(By Vicky Thompson)
SINCE CHILDHOOD, I HAVE BEEN AFRAID to use the F-word. But today I’m going to face my fears. Brace yourself.
I bet you didn’t think I was going to say forgiveness, but sometimes you have to be brave and try one of the hardest, but most rewarding practices you will ever use, to find happiness within.
Some people miss out on using the power of forgiveness, fearing that it condones hurtful behavior. Forgiveness is really about releasing yourself from the burden of holding onto the conflict, allowing you to take control of your response to the situation. By recognizing your power of choice, your inner well-being flows like a simple mantra of happiness: release the pain, feel the gain.
Forgiveness occurs naturally when you view others through the lens of love and compassion. As a state of being, love opens your heart to new possibilities, helping you to accept choices made by others. Building on the foundation of love, you can begin to forgive others by accessing your compassion, which is the ability to feel empathy for others and act toward them in a nonjudgmental way. Forgiving others helps you to take personal responsibility for your own actions, allowing yourself and others to continue unburdened on life’s journey.
The Miracle of Forgiveness
The benefits of forgiveness sound great, but I felt that this type of transformation would be nothing short of a miracle when I began the difficult process of forgiving my family. According to a 2000 Gallup poll, 84 percent of people believe in miracles, so maybe I’m not alone in my belief that achieving the F-word requires divine intervention.
During my long drive on the road to happiness, my faith tank has had a slow leak. My faith and ability to forgive were first challenged when I was a little girl. I was sexually abused by my grandfather when I was a child and this loss of faith in humanity continued into adulthood. My anger over the past has followed me through relationships, jobs and other experiences I’ve faced in life.
But pain and anger have not lead to inner peace, so in my early thirties I finally chose to follow the path of spiritual masters and give meditation a try. Operating on the miracle theory, I thought that perhaps the key to happiness existed within on a deeper spiritual level.
I found that I am not alone in this quest for inner wisdom. Techniques such as affirmations, meditation and prayer are now recognized as viable methods for healing physical, emotional, mental and spiritual pain. The use of these types of spiritual tools even transcends religious affiliation. Nearly 85 percent of people pray weekly even though one-third of them don’t attend church, according to Barna Research Group.
Through the use of spiritual tools, I’ve come to view forgiveness as an on-going practice. I admit that some of my grandfather’ s actions are hard to forgive, but I’ve had the greatest difficulty in forgiving my grandmother. A few years before she died, my grandmother admitted to knowing that my grandfather had abused many of her children and grandchildren. I see forgiveness as a process of lifting the layers of bondage from my soul. Bit by bit, piece by piece, I slowly forgive my grandmother’ s inaction, gaining back my personal power and ability to love again each time I feel compassion for the choices she made in her life.
This process is a gift for both the giver and receiver because in order to forgive, I have to pull from a deeper well of love and compassion within myself. I have to search for commonalities that unite, rather than divide, my life with my grandmother. My own experiences as a parent have helped me to better understand the complexities of the choices we all make. I can’t change past experiences, but I hold the power to choose how I live in the present.
A Simple Path of Forgiveness
Viewing forgiveness as a three-step process, I’ve learned that letting go of conflict is a continuous part of everyday living. Forgiveness is not a destination, but a daily practice for navigating the bumpy road of life experiences. Walk the simple path of forgiveness by taking the following steps:
Affirm your power to forgive others and yourself.
Look within to understand the conflict.
State your intention to forgive others and move forward.
The first step to forgiveness is affirming that you hold the power to let go of painful events that limit your ability to feel love, acceptance and happiness. Say out loud the following affirmation to confirm the positive strength you hold within to resolve the conflict.
The Power of Forgiveness Affirmation
Through my inner heart of love,
I let go of this pain.
Through my inner soul of freedom,
I break free from the chains of anger and disappointment.
Sometimes I forget my true heart,
But forgiveness helps me to remember my love.
I let go of what came before,
Clearing my path to choose what will be.
The next step of forgiveness is meditating upon the conflict to understand and let it go. Find a quiet place and sit in a comfortable position to use the following meditation.
Understanding Forgiveness Meditation
Close your eyes and breathe deeply. With each inward breath, feel the light of love flowing into the crown of your head. Embraced by love, you allow pain and fear to gently float out of your body. Accept the love, allowing it to release the pain of the situation with the other person.
Now hold yourself and the other person in a safe, quiet place in your heart. You both are washed by the love flowing through your being. Bathed in light of love, you see each other from a higher place: as wonderful beings on a journey home to your inner selves. Holding both of you in love, say out loud, Dear friend, I hold love and only the highest and best for you in this moment. I forgive you and I forgive myself for the painful choices made in this situation. I let this experience go with love.
Let love fill your heart completely as the image of you both dissolves in the light. Stay in this place of love and forgiveness for a moment, remembering this peace of body, mind and spirit.
After doing your inner work, the final step in the forgiveness process is stating your intentions to forgive others in the conflict. We all hold good intentions, and when you can align your actions and intentions, you become a powerful agent of forgiveness. Make this step your own by making a call, a letter or an email of forgiveness. And then allow the conflict to end, holding no strings or attachments to the event.