In my last post, I talked about the value of letting go of what no longer serves you. Forgiveness is a biggie in that department.

Are you holding onto past hurts in a way that costs you way too much… energy, joy, freedom? Shorting yourself of the peace and lightness that we’re ALL allowed to have in our lives?

Everyone, no exceptions, can always choose how their past hurts affect them. Choosing to forgive is something you do for you. Forgiveness frees you from the pain of the experience, so it doesn’t continue to cause you pain or discomfort any more than it has to. So yes, if you were physically injured and you still deal with the results of that, or someone stole from you, and you feel the squeeze of the loss, of that money, sure that experience has an impact today. What I’m referring to is you being aware of the “more than it has to” so you can leave it behind where it belongs.
If you’re struggling with forgiving someone, and you’ll feel it in your gut... “I just can’t; I’m not ready”… I get it, especially if the event was recent. But if it’s been a while, and you’ve done the venting, of the hurt, the anger, maybe crying, yelling, talking it out with people, maybe a therapist, then you’ve done the important act of working through those feelings. Yet there comes a point where revisiting the pain has no more value. It costs more than it helps. That’s what I mean when I say that something no longer serves you: that it’s time to let that hurt go.

If you’re having trouble wrapping your head around the idea of forgiving, you may react to the advice to forgive with thoughts like “But she meant to hurt me”, “Assault is wrong; how am I supposed to forgive that?”, etc. You make a valid point. So let me dispel a common myth that often keeps people from forgiving others.

Forgiving someone isn’t an acceptance that their behavior was okay. It doesn’t let them off the hook. Choosing to forgive is something you do for YOU. It’s an act of courage and wisdom on your part to free YOU from the pain caused by someone else.

There is great power in forgiveness… for YOU. The increased clarity that comes from letting go of unnecessary baggage improves your mood, your ability to focus. It allows you to be more effective in your life. And that’s the bonus: why it’s worth doing. Letting go of what doesn’t serve you makes you lighter. It makes room for you to feel the good in your life more deeply. I know what you’re thinking… how? How do I acknowledge the feelings I have and move towards forgiveness in a way that feels good to me? Whether it’s a new hurt, that you’re just starting to work through, or an old hurt that you’ve carried for so long, it seems to be a part of you, forgiveness is possible.

Here are my top two techniques:

Say It Out Loud - My favorite technique. I picture the person being there with me, and I say, “I forgive you”. I may say it over and over and over again. Maybe get loud if I feel it needs that. When the three words “I forgive you” don’t feel like enough, I go into detail: as much as necessary: “I forgive you for when you….” until I have poured it all out. When I say feels like enough, you’ll know because you’ll sense a change when it happens. Sometimes you feel it in your mind, sometimes in your chest or your gut.

Write it Out - Write a note in as much detail as you need. Notice those pent-up feelings leaving your body through your fingertips as you put the words on paper. Write it all until your brain feels empty. You might end it by writing “I forgive you” if that feels right.

TEAR, SHRED OR BURN the note. Whichever helps you let go the most. Experiment as you practice the art of forgiveness.

I was curious to know what other people do, so I Googled “forgiveness rituals”. I found SO many ideas that work across cultures. If you try my techniques, and you’re not feeling a release of the yuk, that’s a great source of information. Find and use one that works for you. Trust your mind and gut here. They usually know the way and say, “THAT one”.

Here’s one that caught my eye:

You will know when you’ve forgiven enough because you will feel it — lighter, “different”, a little better somehow. And if you don’t, do it again. Focus and connect with your feelings: emotional and physical. Or try a different technique.

Marianne Williamson (yes, the spiritual writer and speaker who is currently running for President!) speaks about the peace that stems from forgiveness. She describes that when someone else hurts us, that their closed heart can tempt us to close our own.* Please… don’t do that. Choose to forgive. Choose to keep your heart open. Because regardless of whatever went before, you get to have the most amazing life possible.

*Williamson, M. (1992). A Return to Love.

You're never alone on this journey.

Dr. Lee Odescalchi

Author's Bio: 

Lee Odescalchi is a coach and licensed psychologist. She has coached and counseled clients, just like you, looking for more fulfilling lives. Her unique approach uses the most effective methods of personal development and performance strategies. She does this while addressing issues from the past that have led to self-limiting beliefs that get in the way of your success. Lee also empowers people to “get out of their own way” and maximize their strengths so they can produce extraordinary results… in any area of their life.