In Science of Mind, we are often asked “What is Forgiveness?” The simple definition is: Forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. In other words, forgiveness is a choice, a deliberate conscious choice to let go of deeply held negative feelings and beliefs. This brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from the corrosive anger and resentment. As the old saying goes: “Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Resentment and focus on the harm done only brings the person doing the resenting harm; harm in the mind, emotions, spirit, and, sometimes, the physical body. Louise Hay, in her book “You Can Heal Your Body”, cites several stories of diseases such as cancer, liver disease, or kidney disease that occur because of a lack of forgiveness.
What Forgiveness is Not
Now that we have an idea of what forgiveness is, let’s define what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not glossing over or denying the seriousness of the offense against you or what you may have done. Forgiveness is not forgetting, nor condoning or excusing the offenses against you or committed by you. Forgiveness does not obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them, or yourself, from legal accountability. With forgiveness one eventually sees that the experience or offense as just that, an experience. Forgiveness teaches us that no experience defines the whole person because each and everyone is perfect, whole, and complete exactly as they are. Forgiveness is an act of love.
With that said, forgiveness can take work. Forgiveness starts with taking responsibility for one’s anger, resentment, and your part in the situation whatever it was. There are many techniques for forgiveness but some suggestions are listed below:
- Make a clear consciousness choice to forgive, whatever it takes.
- Remember that it’s OK to feel anger or guilt.
- Compose an affirmation such as “I forgive myself and I forgive X” Replace the X with the other person’s name. Write the affirmation and place it in several places in the household or office where you can see it. Say that affirmation over and over again many times. Keep repeating the affirmation out loud as often as you can until you feel the resentment and anger lifting.
- Write a letter to the other and yourself. No need to send it unless you want to. Remember to be kind to yourself and the other. State your forgiveness in the letter with the words “I forgive you (or yourself).”
- Imagine what life would look like if you forgave yourself and the other.
- Seek out inspirational stories of forgiveness and read them over and over.
- Watch Rev. Lea’s message on forgiveness for deeper insight.
Forgiveness is not always easy and cannot be done half-way to have full healing. Forgiveness must be complete and unconditional. Forgiveness must not hold any judgement toward the one who harmed you, toward the situation and especially yourself. In the end, forgiveness is an act of love. As François de la Rochefoucauld said: “One forgives to the degree that one loves.” The path of self love and self discovery must include forgiveness. Through forgiveness one learns to love all who may have harmed you, and especially yourself.
Affirmation: I am filled with compassion, patience, and love as I forgive myself and those who harmed me.
Patrick Fitzgerald, RScP