Forgiveness helped me to let go of bitterness about past relationships and become open to new ones. Most of us have experienced forgiveness in some way, but do we understand the concept and its benefits? In this post, I will dive into the power of forgiveness and outline how the practice of forgiveness will support you in starting 2021 with a fresh, healed, and open heart.
Let’s define Forgiveness
Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield describes the act of forgiveness as “giving up all hope for a better past.” Forgiveness is a way to move on. It is an internal process in which we let go of negative feelings such as resentment toward someone that we believe has wronged us, including ourselves. Instead, we approach the one that has hurt us with a genuine sense of goodness and compassion.
In other words, forgiveness is a form of emotional healing that opens our hearts again so that we can trust and connect with others.
Without forgiveness, we are chained to the past, absorbed with hate, distorted by grudge and distrust. The consequence of holding on to such haunting feelings becomes apparent in a story shared by psychologist Howard Cutler about the importance of forgiveness. In a therapy session, his client yelled that her ex-husband ruined her life because he cheated on her and lied to her. She felt betrayed and hurt and can’t let go of the negative emotions triggered by her ex-husband. When Cutler asked her about when they divorced, she responded: “15 Years ago”. In the aftermath, she realized that her incapability to commit again to a relationship was due to the unprocessed pain caused by her divorce. Forgiveness would have been her medicine to heal the trauma and rewrite her story of blame into a more constructive one.
How does forgiveness work?
Forgiveness starts with taking responsibility. Before we can forgive, we need to understand that we all have been hurting someone else, oftentimes unwillingly. In moments of conflict, we may have said or done something that has caused pain in another person. This did not necessarily happen intentionally, but due to stupidity, immaturity, or call it however you want. In that sense, there is no finger-pointing to one evil person who destroyed our life. It is about taking full responsibility that suffering and hurt is part of life, intentionally or unintentionally.
Forgiveness is a genuine act of self-love and thereby a devotion to our mental wellbeing. Often confused with forgetting, forgiving someone or ourselves is not about condoning what happened, but intentionally letting go of the heavy stuff that keeps us paralyzed. The very act of forgiving releases us from holding on to toxic and painful emotions that can hinder us to trust again, to love, to let people in our hearts.
How forgiveness has helped to heal from my latest break-up
After my last breakup, I’ve been holding on to toxic feelings and thoughts for a long time. I’ve been delusional about the ending of my previous relationship. I put much emphasis on the wrongdoings of my ex-girlfriend while running away from my own responsibility. Consequently, I hold a lot of anger that was hindering me from entering another relationship or even opening up myself again to the possibility of allowing an intimate connection. You may wonder how I got out of this state?
The very first step for me was to go back to the situation where the pain arose. I asked myself, did my ex-girlfriend, back then, had the awareness of hurting me? It took me a few attempts to accept that it was not in her intention to hurt me. Neither was it mine to hurt her. It was the relationship, the dynamics, our unhealed trauma that caused the toxic and painful breakup. Once I was able to accept this situation, I could focus my attention to forgive. In order to forgive, I spoke it out verbally several times, with a clear and genuine intention in mind. Although I sensed a release of negative feelings, it took me several forgiveness procedures to peel off the layers of anger. With each one, I felt lighter and lighter, like a feather carried by the wind.
TIP: Want to try out forgiveness yourself? Check out this video on Forgiveness and follow the instruction
Forgiveness – Your long-term investment for a fresh start in 2021
Don’t run into the trap of thinking that forgiveness is a one-shot thing. Forgiveness is a process that takes practice and patience. In some situations, it might happen quicker than in others. In case you haven’t practiced forgiveness before, I suggest starting with an event that caused manageable pain. Some wounds are too deep, too fresh, and require time before you can approach them. Step by step is the right attitude to get the best out of your experience with practicing forgiveness.
Once you feel more comfortable in applying forgiveness, dare to face the more challenging cases. After first encounters with forgiveness practices, you will watch deeper layers peeling off, which have been blinding and destroying you. Buried under the rubble, you will find the shining golden “you” that has been there all the time but could not shine through in the dust and darkness that surrounded it. Underneath the stories of hatred, anger, fear, vengeance, and blame there lays joy, love, peace, resentment, and trust.
For 2021, I wish you strength and confidence to look into the shadows of your open wounds, to accept the pain, and rewrite your stories of betrayal by stepping into the power of forgiveness. With enough trust and patience, you will notice that every time you let go of another heavy piece of your past your heart opens up and shines bright.
Cutler, H. C., & Lama, D. (2011). The art of happiness. Hachette UK.
Enright, R. (2015). Eight Keys to Forgiveness. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/eight_keys_to_forgiveness
Kornfield, J. https://jackkornfield.com/the-practice-of-forgiveness/
Souders, B. (2020). What is forgiveness and what are the benefits? Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/forgiveness-benefits/#:~:text=Forgiveness%20is%20often%20defined%20as,has%20wronged%20us%2C%20including%20ourselves.