The word ‘forgiveness’ might sound a very heavy word and can have a lot of associations for people.
For me, brought up as a child in the catholic faith, it was part of a process of judgment. You did something perceived as wrong and forgiveness only came about from an all-knowing God via a priest in the confession box.
Moving on from that kind of experience to look at forgiveness in a wise and compassionate light, Buddhist teacher Tara Brach, expresses it beautifully:
Forgiving means not pushing anyone, or any part of our own being, out of our heart. As we bring a full, compassionate presence to the wounds that we’ve been protecting, we release the armoring of hatred and blame that has been imprisoning our heart. We cannot will this process of forgiveness, but we can be willing. It is a challenging and courageous life practice that frees us to love without holding back.
The subject of forgiveness
We lock down the subject. We separate ourselves from the people involved, or we shoulder blame towards ourselves for not being ‘enough’ in some way.
The starting point is the same – begin with yourself
Feel in to your own heart and the place of your own woundedness.
This could be an experience or words directed towards you or something that you yourself have done to another. And you berate yourself for it too.
Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is to forgive ourselves.
But some may have a greater impact. The pain and suffering arises and we find ourselves back in the place where the hurt happened to us, or to others.
This is where you can sit mindfully and feel into a sense of deep self-compassion. For being a human who, like everyone else, is not perfect. Our DNA, our upbringing, our surroundings, our unique experiences – all contribute to who we are.
So beneath the angry actions or words you flung towards another there is likely to be hurt and pain. When you connect in with this, you can see how it might be possible to offer yourself compassion and forgiveness.
It may have been quick and easy to cause the suffering to someone else, but then by telling ourselves that we are bad, wrong, hateful, we separate ourselves further from our own heart.
Quest deeper within to discover what drove you to behave in this way. Hurt, fear, confusion, craving, anger from years of abuse …
This isn’t a way of condoning or excusing your behavior. This is a simple truth. And you now know differently. See behind your actions to your suffering.
‘I see and feel the pain I’ve caused myself and I forgive myself now’.
Forgiveness when you were in the wrong
Forgiveness is a life process and benefits you so that you can live and express your full potential. As you begin the task of forgiving yourself and release the self-condemnation, you awaken to your freer heart.
And once you feel more tender and compassionate towards yourself, you are able to open up your heart to the remorse you feel and imagine you are speaking to the other person involved.
Whisper their name and say:
‘I see and feel the pain I’ve caused you. I ask your forgiveness now. Please forgive me.’
Tune in and see whether you will allow yourself to feel forgiven. In all this time we often find that we’ve become distanced from our own heart. We don’t accept ourselves and don’t think we could be forgiven.
All of these thoughts follow the trail back to ‘separation’. We think of ourselves as separate from everyone else and separate from the source of life itself.
In some cases, it might then be the right thing to speak with the person we wronged. Sometimes a simply ‘sorry’ can be enough, other times further reparation is needed.
Forgiveness towards someone who did wrong to you
And if you are looking to forgive another person for a wrong they have done to you, return to your compassionate heart.
Let the space open so you can look at the person who hurt you. That real person with their own wounds and suffering. For really they wouldn’t have hurt you if they were truly happy.
Sense into the possibility of forgiving them:
‘I see and feel the pain you’ve caused me and I forgive you now.
If I’m not ready to forgive you now, it is my intention to forgive you.’
Soften it and see where you might still be closing yourself down. Forgive yourself for this.
Return to a tender, loving heart space. Then bit by bit, you will find you are able to look at that person in your own mind without closing down your heart.
You don’t necessarily have to ever see them again or have them in your life.
Yet forgiveness means that you are ready to move on with a light and loving heart.
More resources for forgiveness
This is a really brief summary from the work of Tara Brach.
To understand more about forgiveness I recommend you explore more of her work. Her 2 minute video is a lovely first port of call. In it, Tara Brach talks about forgiving others and how it starts with ourselves: A Forgiving Heart.
The Metaphysics of Forgiveness by Karen Frazier
The Surprising Secret to Forgiving Others by Robert Holden
The purple hyacinth is one of several flowers that mean forgiveness.
Yvette Jane – Mindfulness & Meditation Guide