"Forgiving others is essential for spiritual growth. Your experience of someone who has hurt you, while painful, is now nothing more that a thought or feeling that you carry around. These thoughts of resentment, anger, and hatred represent slow, debilitating energies that will disempower you if you continue to let these thoughts occupy space in your head. If you could release them, you would know more peace." -Dr. Wayne Dyer
I never had the privilege of meeting Dr. Wayne Dyer in person, but his impact on my life was great nonetheless. It was through his teachings that I began to shift my perception about forgiveness, and take my willingness to want to forgive and transform it into something I could actually apply in my life.
While listening to one of Dr. Dyer’s lectures I heard him tell the story of how he forgave his father years after his death and it resonated with me deeply.
He said he was grateful for the father who essentially abandoned him because that led him to truly understand and grasp the importance of forgiveness, and led him to show others how to bring it into their lives too.
This struck me as an incredibly enlightened way to think about life and the challenges we all face from time to time.
If you're not familiar with Dr. Dyer's work and the great impact he had on millions of people throughout his lifetime, and will continue to have as his teachings live on for many years to come, I hope you'll check out a video, book, or blog post of his to experience a glimmer of the light he brought to all he touched.
If you're looking for somewhere to start I'd reccommend a simple, yet profound, blog post he wrote earlier this summer about forgiveness, How To Forgive Someone Who Has Hurt You: In 15 Steps.
I think a lot of people get hung up on the concept of forgiveness because they can’t get past the idea of it being equivalent to saying the other person didn’t do anything wrong.
They can’t get past the need to be right.
I think about forgiveness, as not being so much about saying what they did is ok or not ok, but instead about releasing the knot of anger and resentment you’ve twisted yourself into because of it so you can be free.
And, usually, forgiving yourself for: a) the part you played in the situation, and b) for holding on to that story for however many, days, years, or decades it has been.
On another level it also seems like it has to do with changing your perception about the original occurrence—how you chose to interpret it, and how you want to choose to see it now.
It makes it much easier for me to forgive when I think about things that have happened in my life through this lens.
"Forgiveness guides us to cleanse ourselves of the old, junky fear and shines light on the darkness of our worries, doubts and suspicions. Rather than continuing to play the role of victim, we can forgive and be set free. With each choice to forgive, we shift our perception from fear to love." -Gabrielle Bernstein
Instead of staying stuck in the “I’m right, they were wrong” story, I’ve found that separating myself from the situation emotionally (you know, as much as you can when you’re IN IT) and going back over it in my mind as the observer is incredibly helpful.
Looking at the other person’s actions and my own. For example, if a person says something that hurts my feelings, I might lash out with a defensive or equally hurtful comment to throw it back in their court, and the volleying back and forth would commence.
I can tell you from experience, this is helpful to no one.
But I have discovered that I can turn that around by examining the factors that might have led to them saying those words in the first place.
By looking at where they come from, what they’ve experienced in their own life, the cultural influences they pay attention to, what they read, listen to, etc. it’s easier for me to have compassion and understand why they might see the world the way they see it.
And that doesn’t mean the way they see things is wrong necessarily, it’s just different from mine.
It’s also important for us to examine the part we played in the scenario.
We all play a part.
Not meaning that we need to blame ourselves, but instead, recognizing where we may have turned in the wrong direction and taking responsibility for that.
Thinking about it from that perspective helps me to remove the emotional equivalent of the bee’s stinger left in my arm after an unkind comment is made. And much like when you pull out a stinger, that spot may be sore and tender to the touch for a bit, but you’ve starting the healing process by removing the thing that would only intensify the pain if you left it in place.
“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” –Mark Twain
Gripping tightly to old stories we can’t seem to forgive only serves to drive those feelings deeper and deeper. Letting something fester and swirl around in your mind over and over again does not make it hurt any less.
Whatever the other person may have said or done is over and in the past.
Ruminating over how someone "did me wrong" doesn’t change what happened, so what really is the point? It’s kind of ridiculous if you think about it—how much time and energy we spend trying to prove we were right.
The thing is that it all comes down to wounds from the past we’re still holding on to, theirs and ours, so being aware of our unique triggers is key.
You could say something to me you think is no big deal and it might sting me, in part, because I am bringing every related experience I have ever had to the table and projecting it onto you in that moment. After all, most of the time it’s really not just what is said in that exact moment that we are responding to.
We can bring a whole lifetime of painful experiences to each conversation we have and each moment we live, unless we choose to release them and leave them where they belong, in the past.
Now I know this may seem like a contradictory thought because there are a lot of things we’ve learned in the past that are helpful for us to hold on to and bring along.
Things we’ve learned about others, and ourselves, about the world and the people who live in it. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t bring anything from the past into the present with you.
But I am saying that the more you focus on releasing past events that were born out of fear (yours OR someone else’s) and bring forward the things that have been created from love, the more joy and less fear you will bring into the present moment, and the easier it will be to forgive.
The past is what it was. The future will be what it will be. But the present is exactly what we choose for it to be.
Really think about how many tiny choices you make all day long that chart the course of your day, and by extension, your life. Every time you interact with another person you are making a choice.
You can hold on tightly to the things you say you can't forgive, or you can choose to let them go and be free. What choice are you going to make?
If your response is, “That sounds great, but how do I actually do that?” I give you some of Dr. Dyer’s often repeated words, “You’ll see it when you believe it.”
So, believe it’s possible.
Believe in yourself.
Believe in the goodness of others.
Believe in the power of compassion, gratitude, and forgiveness.
Believe in miracles.