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This article is the first of a series of articles I am starting to write on relationships, focusing mainly on couple relationships. I chose forgiveness as a first topic because I felt that my first significant step towards harmony and joy in relationships was forgiveness. Also, forgiveness is one of those things that most of us agree is a good idea, but many of us don’t really feel they understand how it works. So here is my offering to help you understand how it works. May it serve you well.
What is forgiveness anyway?
As I see it at this point in my life, forgiveness is abandoning thoughts of past injustices as soon as they come up. Basically it is about dismissing those thoughts as not relevant, as opposed to chewing on them as if reactivating the negative feelings could solve anything. Forgiveness does not imply that you will tolerate something, that you will give up something or that you will not take the actions that you feel are necessary. You can relieve yourself of the emotional burden and still say what you want, communicate deal breakers, or put distance between you and the other person, as you see fit. It is easy to understand that forgiveness does not imply compromise when it is clear to us that the intention of forgiveness is to care for ourselves, to protect our precious inner peace.
I would say that what applies to forgiving others also applies to forgiving yourself. It would be great if you would use the ideas explained in this article both for forgiving others and for forgiving yourself.
We cannot forgive just because we should
You know how we sometimes decide to exercise regularly and give up pretty soon because it’s unpleasant? We know we should exercise, but we “hate it”. Or how we procrastinate studying for an exam because we anticipate failure? We know we should study, but we are afraid it is useless. In the same way, we often have mixed feelings about forgiveness. We know we should forgive, but we feel it is wrong that we are “expected” to forgive. “Why should I forgive this person? They don’t deserve to be forgiven! It’s not fair!” Or we might feel it is “dangerous” to forgive (“I forgive and this allows them to do it again.”) as if not forgiving could protect us from being disappointed in the future.
We are willing to forgive when we feel that forgiveness is to our own benefit. When we are sensitive enough and have a certain awareness of our bodies, it is easy to notice the damage that we are suffering in the absence of forgiveness. It then becomes crystal clear that forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves.
Forgiveness is a matter of orienting our attention
An unhappy memory of a moment in our life will not turn into a happy memory. There will always be a pile of bad memories available to us. We might sometimes be fooling ourselves that we are looking for the lessons in them when we are actually indulging in toxic attachment. I call this “tinkering with emotional waste”. If we know what we have to do, let’s trust ourselves to do it (and let’s do it). Let’s not keep tinkering with the emotional waste pretending that we are sorting things out when it is obvious we are not making any progress.
Forgiveness comes from a place of feeling good. Investing our attention and energy in things that make us feel blessed, at peace or at least hopeful creates the opportunity to relax. Forgiveness cannot come from a place of feeling angry, deprived, wronged, helpless, desperate.
It is highly unlikely that we will be able to relax and forgive while we have our mind on the loss, damage or deprivation that we feel has been caused. We need to find better things to think about. We need to help our mood.
Forgiving is not something you do, it’s something you access from a certain mood
Most of us have been educated to use our rational mind as if it is the only tool available to us. So we try to apply it to forgiveness and we end up with long, emotionally exhausting and pretty toxic monologues in our heads. Forgiveness is not something we “do” with our mind. Forgiveness is something that is always available, just like anger is always available. It is a matter of “state of mind”, mood, or, best said, vibration. Have you noticed how, when you’re feeling good, past problems with your partner or certain habits that you’re not fond of don’t really bother you? Conversely, when we are in a bad place emotionally, negative emotions are accessible and positive emotions are out of reach; our mood “colours” our thoughts and we cannot access forgiveness. Making our inner peace the number one priority will give us a way out of this seemingly unsolvable problem. The rational mind will make this difficult. It will come up with “importances” and “emergencies”. But once it becomes crystal clear to us that we have made no good decisions from a place of feeling bad, we are willing to consider prioritising inner peace.
I would really love to hear from you if you found this article helpful. If you are interested in something specific related to the topic of forgiveness, let me know!