The idea that it is important to forgive in order to heal from the experiences in our lives isn’t new. Ancient wisdom teaches us that holding on to resentment, anger and guilt causes harm to ourselves. Modern scientific research reveals that negative thoughts and emotions can actually cause physical disease and illness in our bodies. You could even go so far as to say that the body symptoms that we experience are mere reflections of dis-ease occurring on an emotional or energetic level of our Beings. So how are we to free ourselves from the harm that our feelings and judgements can cause us? I believe the key to shifting the effects of our negative emotions is through practicing true forgiveness.
What Does “True Forgiveness” Really Mean?
There are a lot of misconceptions about what true forgiveness really means. There is this idea that forgiveness means forgetting what happened, that you have to somehow decide that what has happened is OK and to just “let go” of your feelings about it. This couldn’t be further from the case. True forgiveness IS about letting go – but it’s about letting go of the version of ourselves that is damaged and emerging with a version of ourselves that has drawn strength and purpose from the experiences in our lives.
One of the first steps is to look deeply and honestly at the subtle ways that we still hold on to judgement, resentment, guilt or blame towards ourselves or others. True forgiveness does NOT condone what happened. It simply acknowledges that we are all human. Human mistakes can be terribly painful to ourselves and those around us. Yet, if we can learn to perceive these mistakes through a lense of compassion and understanding for the shared human struggle, we can begin to forgive in the truest sense of the word. By forgiving from the heart, old traumatic memories are released, which brings us back to the flow of love and a return to our wellbeing on all levels.
Learn to Accept and Appreciate Every Emotion
Another critical step on the path to true forgiveness is learning to accept and embrace every emotion we experience. Like our physical senses of sight and touch, emotions are our “vibrational interpreters” which help us understand the experiences of life. They are the most vibrant expressions of our truest, most authentic selves.
Unfortunately, most of us have been taught to repress our true emotions from a young age. Take anger, for example. Anger is not wrong. Anger is a beautiful emotion. It is pure energy, full of creative life force. It has the capacity to set boundaries and honestly express our individuality. When anger is allowed expression, the channels are also kept open for creativity, joy and the wildness of spirit that makes life worth living. Anger should not be repressed, it should be celebrated healthily.
One of the keys to true forgiveness is to learn to deeply accept whatever you are feeling. Those feelings are there for good reason. Every emotion has a right to exist. Forgiving isn’t about spiritualizing or moving away from your feelings. It’s about getting real with your feelings and deeply accepting and honoring whatever is there.
Relief from the Burdens We Carry
One could say that forgiveness is also an exercise in self-love. We are often taught that we should always consider the needs of others above our own, to shoulder our own burdens and if we can, to shoulder the burdens of our loved ones as well. Without being narcissistic, real self-love is about taking care of ourselves first and THEN giving to the world around us. It is about fully accepting every piece of who we are with open arms and non-judgement. It is about recognizing that the path to healing starts with loving ourselves enough to practice true forgiveness.
To forgive takes real strength of mind and heart. The path to redemption is available to all. When we forgive, we liberate ourselves from our bondages. In doing so, we also make way for real healing to truly begin.
Image Credit: Emma Whitney Photography