do. Be kind to yourself as you embark on this path. Remember that forgiveness is a process and a practice, and it’s okay for it to take time. You must figure out and do what is good for you as much as what is good for the relationship. Any relationship you continue, whether with a person or a situation that you harbour resentment for, will eventually fall apart if you are losing yourself in favour of the person or situation. Practice self-care and treat yourself with the same understanding and compassion that you extend to others.

Engaging in mindful communication is powerful tool in the practice of forgiveness. By actively listening, speaking with forethought and intention, and responding with empathy, we can create an environment where all parties feel heard and valued. This open dialogue allows for better understanding, healing, and growth. And it also takes practice. We don’t all know how to best convey what we want to share, and so some communication education may need to be practiced first. You could also invite a more neutral mediator to help facilitate the discussion if its difficult to express all you want to express, or if you find yourself unable to understand what the other person is expressing.

When expressing your feelings to the person who hurt you, do your best to use non-violent and empathetic language. This will help prevent further escalation of negative emotions and create a space for dialogue and healing. Remember that the discussion is not just about you, it’s a dialogue between the two of you with the purpose of finding common understanding, or at least getting yourselves to a point when, even if you don’t necessarily understand where they are coming from, you at least make the relationship more important than the misunderstanding and work on your connection instead.

tea lamp burning on a grey ceramic burner

photo by Hans Vivek

Letting go

It is essential to remember that forgiveness does not mean forgetting or condoning hurtful actions. Forgiveness is about choosing to let go of negative emotions, such as anger or resentment, and opting to move forward with our lives. It is an act of self-love and strength that enables us to grow and thrive.

You are essentially making peace with what happened and allowing yourself to move on with your life without this past event hindering your progress. Once you have genuinely released your hold on those negative emotions, you free yourself to continue your life with more clarity and increasing positivity, even in situations that are associated with the one that caused you anguish

There are many some steps to help us better practice forgiveness and become better forgivers. Start with acknowledgment. Recognize the hurt that has been inflicted upon you and allow yourself to feel the associated emotions. Pay attention to what you are feeling and be aware of what you want to feel. This will take time and work, but it is essential to validate and address these emotions to move towards a place of forgiveness and inner peace.

Understanding yourself is one part of the equation. You should also try to understand the situation from the other person’s perspective. Consider the factors that may have contributed to their actions, remembering that everyone processes life differently and everyone also makes mistakes. Just because someone hurt you doesn’t mean they aren’t sorry or that they meant to hurt you. As you get a better grasp of how the other person experienced the situation, you may be able to see why their actions weren’t personal nor intended to hurt. And even if you don’t completely comprehend their choices, if their intent wasn’t to harm, you can be the bigger person and allow yourself to let go of that hurt. Or at the very least, let go of the blame.

That is the key part of this process. Decide to release the anger, resentment, and any other negative feelings associated with the hurt. This can be done through journaling, meditation, therapy, or even a symbolic act such as writing a letter (which you may or may not choose to send). From here you can begin to move forward from this situation.

Commit to moving forward without harbouring resentment or seeking revenge. This doesn’t mean you need to continue the relationship with the person who hurt you, but rather that you’re choosing not to let the past define your future.

By transforming forgiveness into an empowering practice, we create a foundation for a more compassionate, harmonious, and understanding society. However, you must remember that forgiveness is a personal choice and should be pursued when you feel ready. Forcing the process is counteractive, and will more likely cause you to shine a light on the negative emotions rather than allowing them to heal and be released. The other party doesn’t need to be ready to forgive nor ready to accept forgiveness. This process is more for us than it is for them. As we choose to forgive, we heal ourselves and give ourselves the space to release the energy that hinders us and move forward more freely with our lives. And as we heal and embrace more lightness in our lives, we inspire others to do the same, spreading a message of love and healing throughout our communities.

In time, the end goal would be to get to a space when you don’t ever need to forgive anyone because you aren’t condemning them to begin with. If we are to encourage and create a freer world, we have to be okay with everyone being free, and that means letting go of our judgements for people and behaviours we don’t understand. As long as nobody is being intimidated, harmed, or otherwise forced to be less free themselves, everyone is free to be and do and have whatever they want, and that means being open-minded and open-hearted enough to embrace that freedom yourself.

A black and green compass pointing to west, resting in a human's open hand

photo by Aron Visuals

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The Heart of Forgiveness
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