Today, we talk about a topic that can be incredibly transformative, if we allow it to be. It also can, however, be a sore-spot for some, depending on the situation and season of life. Whether this is a constant, intentional practice for you, or you have resistance to it, or you’re just somewhere in between… I invite you to explore what the topic of forgiveness has to say to you.
In this post, I’ll share what Forgiveness has been telling me recently, as well as some thick, juicy excerpts from a book by one of TW’s favorite authors, Don Miguel Ruiz.
Let’s dig in…
I have never labeled myself as an “unforgiving person” (does anyone?), but I certainly have never granted myself the title of a “forgiving person” either. I’ve just hung out in the middle for most of my life, pretty unconcerned with the idea of forgiveness. Sure, I’ve had to work on it to rid myself of some soul-sucking guilt, or to forgive that one person for that one thing, but it’s never hit me and stuck the way it is now.
I am nearing the end of “The Mastery of Love” by the fabulous Don Miguel Ruiz — which if you haven’t read yet, order it here, and let your mind explode and your heart feel stronger than ever. In chapter 11, “Healing the Emotional Body”, he explains how forgiveness is the tool we use to clean out our emotional wounds. Without going into a massive book summary — or even chapter summary for that matter — I will give you some of the big, meaty, robust excerpts and quotes that have left an impact on me, and that I know will leave you with something to chew on, too.
Throughout the book, the author uses the metaphor of having an illness (a skin disease, usually) as it pertains to our mental and emotional pains, traumas, fears, and conditioning. In this chapter particularly, he describes the ways to open the wounds (Truth), clean the wounds (Forgiveness), and what the medicine is that’s used to accelerate the healing of the wounds (Love).
**This is me, yet again, gently nudging you to read this very short, large-text, easy-to-read book. 🙂
Why don’t we dive right in…
“It doesn’t matter what others did to you, you are going to forgive them because you don’t want to feel sick all the time. Forgiveness is for your own mental healing. You will forgive because you feel compassion for yourself. Forgiveness is an act of self-love.”
The author addresses the common argument of “Well, it’s easy to say we should forgive. I have tried, but I cannot do it.” To that he says,
“You have all these reasons, all these justifications why you cannot forgive. But it’s not the truth.” He says that the truth is that you can’t forgive because you have learned not to forgive; you’ve practiced it; you’ve mastered it. As children, we forgave so easily. Ruiz gives an example:
“If you see two children playing together, and they start to fight and hit each other, the children cry and run to their mothers. “Hey, she hit me!” One mother goes to talk with the other mother. The two mothers have a big fight, and five minutes later the two children are playing together again as if nothing happened. Now the mothers hate each other for the rest of their lives.”
As dramatized as this example is, it’s not entirely far off from reality. As adults, we hold onto what they did or said, we take it personally and let the cut fester into a wound, then it stays with us, maybe for life, if we don’t open it, clean it, and heal it.
Ever think about an old bully or mean-girl from middle school, or a person from long ago that hurt you? Your only memory of them is them in that role, and how they’ve cut you, and how you’ve been hurt. Now, if they pop up in your brain (or online, or wherever), you have to actively try to nip negative thoughts in the bud, and/or reaaalllly try to create a perspective of “Well, I don’t know what she’s like now… so…” but the feelings, the pain… it’s all still inside you. You have not 100% actually forgiven her, because when you touch the wound, it still stings a little. Whether we like it or not, this stuff stays with us. We might not hate someone else for the rest of our lives like the two mothers in the example, but there most definitely could be some benefit-of-the-doubt-lackage, or crap still stuck in the body or psyche, which always has a way of coming out, since it wants to be healed and released.
We used to forgive so easily. What happened? Growing up without a choice of what to believe because we are force-fed social programming, parental conditioning, and being taught that whatever the adults think/say/do is the RIGHT way to do things, which includes how we heal (or not heal; or drink it away, or climb the “success” ladder, or become a slave to fear, or hurt others to feel better). All bogus. Choose what to believe, now. Empower the kid in you, now.
As we’ve grown, not only is our lack of forgiveness a result of being a part of the program, but it also seems to be an issue of pride. Our personal importance grows when we don’t forgive, and now guess whose suffering multiplies and who is accumulating more and more emotional poison?
We’re also very good at suffering just to punish whoever “wronged” us. If they see us hurting, then we feel seen and more important, as if we’re somehow getting back at them. In reality though, all we’re actually doing is creating our own personal hell. Stop withholding your forgiveness because you deem that person (or yourself) as “unforgivable”. Jump off the Suffering Express! Get out of hell! Create Heaven on earth. It’s possible, it just takes awareness.
(This is the best part)
Make a list of all the people you need forgiveness from. Just as people have hurt you, you have inevitably hurt people. You are not bad, unlovable, or unworthy of forgiveness, but asking for it from those you feel you should is the first action-step (according to our lovely author friend) on this journey. Even if there’s not enough time to actually speak with all of them and ask, ask in your prayers, dreams, or when something arises in you.
I find that whenever I start doing that silly judgemental thing where I think I know someone 100% (which is never the case), and I get all “UgGHhhHh, they are so this way and do this thing, and it’s so annoying”, I will *sometimes, *on a good day, *if I’m awake and aware, pause that thought and ask the imaginary ‘them’ for forgiveness in that moment. It all starts with awareness.
Next, make a list of all the people who hurt you, that you need to forgive.
“Now, you are going to forgive others by knowing that whatever anyone did to you had nothing to do with you. Everyone dreams [their] own dream… The words and actions that hurt you are merely a reaction to the demons in that person’s own mind… Nothing anyone does is because of you. Once you have this awareness, and you do not take it personally, compassion and understanding will lead you to forgiveness.”
(Yes, that photo above is my mind being blown right now, you are correct.)
Forgiveness is so hard. Especially forgiving yourself.
This is where I’ve had to put in some work recently. Here’s the deal:
You’re going to mess up. You’re going to hurt people. You’re going to be dishonest, whether it’s a directly spoken lie, or it’s that @$$hole in your mind that whispers lies of inadequacy to you on the daily. You are soooo far from perfect, but you are working on it! Shoot, if you’re even still reading this crazy-lengthy blog post about Forgiveness, letting your mind tinker with the concepts presented, you are really doing it. Give yourself some grace on this lifelong journey of forgiveness and self-acceptance.
Forgive yourself for letting the wounds fester.
Forgive yourself for creating new wounds.
Forgive yourself for not showing up when you thought you should have.
Forgive yourself for being a victim.
Forgive yourself for being a judge.
Forgive yourself for holding yourself (and others) to impossible standards.
Forgive yourself for withholding love because that’s what you were trained to do when you get hurt.
Forgive yourself for the lies you’ve told.
Forgive yourself for allowing guilt to play as big of a role in your life as it has.
Forgive yourself for shaming your body; forcing it into habits and restraints to fit a mold, even if it’s the mold of being “healthy”.
Forgive yourself for repressing your heart’s desires.
Forgive yourself for caring what other people think of you.
Forgive yourself for living in fear.
Forgive yourself for letting anger and resentment stay inside you for this long.
Forgive yourself for your projections onto others.
Forgive yourself for packing your to-do list full, everyday, and feeling lesser than because you didn’t cross them all off.
Forgive yourself for hurting your parents, your partners, your children, your siblings, your friends, your pets, the earth…
Forgive yourself for trying to control the flow of life.
“When you can touch a wound and it doesn’t hurt, then you know you have truly forgiven. Of course, a scar is going to be there, just as it is on your skin. You will have a memory of what happened, of how you used to be, but once the wound has healed, it won’t hurt you anymore.”– Don Miguel Ruiz, The Mastery of Love