Only SEVEN steps? “But I am so mad!” you say.
“How could I possibly learn to forgive in SEVEN STEPS! Don’t you know what they did to me?! They don’t DESERVE my forgiveness!” While that may be true – you deserve to be free…. To forgive is to be free. And it starts with you.
You see, NOT forgiving is like being in prison. An emotional and spiritual prison that keeps you in knots on the inside. It doesn’t allow you to move forward. To trust. To be your authentic self. Why don’t we want to forgive? Easy. We think it keeps us safe. We think it keeps us protected. But really what it does when we hold on is it keeps us stuck. Angry. Rigid. Victimized. Resentful. All of that is toxic to our mind, body and soul.
True forgiveness is for YOU and not for anyone else. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you or condoning of their action. It doesn’t mean you have to let them back into your lives. What you are after is to find peace.
True forgiveness is an important action that can lead to a place of greater healing and peace. Forgiving and letting go of anger and resentment has even shown to benefit your physical health. Studies show that forgiveness can bring about lower stress hormones, strengthen the immune system, lower blood pressure, and reduce gastrointestinal and other body pains. But we know it doesn’t come easy. And sometimes we have to practice these steps over and over again – and the work is worth it. The peace. The not allowing someone else to control your emotions – that is true freedom.
While forgiveness isn’t always easy, taking these steps promise to bring
about greater understanding, awareness, and can equip an individual with the tools necessary to learn to forgive and move on.
1. YOU HAVE TO WANT TO FORGIVE
Refusing to learn to forgive someone hurts us and usually not the other person. Anger is the culprit behind this and needs to be worked through first. Fear can also play a part when we're unwilling to let go. To process your anger and fear, try working with a breathing mediation to process your anger and fear, find a trusted friend, coach or therapist to talk with. Meditate on a daily basis or take steps to begin to learn how. Recognize that forgiveness is essential for your own healing. Wanting to start meditating but not sure how to start? Check out my free online introduction to meditation class!
2. REMEMBER EVERYONE IS DOING THE BEST THEY CAN
Hurt people – hurt people.
Most people don’t intentionally hurt others. Those who do are in deep pain themselves. Continuing to come back to this truth helps us see the person's humanity instead of demonizing them. Instead I try to understand what would cause them to make these choices, and even if I can't understand it, I work on trusting that they are doing what's best for them.
This of course doesn’t mean that I sign up to be hurt by them again. Maybe I have to take a timeout from the relationship and reassess. Maybe I need to not be in the relationship at all. Discovering and holding onto your boundaries is a powerful part of the process to learn to forgive as well.
3. ACCEPT THAT YOU CAN ONLY CONTROL YOU
This is a Free Will Zone Universe. We can't make people do what they don't want to. We especially can’t make them do what we want them to do. (Dang it!!) Notice if your pain is coming from the desire to control someone else. Do you want them to do what you think is best? Maybe you're in pain because they went back on their word or changed their mind. When we feel pain in relation to another person we often feel disempowered. Bring the awareness back to yourself, where you can grow. How can you learn about yourself through this situation? There is always something you can take responsibility for—even if it’s just 1%.
4. SEND LOVE AND LIGHT
Sounds really woo-woo. Right? But it works (see note below!)
Once you’re able to hold the above perspectives you can begin the forgiveness process. One technique I use is to send the person who has hurt me love and light. I sit in meditation, and then I imagine the person’s heart opening and their body radiating with love and light. Another friend uses the Loving Kindness Meditation. These are great exercise for you to understand that love is abundant. If you give love it comes back to you even more.
Note: If you haven't yet worked through 1-3, this step is not going to feel authentic and might end up creating anger. If it doesn’t feel authentic at this point, that's ok. Continue on your pursuit of happiness and freedom. Start again and remember the peace that will come with this.
5. SAY IT OUT LOUD
When I need to forgive someone I say the words out loud as often as possible, “I forgive you, NAME.” I imagine them being completely happy and at peace with themselves, which is what I ultimately want for every human being. At first you might feel a lot of resistance if you’re holding onto the pain tightly. Over time you’ll begin to feel yourself allowing true forgiveness, and the words will flow more easily.
You can also imagine your heart opening as you say the words, and you can send the person love while you’re reciting the mantra. Consistency is key here. When should you practice this? Whenever they pop into your head and give you a queasy or angry feeling.
6. LET THEM GO
The resistance to forgiveness is caused because we’re reticent to release pain. Our minds will focus on the situation repeatedly. We will play the situation out over and over again, ruminating on it. Each time that anger can build. So letting it go is key. During these times of anger, hurt and resentment say out loud, “I release you, NAME.”
There is a healthy part of healing and processing pain, but there is also the obsessive mind that wants to hold on and relive all of the negativity. When my mind goes to the painful situation I ask myself whether or not this is serving me. Because I love myself, I want only the best for me so it's the question that helps me move on- is this serving me? When it’s not serving you, bring the focus back to you, allow yourself to let go, and focus on the amazing life you deserve.
7. FORGIVENESS IS A PROCESS
Sometimes the pain feels so deep that we can’t imagine how we can ever learn to forgive. It’s important to remember that healing is a process.
We make progress, we think we’ve forgiven, and suddenly we’re in a place of pain again. It’s OK. Begin the process of forgiveness all over again. Let it be. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself time to go through this process.
Although we’d rather live pain-free lives, these experiences are huge opportunities for our own growth if we allow them to be. When we decide to process our pain, to reflect on ourselves, and to release those who have hurt us, we make tremendous leaps in our own transformation.
Nikki Bucktead, MA, CLC, PMP is a Certified Life Coach as well as a Certified Meditation and Ayurveda Instructor through the Chopra Center for Wellbeing. She also provides consulting to small and large business regarding their Workplace Wellness Programs. She owns Transformative Coaching & Consulting Service located in Huntington Beach, CA www.nikkibuckstead.com