In all the work that I do with clients, forgiveness is an essential component of establishing greater health and well-being. It’s multilayered, complex and deservedly is its own component in the process of healing; forgiveness itself is a process. It requires gentle consideration, framing and space to invite all that is present around what often are feelings of pain, wrongdoing and suffering and moving towards a space of letting those charged emotions go.
Forgiveness happens across all aspects of the self; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Free from the pressures, expectations and other conditioned responses to forgiveness, a radical form of forgiveness begins with openness and willingness.
Forgiveness is not about correcting or changing what happened in the past, it’s a real time experience of peace in the present.
Holding onto unforgiving pain, emotions, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours keeps you in a captive position where you are the holder of the keys to your own freedom. Unforgiveness can exist in the shadow aspects of a person’s psyche where feelings of revenge, anger and resentment can simmer and anchor the self to the past, not being able to move on from a situation, relationship or wrongdoing of some kind. Detrimental to mental and emotional health as well as a contributing factor to unfilling relationships, both with ourselves and others, it is vital to address in journeys of healing and transformation.
Acknowledging that forgiveness is a choice for individuals in relation to a person, situation or relationship, raising awareness to the process of forgiveness and offering tools and techniques to be able to cultivate forgiveness is required. Considering and opening to a broader perspective and ancient practices of prayer and mantras that hold all beings in a compassionate light pave the way for establishing a relationship with forgiveness; beginning with forgiving yourself.
Authentic forgiveness in healing
Ancient Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle believed in a sense of forgiving, rather than a dualistic approach of either forgiving (or not) for a transgression or wrongdoing toward a person. They viewed forgiving as a natural phenomenon that supported a benevolence toward another person, that ignorance, shadow aspect or an untamed force within someone was the result of wrongdoing. In modern society there exists a belief, or perception that forgiveness is connected to its opposite; punishment.
What is true forgiveness?
Perhaps a radical shift in definition can support the deeper aspect of forgiving. Raising awareness to the nature of forgiveness and deconstructing conditioning around beliefs, culture, religion, history and language all contribute to what is attributed to the meaning and function of forgiveness. Inherited beliefs over generations transmitted through society, culture and religion implicitly and explicitly speak to forgiveness and forgiving. The language around forgiveness provides clues to these beliefs:
“I must forgive” “You must forgive”
“I have to forgive” “You have to forgive”
“I should forgive” “You should forgive”
These words reinforce beliefs around obligations and expectations, which can vary in context and relate to a greater sense of morality individually and collectively. However, in terms of forgiveness in the healing journey, any obliging force, guilt or shame based messaging, implicitly and explicitly can cause the reverse of the true essence of forgiving; an expression of compassion, acceptance and love.
A true heart forgives naturally, unassisted, free from force, instead, a gentle willingness that flows out of one to another and within oneself too. As a cycle, forgiveness goes through stages in time, through layers and through being seen, heard, witnessed and loved.
Forgive yourself, forgive others
From a zoomed out perspective, we are all humans doing the best we can in any given moment, situation and relationship with our current state of awareness and accessibility to utilising our ever present inner resources. When that gets shut down, cut off, or interrupted by auto pilot and conditioned responses, forgiveness can feel a long way off.
With inner child healing for example, forgiving is a process because there are layers to uncover, accept, love and let go before a sense of freedom and resolution can be felt. Growing up we inherited, mostly subconsciously, beliefs and resulting behaviours that drive a sense of wanting to be good, do good and receive love and acceptance if we meet these conditions. Ultimately this falls apart when we discover that forgiveness is an inside job; your inner child needs a space to feel safe before they can freely embrace forgiving.
Part of honouring the journey with forgiveness is meeting yourself where you are at any given moment, day and cycle of your healing journey. As outdated beliefs and behavioural patterns that relate to stories of ‘must’, ‘have to’ or ‘should’ forgive and instead are replaced with presence, curiosity and openness, you receive a breath of grace and relief as you become free from obligation or expectation. The result of forgiving is not the goal, the goal is simply the presence of acceptance, with compassion, at your current layer of forgiving.
Forgiveness in inner child healing can relate to past wounds, trauma and conditioned behaviours and beliefs that developed as a result. A compassionate reminder that it is ok to not be able to forgive someone or something wholly, partially or at all gives space for a new paradigm to emerge; honouring the true journey of forgiving, beginning with forgiving yourself.
An evolving practice
We were usually taught to forgive others and often bypass the initial part of forgiveness, which is forgiving yourself. An ancient Hawaiian spiritual practice Ho’oponopono supports this shift in experience and mindset of forgiveness. The essence of the practice is that each individual ‘takes responsibility’ for the fact that they are interconnected to the whole of humanity and so their part to play in it is effectively offering forgiveness to itself.
The Ho’oponopono prayer has been shown to boost the immune system and support overall health. The first part begins with admitting that wrongdoing, or an upset occurred. The second stage asks you to forgive yourself, then you thank yourself and affirm yourself with love.
The prayer cultivates compassion, love and acceptance for yourself and all beings on the planet; a radical shift from individual separateness to collective wholeness and the responsibility of one’s thread and participation in the tapestry of life. There are many testimonies from people who have experienced dramatic outer and inner change in their lives for the benefit of their health and well-being.
The Ho’oponopono prayer
please forgive me,
I love you.”
This prayer can be practised in the form of a mantra where you repeat it several times, until you connect deeply with the words and feelings that arise from the heart. Cultivating forgiveness for yourself brings self compassion and love too. Working with this consciously with a strong intention magnifies the practice; reprogramming and reframing many situations, relationships and challenges that are causing suffering and holding you stuck, unable to move forwards.
Embodying forgiveness in healing
Acknowledging that reprogramming and reframing from past conditioning is itself a challenge! Having a practice to support yourself wholly that permeates through your various energy bodies; physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, also requires patience, persistence and above all love. The practice of forgiving yourself supports and holds space for inner congruence to open and flourish.
Forgiving yourself is a strong root to grow from, directing you towards inner peace and harmony, which is reflected outwardly too in your life and relationships. Combined with other modalities such as mindfulness, meditation, inner child healing and other holistic therapies or spiritual practices, forgiveness can become the natural part of life that ancient philosophers, cultures and spiritual groups have long recognised as needed. Moreover, the path to true healing, personal growth and alignment with the greater good for all beings on this earth is incomplete without liberation from the past, which is where limiting beliefs, wounds and suffering exist.
Forgiveness therefore can be deemed as the ultimate empowerment; freeing oneself from the past and being able to live more fully in the present and enjoy life. It takes courage to step into the space of looking, witnessing, accepting and letting go of the past, which is why a layered, gentle approach is effective. Free from forcing, forgiving yourself and others can be a cultivated practice that also accepts that you may not be able to fully or partially forgive.
Takeaway practice –
Explore where in you and your life forgiveness might be present and perhaps needed to bring to a person, situation or past occurrence. Try the Ho’oponopono practice and observe its effect.
Remember to free yourself from any desired outcome, with neutrality and focus on the feeling of love and compassion; trust in your own heart and the bigger heart of the universe to deliver the essence of forgiveness.