“Clean your finger before you point at my spots.”
— Benjamin Franklin
Nothing eases our minds and hearts better than the practice of forgiveness. It is the gel that soothes our relationship experiences, and the key to releasing us from self-created prisons. By practicing forgiveness, we disconnect from the emotional charge that is attached to a certain person, situation, or memory.
This process has everything to do with releasing the hurt inside of us. To the extent that we hold on to anger, resentment, or feelings of retaliation is the degree of emotional bondage and lack of freedom we will experience in life. Ceasing to ruminate on thoughts of revenge or any other related thinking releases the poison of those feelings and brings about peace within. Only by freeing ourselves from these toxic emotions can we enjoy today and create a happier future.
Some common misconceptions about forgiveness that often keeps us stuck are:
• It lets someone off the hook.
• It reduces the importance or impact of the original offense.
• It condones another’s bad behavior.
• It requires reconciliation.
• It is a favor to the perpetrator.
Forgiving others is not an easy thing to do, especially if the perpetrator committed an act of abuse or betrayal, but it is vital to our emotional and physical health, and to the viability of our current and future relationships.
And it’s important to remember that not all hurt that we’ve experienced is caused by someone else’s abusive actions or intentional mean-spirited behavior. Much of what happens in our life is what we perceive to be true, and sometimes those perceptions can blur the reality of a given situation. Ultimately, refusing to forgive others for their real or perceived offenses will deny us the needed closure from the past.
It may help to reflect on times you have hurt others and on those who have forgiven you. It’s easy to make note of the bad behavior of others, but it’s important to acknowledge our own shortcomings as well. Ironically, some of us may focus too much attention on our weaknesses and need to forgive ourselves for this or other types of personal harm.
In any case, if we’re holding on to painful feelings toward others (or ourselves) for any reason, it is necessary to release them, free ourselves from this emotional bondage, and move forward.
Begin the healing process of forgiveness by discussing your feelings with someone you trust. Talk with an individual you consider wise and compassionate—such as a spiritual leader or an impartial loved one or friend. Sharing your feelings with an objective listener can help you gain some perspective, and get some much-needed support.