What does forgiveness mean to you?

When you were a child, were you told to forgive and forget? And were you ordered to say sorry, even if you didn’t want to. I heard those phrases. As children, we can interpret this to mean that our feelings aren’t important and that we should forget about what happened. It minimises or trivialised the action that hurt us. We might have interpreted this message to mean our feelings about the person or action didn’t matter, or that we didn’t matter.

Some see forgiveness as sending the message that the offending action was okay or ‘what you did is alright with me’.

Dictionary definitions describe forgiveness as the act of forgiving, meaning to cease to blame someone or something, grant pardon for a wrongdoing, to free from penalty, or to cease to feel resentment against someone or something on account of a wrong committed.

Psychiatrist, Dr Judith Orloff describes forgiveness as the act of compassionately releasing the desire to punish someone or yourself for an offence. Others have described forgiveness as letting go of the pain that someone has caused you or that you have caused yourself.

To me, forgiveness is not about overlooking or disregarding the person or action nor saying ‘what you did is okay with me’. I consider forgiveness to mean releasing the pain and resentment about the situation and releasing the need to punish. It is about releasing our attachment to the situation or to its meaning. Anger, resentment, the need to seek revenge or punishment are all strings that bind us to the action or person who hurt us. Forgiveness allows us to release the strings that have connected us to the event or person. When we cut these strings, we are free.

Forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give yourself. Forgiveness is about you. Forgiveness is for you.

I believe there are different levels or stages of forgiveness. I see it as a journey. It takes time, willingness and a certain amount of soul searching and processing of our feelings to be able to release our painful emotions.

Forgiveness, like grief is an active process. It doesn’t happen straight away or just with the passage of time.

To begin to forgive, we need to first feel the pain, the anger, the resentment or whatever we are feeling about the situation. We can’t forgive until we have dealt with what happened; until we feel our feelings about it. We often need to first gain an understanding of the situation from a different perspective before we can release our pain.

We can’t process and release our emotions until we acknowledge and validate them and allow them to have their expression. It’s always important for us to acknowledge our feelings, including anger which is common when we feel a wrong has been done to us, or that something is unfair. When we respect and validate our feelings, whatever they are, we allow ourselves to release the emotional charge around the situation. It’s okay to feel hurt. It’s okay to feel anger. These are human emotions. If we suppress our anger, this can turn to rage which is harder to release in a healthy manner.

Forgiveness requires releasing judgement and allowing acceptance of the situation and of our feelings about the situation or person. Before we get to this point however, if you’re anything like me, we can beat ourselves up looking for a reason and trying to understand why the event happened. When we release judgement of the person and stop searching for the ‘why’, and we allow ourselves to come to an acceptance of the situation, we can start to cut those ties that have kept us bound to the situation.

Forgiveness requires the ability to let go of the situation or person. This may be easier to achieve if we have a spiritual understanding and acceptance of soul planning and soul lessons or we understand the concept of oneness.

Not everyone will be able to reach a state of total acceptance and forgiveness. If we’re struggling to release ourselves from the pain and the situation, it might help if we choose to forgive the person and not their behaviour.

When we are unable to forgive, we are tying ourselves to that person. This causes us to suffer because we relive the pain over and over. Being unable to forgive another person locks them in our mind and we lock ourselves in there with them, bound to the judgement and the pain. Staying in judgement, resentment and anger sends these negative vibrations to the Universe and through the Law of Attraction, we will attract experiences that are in resonance with these lower vibrating emotions.

If we can’t accept and forgive the person or situation, we stay stuck in judgement and when there is judgement, there is blame and resentment. We can become obsessed with the need to punish, retaliate or get even. We may stew in our own pain and anger if we suppress our feelings. This can lead to unhealthy emotions such as rage or depression, and even to physical ailments. The need for revenge can eat us up. Revenge increases stress and impairs our health and immunity, leading to physical ailments. To forgive is in the best interest of our health and well-being. In The Lightworker’s Way, Dr Doreen Virtue writes “Unforgiveness toward another person, toward God, or toward one’s self is the most common root of physical illness.” 

Forgiveness brings us healing.

Many spiritual leaders recognise that true forgiveness goes beyond the level of acceptance to a level of unconditional love for the person or situation. This level of forgiveness is much rarer for people to attain. We don’t need to try to achieve this level of forgiveness unless we’re truly ready, so don’t beat yourself up if this sounds incomprehensible.