Forgiveness is a virtue, of course. But forgiving the people who have hurt you is also a very selfish practice, in the best kind of way.
Imagine that you’re at the bottom of a deep, murky lake with a giant boulder tied to your left ankle. You’re down there thrashing around like mad trying to get loose, when you suddenly think,
Wait. Why don’t I just untie myself?
You look at your ankle and see that you’re only being held by a loose knot. You immediately reach down, untie yourself, and bolt up to the surface.
After you’ve stopped gasping for air, you look around and notice that the sky is blue, the sun is shining, and you’re not too far from the shore. You swim a few strokes, set your feet down on the cool, sandy bottom, and step out of the lake.
And then you just walk away, because you’re free.
That’s what forgiveness is like, so forget trying to be a good person — forgive and set yourself free.
A Forgiveness Exercise
There is an easy forgiveness exercise that will help you get there, and you don’t have to be anywhere near the person who hurt you. You do, however, have to sincerely want to forgive, and that may be the hardest part.
The exercise is called Ho’oponopono — it’s an ancient Hawaiian practice. These are the steps:
– Pick a person and situation that you want to forgive. (Be clear that you are willing to let this situation go.)
– Assume a meditative position — sit somewhere quiet (in the car works) and close your eyes.
– For 5 minutes (or 10 — I find it hard to do this for less than 10), keep the person and situation in mind and repeat these words:
“I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”
– Repeat this process daily until you can think about the situation and feel neutral.
– Optional: to finish out the process, make a declaration like, “[Full name], this situation is forgiven. We are complete.” Use whatever words work for you.
– At first, it’s okay if you don’t mean the words at all, just stay focused and keep saying them. When you’re able, try to actually mean them, especially thank you and I love you.
– I know I’m close to finishing when I start feeling actual love, or at least fondness, towards whatever I’m forgiving. The time it takes varies depending on the situation, but it works.
Once you finish the process, take note of anything that happens. I once did this with an ex and he contacted me a couple of months later — we hadn’t spoken in over 20 years.
Now you can choose to keep this person in your life, accept what happened, and create new boundaries so they can’t hurt you again. Or you can let them fade out of your life for good.
It’s up to you — you’re free.
Why do I have to ask for forgiveness when I’m the one who was hurt?
The idea behind the practice is that we are 100% responsible for everything that happens to us, so you take responsibility for creating the whole thing. But if that’s too much for you to wrap your head around, don’t worry about it. I sometimes like to think that I’m asking forgiveness for harming the other person by holding on to resentment, criticism, judgement, etc. You’ll probably come to your own understanding of the words as you go along.
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