The power of forgiveness
It is a fact that in one way or another, we all get hurt in life. Suffering comes in many forms. Perhaps you experienced abuse, neglect and other adverse childhood experiences. Maybe you have been bullied, discriminated against, prejudiced, or affected by inequality.
Later on in life, maybe you experienced relationship issues, betrayal, breakups, or divorce, you lost significant people or you’ve been through relationship conflicts that shook your sense of confidence and self-worth and your trust in humanity.
These traumatic experiences potentially fragmented your psyche, poisoned your physiology, and wounded your soul. If they remain unresolved, you carry their pain with you through life and that deprives you of feeling joyful and at peace.
Many of us ruminate over the events from the past and feel resentment or hatred towards those that have wronged us. And often, we struggle to forgive them, which keeps the pain alive.
What is forgiveness really?
Forgiveness seems like an easy act, but in reality, it appears to be quite a complex process. If the hurt affected all parts of your being, where is forgiveness taking place then? Is it in your body, mind, or soul?
An important body of research has emerged recently around the impact of trauma and hurt on the body and many studies highlight the impact of hardship on our nervous system too, but spirituality is still little present in the treatment programmes which leaves forgiveness out of the picture.
If we look through the semantics of the word “forgiveness” we learn that it means to “release”, to “give up” something. In our case, to release the pain and give up suffering. Since the hurt touched you in your wholeness, the release then needs to take place in your body, mind, and soul. In other words, in the whole of your being.
Shall I forgive or not?
But how can you do it when you are aching inside and your body still remembers the hurt? How can you move on and forget about the hurt when the memories from the past are still disturbing you? How can you heal when your heart and soul are filled with negative emotions? Is there an option for unforgiveness at all? And what is the impact of not forgiving?
Most likely, you had no say in the unpleasant events that happened to you, but today, in this very moment, you can chose your course of action, because choice is your real power and no one can take it away from you. Today, you can choose to forgive or not. It is your privilege, however, it can become your punishment as well.
The consequences of unforgiveness
Before you make a decision to consider forgiveness or not, you need to get clear about your inner inquiry. Who are you in this exploration? Are you the victim? Are you the judger? Or do you feel connected with others and acknowledge that we are all exposed to mistakes and we are all “sinners”?
What is the goal or outcome you are hoping to achieve? Do you forgive others or yourself? Who is benefiting from your forgiveness? Is forgiveness changing you or the other(s) and/or your relationships? Are you willing to consider forgiving yourself too for the mistakes you made and the possible hurt to others?
From a psychological perspective, when you choose to not forgive you may expose yourself to further suffering because you remain attached to the painful events of the past and what they did to you. The impact can be significant. In the space of unforgiveness, you might live in a heightened state of stress that creates an unhealthy chemistry in your body, turmoil in the mind, and heaviness in the heart. As a consequence, you may suffer in your mental health and overall well-being.
This is why it is so important to choose carefully because, without forgiveness, it may be difficult if not impossible to achieve genuine healing, and without healing, there is no transformation, and many of us get stuck in life because of this reason.
Remember that unforgiveness (the lack of pain “release”) can keep alive in your mind what those people did to you. You need to ask if you think of yourself as being a victim, or if you want to open to self-inquiry and live your life like a learner, survivor, and thriver.
The benefits of forgiveness
When you live from a place of self-care and expansion, forgiveness becomes necessary. You want to grow and develop. You want to better yourself and in order to do this, you need to change, you need to transform, and in this process, you need to let go of some old and unwanted parts of yourself and then let in and welcome some new experiences and ways of thinking, acting, and behaving that create a new you... and forgiveness is key in this process.
The question now is when you choose to forgive, how do you do it? Clearly, you need more than thinking or saying you forgive, otherwise, we would all have been healed by now and there would be no suffering in the world.
Give yourself the time and space to process things and embrace forgiveness in your own rhythm and at your own pace.
Although a complex process, there is a way to find forgiveness and then tap into healing and transformation. You need to go through a few steps before you reach the powerful and transformational experience of forgiveness and here are the steps explained:
Tapping into healing
You will never be able to forgive someone if you do not understand the circumstances of their wrongdoing - if you don’t understand them, the “doers”, and their personal history, and what might have contributed to that hurtful act. The understanding helps you see the event as someone else’s problem and not as an action against you, and empowers you to leave the responsibility for that action with the “doer”.
When you have a clear understanding of the circumstances of your hurt, you are more able to accept what happened. Acceptance helps you reduce the resistance and the wish that it did not happen, and gradually you release some tension associated with that painful memory. As soon as you understood and genuinely accepted what happened, you become less consumed by the events from the past. You feel more inclined to surrender to what was and to the fact that you cannot change the past nor the events, and you feel inspired to change how you look at them and how you feel about them.
With the “letting go”, you gradually see the events from distance and, as you understand, accept and surrender to them you start to extract meaning from your pain and learn some valuable lessons about yourself, others, and the world, lessons you keep with you for the future and you share with others to initiate collective healing.
Learning is shifting something inside you. It shows you a new perspective on the event of the past and it sheds light on aspects of yourself and others that you were not aware of before. Learning is raising your awareness and in that space, your body, mind, and soul will naturally start to forgive.
When you feel the power of forgiveness in your body, mind, and soul you start to heal your hurts. You awaken dormant facets of your being and you do not identify yourself as a victim. You free yourself from self-imposed limitations and you grow as a person, guided by understanding, acceptance, letting go, finding meaning, and forgiveness.
Healing opens the door to inner transformation and fulfilment. You transform from the inside out and you connect with your true self which is now confident, self-reliant, and worthy irrespective of other people’s actions towards you. Now you feel more at peace, you are able to self-regulate your internal life and you are open to joy and happiness.
Counselling and therapy can help
As explored, forgiveness is a positive experience and it is essential for healing and personal development. In the absence of forgiveness, you remain stuck in pain and suffering and you re-live the hurts from the past like they are happening in the here and now.
Counselling and psychotherapy are fantastic platforms to help you move through the steps of self-discovery, healing, and personal growth so you can offload the pain of the past and create space for a happier and more fulfilling life experience. But ultimately, forgiveness remains your decision and depends very much on your readiness to embrace new perspectives and on where you find yourself in your self-development journey.
So be kind and compassionate towards yourself and give yourself the time and space to process things and embrace forgiveness in your own rhythm and at your own pace.