The Gift of Forgiveness

Love is our natural state.  When we’re not feeling love, that’s because we’ve closed our hearts for some reason.

A primary way we close our hearts is through judgment.  Fortunately, there is a very effective antidote for this particular form of poison.  It is called forgiveness.

The most important person to forgive is, of course, yourself.  When we judge ourselves, we are withholding love from ourselves because of something that we consider a mistake.

Certainly, it’s wise to notice the consequences of our actions and learn from them.  But,what good purpose is served by beating yourself up when you believe you didn’t do your best in a given situation?

Actually, you are much more likely to perform well, or make a better choice in the future, if your heart is open than if your heart is closed down in self-judgment.

So, how do we forgive ourselves?  There are many ways that work. Ultimately, we don’t need a forgiveness process.  We can simply choose to let go of the self-judgment.  But, for those times when we don’t feel ready to do that, here is a process I developed that’s been very effective both for me and for my clients:

1) First, focus on the incident you are judging yourself for and notice what you feel in your body.  Often you will feel tightness or pain in your chest, sometimes in your throat or belly.  Welcome whatever sensations and emotions are arising and relax into the place in your body that feels most intensely impacted.  Don’t try to get rid of the pain; just let yourself feel into it.

2) Ask yourself the question, “How would it feel to let go of this judgment?”  Let your body give you the answer.  Especially notice how it feels in the part of your body where the energy of judgment has been strongest.  Take a moment or two to enjoy how good it feels to let go.

3) Then ask “Could I forgive myself?”  This doesn’t mean should I or will I forgive myself.  It just means “Is it a possibility to forgive myself?”  In the previous step, you’ve just imagined forgiving yourself, so the obvious answer is “Yes.”

4) Next ask “Would I forgive myself?”  You’ve acknowledged that forgiveness is possible.  Do you prefer this to the other possibility of holding on to self-judgment?  When, you answer “Yes,” once again let yourself feel how good you feel when you let go into forgiving yourself.  Relax into that feeling.

5)  The final question is “When?”  The wisest answer is “Now.”  There is truly no good reason to postpone forgiveness.  After you say “Now,” breathe into the place in your body where the judgment has been lodged, then on the exhalation, feel a sense of letting go.  Repeat several times.  Don’t make any effort with the breath.  Just let the river of life flow through you and naturally carry any remaining judgment downstream, out of your body and your consciousness.

The questions in steps 3-5 are from the Sedona Method, a brilliant body of knowledge from a master teacher named Lester Levenson.

The same process can be used to quickly and deeply release judgment of others.  Just focus on one person or incident at a time and go through the steps.

You don’t need to condone someone’s action to forgive them.  When you forgive, you are choosing to return to love in spite of what happened.

The story below which was presented as a true story in a popular magazine, dramatically illustrates this point.

One time, a high school girl was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by one of her teachers.  He was convicted of the crimes and sentenced to life in prison.  The girls’ parents, of course, were incredibly angry at this man.  They spent every moment of every day hating his guts.  After a few years of this, the mother got tired of feeling awful and went to therapy.  It took quite a while, but one day, she went to the prison and looked into the murderer’s eyes and told him she forgave him.  She hadn’t told her husband she planned to do this. That night at dinner, he looked at his wife, and saw something had changed, and asked “What happened to you?”  She told him what she had done.  He immediately said, “I’m going to the prison tomorrow” because he saw that his wife was at peace for the first time in years and he wanted that for himself.

If these parents were able to forgive the man who raped and murdered their daughter, could you forgive everyone who you believe has mistreated or wronged you in some way?  Would you forgive them?  When?

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