There are a lot of misconceptions about forgiveness.
People often think if they forgive, then it excuses behavior or absolves someone. But that isn’t true. Forgiveness is not the same as forgetting
When I hold on to resentment, anger or a grievance, who suffers? I do. I feel it. Maybe the person with whom I have a conflict isn’t even aware of how I feel. Perhaps they don’t even know they’ve slighted me.
Forgiveness is an act of generosity. It is the willingness to let go of a wrong, release a past hurt or an unmet expectation.
Holding on to a grievance keeps us stuck in the past and feeling like a victim. Instead, if we come from a place of love, forgiveness can set us free, allow us to live in the present and open up to joy.
When we're on a spiritual path, we choose to lead from the heart and not the head.
We want to be loving, kind, generous and magnanimous. If we hold anger, resentment or unresolved feelings, it prevents us from accessing that place of compassion and empathy.
On a soul level, we forgive because we know that duality doesn’t really exist. There is ultimately no separation between you and me.
We are all one. So as I forgive, I heal myself.
When you decide to come from a place of love, the next question is how.
If you’re ready, even willing to undertake this process, here are 2 great tools:
This is a traditional Hawaiian process that has been translated as “to make right” and is often used in conflict resolution. The idea it is that we are making right with our life, our relatives – both past and present- and cleaning the karmic slate.
This technique is simple to do and requires that you walk through 4 basic steps.
- “I’m Sorry” – You can think about a person, situation or issue and seek repentance
- “Please Forgive Me” – The next step is to actively ask for forgiveness
- “Thank You” – In the third step, we recognize our gratitude for the situation and the learning opportunity
- “I Love You” – Lastly, we remember to return to love, to come back to the source of all and access that place
2. The Four Most Important Things
In 1994, Ira Byock, a hospice doctor, wrote a book about living that encourages forgiveness. Having been a hospice social worker myself, I immediately saw the importance, power and relevance of doing this work.
As Dr. Byock suggests, don’t wait until your loved one is at death’s door to say what you need to, do it now.
His list looks like this:
- Please Forgive Me
- I Forgive You
- I Love You
- Thank You
When I learned about his book, I was working at hospice and a few months later, my sister, who had metastasized breast cancer, was told by her oncologist that her liver was shutting down. I was now no different than the caregivers I’d been counseling and knew that I wanted to do forgiveness work with her.
In early June, I flew up to Washington DC determined to say these four statements.
I love you was easy. I did genuinely love my sister. We’d had our ups and downs as most siblings do, and despite her eccentricities, I really loved her.
Thank you was also effortless. I had tremendous gratitude for her, especially throughout our early years when we'd frequently moved- different schools, new friends. Throughout it all, Melissa was my constant companion.
Third, I asked her to forgive me. I hadn’t always been the kindest or most loving big sister. I’d lied to her, excluded her from playing with my friends, even bit her on the back once. I wanted her to know that I was sincerely apologetic for being mean.
But the last one – telling her that I forgave her- I could not say out loud.
I did, of course forgive her, because she'd also been a challenging sister, but the words wouldn’t come out. Each time I imagined saying “I forgive you,” they got caught in my throat as I heard her ask, “for what?”
A week later, I flew home, and back to school and work.
Walking into the hospice office, I went directly to my supervisor. “I’m trying to do the forgiveness work with my sister, Melissa. I asked for forgiveness, told her thank you and I love you but I couldn’t tell her, 'I forgive you'.”
My supervisor patted my hand. “You’ll know what to say.” She looked away and then back at me.
“Maybe you need to forgive her for being sick.”
I stared at her, stunned. I hadn’t even thought about forgiving Melissa for that. I wasn’t angry and didn’t blame her.
The next visit-which turned out to be the last- I was ready. I lay down next to her and said, “I just want you to know that I forgive you for getting sick.” The look of anguish in her eyes told me that my supervisor had been absolutely right.
Melissa had so much guilt about leaving me alone to deal with my parents’ old age and dying. Now she could go in peace.
Words have power.
Use these tools to help you resolve any ill will or past grievance you have with anyone. Set yourself free and live from a place of love and lasting happiness. Forgiveness is the key to true spiritual evolution. Unlock the door now.