forgiveness…How?

So many great comments and questions came up yesterday after the post on forgiveness, that I felt maybe we should continue this “conversation” and talk about the “hows”…How exactly do you forgive someone who has hurt you or others, and how do you know when you have forgiven?

I know when I have truly forgiven someone, because my perspective changes. I can see the situation from a different angle. This does not mean that what was done was right or good or that I now see it that way. Usually I don’t. It only means that the lens that I am observing the situation through has widened and I feel different; eventually being free of all negative emotion associated with that event/situation.  The old well-worn groove of, “This was done to me and now I feel the same (awful) way when I think about it” has changed… and it is always a relief. I also am very aware that since it was a well-worn groove, if I start talking about the situation, or re-living it, I can go right back to it mentally. I have done this often enough in the past to know what a trap it is. I then feel confused and think, “I thought that I had forgiven him/her?”.

How do I forgive?

What I have come to see is that I must first set my intention to forgive. This does not even mean that I want to at that moment. When it is hard for me (which it always is!) I ask for help from Spirit. I admit that I don’t want to do it, or let the situation go, and then I ask. And unless I must discuss the situation with someone, I do my best to not re-tell or re-think it. When I find myself back into the middle of it mentally (and catch myself) I say something like, “I release them and let them go.” Sometimes I even put my hand up like I am stopping a thought from physically entering my mind.

These things being said, there is another element, and by far the largest and most amazing one, that comes into play when we set the intention to forgive, and that is, what has been called by some traditions, the Grace of God.  When we do our part; set the intention and do our best to forgive,  the positive power of the Universe/God/Life/Source always supports and moves us.  The thrust of our entire universe is for more life, more growth, more of all good things, and forgiveness is on the path of growth and expansion.

If you have a story of how you have forgiven, or how you knew when you had, please feel free to post your comments (as long or as short as you want!).

21 thoughts on “forgiveness…How?

  1. The only thing I’m going to post today is thanks to those of you who shared your feelings about forgiveness on yesterday’s blog in response to my question. It was so very helpful to read your comments and see the different perpectives from your varied thoughts.

    I only know you from our sharing of Mary’s blog, but I know you all as ‘authentic’ people who are all moving through life, making your way and willing to share your stories. I was blessed to find Mary, and now I feel blessed to ‘know’ you all.

    Thanks again for your willing dialogues. I have much to think about.

    And Mary, your blog today added even more help. You already know that I thank you every day….at least in my heart, if not on-screen!

  2. These posts have triggered something deep in all of us, it seems. I so appreciate your opening and the responses that have poured out. What opened in me was the struggle I had with my father. He was the most difficult and self centered person I have ever known. As a child I adored him and so vied for his attention, and I got it but not in a positive way. Then when he was old and needed care, all those memories surfaced and I remembered how he was so not there for me when I needed him, now I was supposed to be there for him. I hated him. I hated how he treated my mother when she was no longer able to wait on him hand and foot. I dreaded when it was my turn on the caregiving schedule and I made matters tense because I could barely be civil to him. Then I took a trip to England with a friend. We went to a candlelight string quartet concert at St Martins, and I felt tears streaming down my face. I knew they were about my father. I had to find a way to let this go. And something was released in me. I knew I was not accountable for his life and choices, he was. I was becoming the same kind of person he was and I so did not want that. I needed only to be as kind as I possibly could be. I have pangs of regret still for the times when I could have been more patient, but the anger is gone and I feel sorrow for what he could have had. I can see him as a product of his Amish background and generation, but it’s not mine to figure out. The lesson for me is that, in the end, only kindness matters.

  3. Yes! Thank you Suzanne and everyone for sharing. I wish I had some wise and wonderful words to share about forgiving. “Love your enemy” “Forgive all hurts” easy words to say but a challenge. It is heartening to know so many are working on these issues. We are human with egos and feelings, it’s difficult not to feel hurt and react when we are damaged. Thank you Mary for sharing your wisdom and experience. Sincerely asking for help from that higher authority or Spirit definitely opens the door to healing. This is an amazing blog!

  4. Oh, Mary, I am so happy that I finally have a day to catch up on your blogs and these running thoughts of forgiveness are truly something that we all struggle with so I thank you for touching this subject. And as always, you are a joy to read.

    I have three kids and growing up they all had difficulties along the way with relationships and my response would always be the same. I would always tell them that it’s that persons choice to act in that manner and your choice to see the bigger picture, try to understand what that person is precieving/acting upon and know that it usually is not about you but a problem the other person is experiencing. If we can understand the other person the entire picture becomes a bit clearer and we can see, possibly, why they are causing us pain. Understanding others is truly the key.

    I feel we must understand that most of the time the hurt we feel was not truly directed towards us but it was a product of that persons chosen actions. People on a whole are pretty selfish but necessarily so that we can take care of ourselves (after all we are the kings of our own castle). In the course of that action sometimes we harm others. And I would like to believe that it is mostly unintentional.

    There is a beautiful saying that I have seen posted many times to encourage nurses to overcome difficult situations:

    “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. And I think a lot of people hurt others out of fear that others just plain don’t care. Sick people are at their most vulnerable and nurses see this play out all the time. I truly believe it mimics everyday life.

  5. On my walk this morning I was thinking of some of the comments yesterday about how burying our feelings and hoping they’ll just go away in time is not the same as actively starting the process of forgiving. I kept seeing a smoldering pile of ashes in my mind, where our fears, our hurts, our sense of having been wronged, can just linger, the flame never quite going out, because every time we revisit those feelings, we are blowing fresh air onto the ashes, and they are rekindled all over again. Mary’s suggestion of seeing through a different lens really spoke to me. In the throes of a hurtful situation, we cannot really see rightly. Our lens is clouded with pain. If only we could set it aside as easily as taking off the ill fitting glasses. But that is where we have to start. Removing ourselves from that pile of ash, refreshing our vision with the eyes of grace and compassion, and like everything else, being patient for the healing wonder of time. The insight and trust of everyone sharing seems to be growing day by day. Love to all.

  6. Forgiveness How?
    Forgiving, forgetting, blocking out, letting go, anger, acceptance, pain, etc.
    These are all a part of the work of living.
    I look at them as tools in learning my trade.
    I keep trying to do a good job.

  7. The only way that I have been able to forgive and move on in my life has been when I am able to get to a point where I can see the person that has wronged me as a victim themselves. Maybe they were hurt as a young child or married someone who hurt them and their ability to love grew clouded with doubt or fear.

    I feel as though all of us are loving individuals inside and our past hurts get in the way of fully expressing that love. When someone wrongs me, I try and think of them as humans with hurts yet still loving inside. When I can see that all of us have things that get in the way of love, and that we probably all want nothing more than to love and be loved, my compassion allows me to forgive.

    Darcy

  8. I have the confusing reverse situation of knowing if I have been forgiven. My late husband and I had a rocky marriage for several years before he became very ill in 2006 with a massive coronary, severe complications with diabetes, and lung problems from a life of smoking. He was in and out of the hospital and rehab, and he became verbally abusive. Most of the time I was calmly able to tell him that I did not appreciate being spoken to in that manner – but not always.

    In 2008 we were able to move to a small home in the country in a place we both loved. He found lots of things to do and was not as bad for a few months, but when winter came his verbal problem started again.

    One day in January he came home from doing errands and went back to the office area he had set up in the spare bedroom. I heard the sound of a chair scrapping but nothing from him. Twenty minutes later I went to check on him and found him slumped over and not breathing. I called 911 and started CPR, but it was too late. Neither the paramedics nor the doctors at the hospital were able to revive him.

    I admit that I went through a period of just being glad that I was free of all the turmoil. With the help of pastors and wonderful friends, I have been able to move on. I do have an incredible life now and am so happy. But I often pray for forgiveness for myself. If I had checked on him earlier, it’s likely that I could have saved him. It’s impossible to know if you have been forgiven by someone who is dead.

  9. Forgiveness can be a life long struggle. My father was in my opinion an abusive man who used not only physical pain but also emotional pain as a weapon, or at least that is how i used to feel. We were a large family and i was about in the middle. When ever something would go wrong around the house my father would line us all up and ask each one of us if we had done whatever it was that was about to rain hell down upon us. I was a sensitive child and hated to see my brothers and sisters get into trouble so i would quite often own up to something i had not done. This inevitably lead to at a minimum a good paddling with a wooden paddle or strap to one memory of a log which had been put into the fire being removed and used on my backside, all the while i was being told i was no good and never would be. After a while Dad quit asking who had done the deed and he just came to me. Years later after i had moved to the west coast and became a police officer my Dad and i were finally able to talk about one thing that interested us both, “guns”. I finally felt we had connected. A few years later when my Dad died he gave me what i thought was a final parting shot in a lifetime of being dissappointed or ubhappy with me. He gave his collection of guns to my brother in law saying he was afraid i would use one of them to commit suicide. I wear my heart on my sleeve and my Dad had seen me cry which was not allowed around our house and felt i was weak and could not handle life. I was very hurt by this and did not think i could ever get over it, but i found that years of hurting and revisiting the issue made me look at it a little differently each time and i finally reached a point where all is forgiven and i believe my father had my best interest at heart all along. He too was a product of his environment and he raised me using the tools he had been taught. While i forgive i do not forget and have lived my life trying to never repeat the sins of the Father. Works for me

    • You wrote a very open and honest post, Kevin, and it seems you have chosen the right road in spite of what you went through.

      Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • Kevin, as I read this, tears were streaming down my face. I know the depths that these wounds from early childhood can leave. I so relate to the sentiment of “have lived my life trying never to repeat” those sins. Blessings to you.
      And welcome to the blog—I enjoy hearing from guys with enough heart to wear it on their sleeve!

  10. I am truly awestruck by all of you, sharing your personal stories of pain, anger, forgiveness and redemption. It is a privledge to be a part of something that is bigger than all of us. Thank you, all and Mary, thank you for guiding us all to the light within.

  11. Dear Kevin, this is the first time I think you have posted on White Feather Farm – Our hearts and support and love is with you today, and any time you add a post – know we will be there for you and with you. Your first line speaks volumes to forgiveness: It can be a life long struggle. Bless you Kevin for sharing your life story, – Sending love to all. Susan

  12. Before I left for work this morning, I read Mary’s blog. I have been reflecting all day on all of your shared experiences and am grateful to you all for sharing your deep feelings. The words keep coming to me “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Forgiveness…How?

  13. Mary, Terrie, Not only broke one’s heart but totally messed up one’s life…. I think one might forgive, but it’s impossible (and would be completely foolish) to forget. MCS

  14. Forgiveness is a tricky thing for most of us. I dealt with a very abusive childhood and suffered a lot at the hands of my mother. I struggled with a lot of anger and eventually ended my relationship with her. I was consumed with not forgiving her for so long that it consumed me and really affected my spirit.

    Luckily, I found spirituality and began to grow in my meditation and studies. Through Buddhism, I learned that forgiveness and compassion always lead to incredible good for us. I came to the point where I was able to not only forgive my mother for all the abuse/neglect, I was also able to send her positive thoughts/actions and be compassionate toward her. I helped her at the end of her life to make arrangements and was able to sit with her and talk about the past. I was honest with her about my experiences and believe that she needed to experience that in the end. I still hold her in positive thoughts even though I never felt that mother/daughter relationship/connection with her. I continue to wish her well and believe she is in a good place and has found peace with herself~

    To forgive is to allow ourselves to heal, be filled with love and to be & see the light.

    Peace & Blessings to you all~

  15. Several people have commented above that they have forgiven, but not forgotten. A wise spiritual leader once said that we have not forgiven until we have forgotten. That always bothered me, because I can’t seem to be able to completely forget, though I am working on understanding and feeling compassion for the one who has done hurtful things.

    • Jean…you are not alone on this one. I, too, cannot seem to reach the point of forgetting, and I am not sure I ever will.

      I think we’re all working hard to understand the things that crop up in the course of a very human life. I’ve learned to stop beating myself up over “spiritual” things that I can’t master just yet.

      Welcome to the club….. 🙂

  16. I will share one “technique” (using that word for lack of a better one at the moment) that has helped me but it is maybe the hardest thing to do, and that is to pray for the person (who has hurt me) to be blessed with the very thing that I want for myself. If they have betrayed me (or another) and I am feeling that I cannot trust, I pray that they will have the peace of mind that comes with true honesty. If it is a money situation (money they owe me) I first look at my own life to see if I owe anyone anything (and clear it up if I do) and then pray that that person be blessed with abundant financial gifts… I do not know of one person who says, “Yipee” when this suggestion is offered (including myself), yet I know, from being so tired of being angry and hurt when I thought of what was done to me (or another) that every time I have done it, it has worked (eventually).

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