Unconditional love and self-love hinge on the act of forgiveness. Forgiveness can be a difficult thing for people to grapple with. The definition of forgiveness, according to Merriam-Webster, is to stop feeling anger toward someone who has done something wrong or to stop blaming someone. But what does that really mean? And how the heck do you do it?
Let’s look at forgiveness in a new light. Rather than viewing ourselves as righteous for pardoning others for their sins, we can define forgiveness as a way to see the innate perfection in everyone. A Course in Miracles talks about how forgiveness is the path to salvation because it is the moment-by-moment practice of seeing the God-Self within everyone you meet. Rather than judging and condemning the actions of others, you have the opportunity to see the wisdom of the universe within them.
Practice forgiveness with everyone you meet – particularly yourself! Here is the process that I use:
- Notice the negative emotions and judgments that arise. You have no power to change that which you are unaware. This is the first step and may be the only step that you are willing to take at first. That’s okay – this is a process and making the choice to notice is huge.
- Notice that you are creating the forgiveness opportunity. Let’s say that you notice negative emotions or judgments arise because someone is behaving in a way that you perceive and label as bad. Can you see that the behavior is not inherently bad? And, more importantly, that the person is not inherently naughty? Your judgment of the behavior is what is making you perceive the action as bad. Just sit with that idea and see how it feels. Can you see how that could be?
- Take a moment to breathe. This is not a time to condemn the person or yourself. Take a few rhythmic breaths, feel your heart space, feel compassion for the situation, and center yourself.
- Choose again. This can be the hardest part of the process. It is not easy to let go of our negative emotions and judgments. We become attached to them because they provide us with a certain level of safety. It feels good to be in control and to be right. Yet, in the long run, it hurts a lot more to hold onto those resentments and beliefs. If you can live in a state of forgiveness, then your thoughts and feelings do not have a chance to grow into a massive, toxic mess that causes you to suffer.
- Remember who you really are. You are love and so is the other being in every interaction. If you extend love, then you will feel beloved. If you project judgments, then you will feel judged. You deserve to walk through life unencumbered by all of the judgments that cause unnecessary suffering, and you have the power to make that your reality.
Learn to utilize this process so that forgiveness becomes a choice in the moment to see the good in others. Sometimes you may not catch the forgiveness opportunity until after it has happened. The moment you realize that you were not coming from love, go through the above process before resentment has a chance to grow.
When you pass over a forgiveness opportunity for a long period of time, the situation can grow to seem unforgiveable. Be patient with yourself. Gently and lovingly unravel all of the knots of suffering as though you were untangling a delicate necklace. How could you have mistaken the situation? How could you choose to see it differently? Will it hurt more to let the resentment go or to carry it around with you every day? What would you be free to do if you could summon the courage to forgive?
Begin with an awareness of your feelings and thoughts. Just notice when you are in a state of judgment and see how it feels. If you don’t like it, then move onto the next step. A change is perception can help you dissolve the forgiveness opportunity. The choice is yours.