A Simple Guide to Forgiveness

“To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it.” -Confucius

Forgiving others does more for us than it does for the person who has wronged us. Until we forgive them we are bound to them. We give them power over our lives, we allow them to influence who we are and the choices we make.

Forgiving isn’t easy. When we choose to forgive we open ourselves to grief. We’re letting go of the hope, however small, that things could have been different. When we acknowledge this we move from anger to sadness. Sometimes it feels safer to stay angry. But unresolved anger is destructive. When we stay angry we’re like a child picking at a scab. We don’t allow the wound to heal.

Healing begins when we move from anger into sadness and grief. Grief allows us to process the impact of our loss or pain. Recognizing that what’s done is done frees us to move on. We can allow the wound to heal if we choose. While we may be changed by our experience, we choose how we are changed.

The following questions can help you work toward forgiveness.

  • Think about your experience. How did you feel when you were wronged? How do you feel now when you think of it? How has it affected your life? Your relationships?
  •  How is your unwillingness to forgive affecting your life today? Your relationships?
  • Take back your power. Knowing there is no way to change the past, what steps can you take today toward the life you want for yourself in spite of the wrongs you have suffered?
  • What would it mean to you to forgive the person who wronged you? How would your life be different if you let go of the hurt and the anger?

In my own life the most difficult part of forgiving has been accepting things as they are and letting go of the desire for them to be different. What has been the biggest challenge for you?

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3 Responses to “A Simple Guide to Forgiveness”

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  1. Marc says:

    Hi Tara,

    thank you for that deep-looking post.

    Your words are definitely so right.

    What one could add is that ANGER is a deeply senseless thing. To be angry with someone means taking a knive, sticking it into your own belly, turning it round a few times – and hoping that it will hurt the other one deeply.

    We cannot change things that have already happened – and there’s no sense in wishing so. If something that has happened has left us with some loss, then we are responsible to make up with that. Our lives are our own responsibility. We are to care for our own needs. We are not to place that responsibility onto another person.

    When it comes to reconciliation then we should refrain from black-and-white-views. There is nothing like absolute good or bad. People act because of a certain motivation. They have some inner reason for what they do, they act like they act because the think in a certain manner. Like ourselves. There is nothing “good” or “bad” about that.
    Actions are only the visible offspring of a certain thinking pattern – like it is with ourselves.

    We will have to ask the other one first, which thoughts have brought him to act like he did – even it was only carelessness or placing his own needs or wants higher than hurting you. You are not to judge the “right” or “wrong” of his thinking – that’s not up to you. His way of thinking can be beneficial for him or not – just as your thinking is or is not for you. Even the bible tells you this: You are only to throw a stone, when you are without any fault. Otherwise you should realize that we are all the same, having motives and thoughts that bring about our actions.

    And, apart from that, if you are obviously not willing to judge, nearly all people will be honest and open to you. Which will leave you with a much greater peace of mind, realizing that this person has acted out of his OWN motives and thoughts, and not primarily to HURT you because it hurts you. So nothing personally, most of the time.

    Then the decision is up to you, if you would be willing to accept that this person is thinking that way, and forget that you have felt hurt and go on with that relationship, respecting his different thinking also in future. Or if you would end it, in a non-violent way, just by saying: “I see now how you think and what has brought you to act like you did – but I am sorry. I cannot respect how you are thinking and I am not willing to respect your way of thinking in future.”

    Or, as the Aboriginals in Australia say it: “The circles that I draw do not harmonize with the circles that you draw – I’ve tried to make a good picture out of it, but it won’t be one. Let’s draw our own pictures, apart from each other so that the different patterns don’t disturb each other and ruin my picture and your picture”. In my eyes that’s a wonderful and peaceful way to resolve this – and a way that offers deep insight into the nature of conflicts. We all take our own decisions, and have our own way of seeing things. That’s our right to do so. With some people our way of thinking makes harmonious patterns, with others it makes less delicate drawings. No blame on nobody. Just the way it is. No anger, no revenge, no blame. Because every action has a certain way of thinking behind it.

    Love,
    Marc.

    • Tara says:

      Thank you, Marc, for your thoughtful response. I really like the way you summed this up with your reference to the Aboriginals. Sometimes we do have to accept that our relationship with someone else isn’t in our (or their) best interest.

  2. David says:

    Incredible post. Thank you.

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