Even though forgiveness is easier said than done, we always, always feel better once we forgive. The concept of forgiveness here applies to forgiving ourselves as well as others.
When we don’t forgive, when we hold onto grudges or resentment, it’s akin to holding onto heavy baggage. What happens when we hold onto too much heavy baggage? It weighs us down and becomes an emotionally troubling experience for us. It’s just a really unhealthy way of living and sometimes the scary thing is we are unaware of how unhealthy holding onto grudges can be for our emotional well being.
However, once we put the baggage down, we feel lighter. As if we have just pushed a heavy rock off of our chest. We start to wonder why it took so long to realise that non-forgiveness is toxic for our health and well-being.
The Buddha said that holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die, it is us who suffers. The same can be said about non-forgiveness. When we choose not to forgive we are polluting our health with negativity. We are wasting our health and the joyous present moment by keeping hold of the bitterness and resentment we feel towards either ourselves or other people.
Non-forgiveness doesn’t change anything, if anything it holds us back from our own happiness. It pollutes our well-being and causes us to feel bitter and miserable. We’ve been applying non-forgiveness for most of our lives and so it’s a very strong instinctive reaction that we never really question.
We just automatically assume that this is the best approach, without realising that it is a complete waste of time. It makes sense to feel resentful towards someone if they’ve wronged us, but it doesn’t actually help. Nothing can be gained from a feeling of bitterness, hatred and the automatic tendency to not forgive.
So what if we completely flipped this habitual and unhelpful tendency on it’s head and consciously chose to forgive instead? How would it feel if we completely forgave everyone who has ever hurt us? No matter what they did.
We would go through a kind of energetic purification process, if this is starting to sound a bit too on the new-agey side of things, don’t worry because this is a completely natural happening. What happens is that all of the negative energy we’ve been holding onto like a knotted ball starts to loosen and untangle itself.
Our energy shifts from toxic to harmonious like a flip of a switch. We start to feel more lighter and emotionally balanced. It really is like going through a process of restoration. We never have to assume that what happened was acceptable, that would be mad. But we now realize that holding onto grudges only damages us. So we forgive to purify our well-being.
When we forgive, it’s not really about them, it’s about us. It doesn’t in no way mean that what other’s have done to us was acceptable, or that we have to change our perspective about what they did. No, quite clearly and honestly, it was not acceptable. However, holding onto grudges is just unhealthy and a big waste of time because it doesn’t really allow us to move on with the precious little amount of time we have. If they happen to come out of the woodwork and apologise for what they did, then of course it’s best to forgive them.
It also doesn’t hurt to change our perspective about why they did what they did. Instead of coming from a victim mentality, thinking that what they did was our fault, or we’re the ones which were the problem.
Maybe they did this to us because something was troubling them at home, maybe they were badly treated by their parents and feel justified to take it out on us? Maybe they just want to hurt people because that’s how they get their kicks? Who knows? There could be many reasons to why they acted the way they did.
When we look at things from a different perspective, especially in this scenario, we hold onto our power. Once we understand that the person/s who hurt us are the ones who are suffering inside, we can start to feel sympathy or compassion for the other because they are disturbed and in pain. They are just passing on their own feelings of pain to other’s.
This also works when we forgive ourselves. It’s all too natural and easy to condemn ourselves for whatever we perceived we did wrong. Yes we probably said or did something which hurt another or scolded ourselves for something we failed to do or messed up on, but beating ourselves up is not going to bring about a better situation. It’s going to keep us trapped in a place we don’t want to be in.
If we look back and remember how it feels when we judge ourselves, we will know that it makes us feel bad and full of negative energy. Do we think that feeling bad for what we did is justifiable? Do we feel that it’s the right thing to do? Why do we think this? Do you think it’s because we’ve done this our entire lives and haven’t really thought it through?
For example, if we hurt another person, the best thing to do in these situations is to tell the person that we are truly sorry and ask for their forgiveness.
Naturally, when we are emotionally stable, we are concerned about the well-being of other people. And so if holding onto grudges pollutes a persons well-being, then of course we want them to forgive to help them return back to emotional balance. Forgiving ourselves will mean that we can let go of the hate and guilt we feel towards ourselves.
We have to accept that we are all human and humans are inherently flawed creatures. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes from time to time, with the emphasis on WE. That means every single person on the planet. So there’s no getting away from this.
Beating ourselves up might seem like a normal thing to do, but it’s going to keep us stuck in suffering, isn’t it? And if we are trying to create a life where we want to be emotionally balanced, this isn’t a helpful strategy is it? So it’s logical to think that non-forgiveness is holding us back in life. The solution as I’ve already mentioned is to forgive others and ourselves. This is a lot easier said than done though and it’s probably going to take a little while before forgiving feels natural and the right thing for us to do. One of the things we can do to make forgiving into a habit is to practice forgiveness. And the best part is we don’t have to actually be with the person we’re going to forgive.
Vishen Lakhiani, Author of The Code of The Extraordinary Mind swears by the power of forgiveness and has created a ‘forgiving’ exercise which has promising results. Below is a short explanation of Vishen’s Exercise on how forgiveness and empathy rewire our brains.
Obviously when we practice anything for a consistent amount of time, our brains create new neural pathways of learning. Said another way, the more we repeat something, the better we get. Practice really does equate to perfection, well close enough anyway.
With this in mind, we can practice seeing the person who caused us emotional pain in our minds eye and we can see ourselves telling that person we forgive them. It’s important that we pay attention to the way we’re feeling whilst we’re doing this exercise. At the start we might still feel heavy and uncomfortable because any initial association we’ve had of this person is going to be negative. But when we practice shifting from non-forgiveness to forgiveness, we feel different inside. It almost feels soothing when we decide to let go of that pain and negativity we’ve been holding onto. When we change our perspective into a picture of forgiveness, our natural positive feelings and behaviours can come through.