I listened to my friend’s voice on the phone, That Saturday, twenty years ago, I was ill, and she didn’t give me the right medication. She just didn’t see what I had. I had to go to the hospital to be properly medicated. His spouse happened to be a doctor and it seemed that she had made a mistake. He finished his story, I will never forget that she did this to me. I could hear the indignation in his voice. The anger and resentment was buried deep in his heart and he carried it around for twenty years now.
Listening to him, I wondered, How many similar stories were stored in his mind and in his spouse’s mind? How did they influence their relationship? How deep was the invisible crack produced by the anger and resentment in their relationship? My friend was a person who sought peace in relationships so I became curious and asked him, Have you ever thought about forgiveness? At the other end was silence. Then, he said, Forgiveness? His voice sounded astonished as if this option never had come into his mind. No, we have never forgiven each other. We are far away from this. He sighed.
What role does forgiveness play in your life?
It happens so often in a relationship: your spouse did you wrong and you feel hurt, angry and sad, maybe an unfair critique or even a betrayal. Each time, the invisible crack in the relationship and in the heart grows a bit deeper. Forgiveness seems impossible due to the involved injustice because there exists the general belief that forgiveness implies that we accept the unfair incidents or that we liberate the other person from their responsibility.
Yet, forgiveness is not about liberating others from their responsibility. If you forgive them, they remain responsible for their actions and the involved consequences.
What do you win if you forgive? What will you lose?
Forgiveness is merely your decision that you let go of anger and resentment or the desire of revenge. This way you can liberate yourself from the painful story and move on with your life. It is not necessary that you still have a relationship with this person to forgive them. It is your inner process that will follow its own rhythm and will lead you to a higher level of well-being and healthier relationships. Medical studies show that practicing forgiveness leads to lower blood pressure and relieves stress. Without forgiveness you risk that you bring bitterness and anger into existing relationships and into new experiences. You may not be able to experience deep connectedness to other people.
How can you practice it?
If you feel ready to forgive somebody in your life, I propose to you the following exercise:
Set your intention to forgive this person, maybe it is your father or mother, your ex-spouse or your current partner, or a colleague at work. You can start by writing down all negative feelings you have about what happened to you. Allow yourself to describe all that you feel. Don’t judge your own feelings, allow them to emerge. If you have finished, you can burn the paper in a safe place. Now, think about what might have motivated the other person to act in such a way. It is likely that they wanted to avoid pain, perhaps they acted out of fear or maybe due to their childhood wounds. Try to see the world through their eyes and their experiences. Alternatively, you could also write the story out of the perspective of this person. How would they tell what happened? Try to understand their motivation, their weakness and their immaturity. Take all the time you need. Then, think about everything that you are grateful for and write it down. Everything is important, it doesn’t matter whether it is big or small. Finally, close your eyes, imagine the person in front of you and tell them I forgive you. Repeat these steps as often as you need to. If you get stuck in your process talk to a friend you trust in or ask for professional help.
What did you learn about forgiveness in your family?
I grew up in a family that rejected forgiveness and I have experienced as a child the never-ending cycle of bitterness and hatred that was toxic for the relationships and the emotional well-being of the involved people. I now practice forgiveness for my own well-being. If you decide to let go of anger and resentment, you will release the control and the power that the offending person and the situation has about your life, you will be able to move on with your life and to experience a higher level of inner peace and compassion as well as healthier relationships. If your mind regards forgiveness as difficult or impossible, this prospect should be a motivation to give it a try so that you can make your own experience.
What experiences did you make with forgiveness?
I look forward to reading your comments below!
Do you want to read more? Check the post How to become a Modern Hero.