Have you ever been a victim of betrayal, a crime, or even bullying?
If so, then you must know how grievous the hurt can be and how it can turn your entire world upside down. You keep thinking about your pain and you find it hard to concentrate on anything else. Holding a grudge like this can have serious implications on our emotional, mental, and physical well-being. When life hits you hard, there is one effective medicine that can help you heal your wounds. It is called forgiveness.
But, it is not that easy to forgive and some people underestimate the power of forgiving others.
Forgiving does not mean simply letting something go. It takes time to train your mind to learn how to forgive and how to prevent this state of mind from hobbling you emotionally and cognitively.
Before you learn how to hone your power of forgiveness, you should learn what forgiving actually means.
What Is The Definition Of Forgiveness
Type “forgiveness definition” in your search engine and so many definitions from dictionaries will appear describing it as “the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.”
Ask a psychologist for the definition of forgiveness and he will say, “it is a conscious decision to release feelings of resentment toward a person who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve it.“
In order to start embracing the power of forgiveness, you need to understand that forgiving doesn’t revolve only around you. Yes, you are the one whose ego was hurt and who will perform the action of forgiving. But, besides thinking only about yourself you also need to look at the entire situation from the other person’s perspective.
Now, you may be wondering why you would try to find excuses for someone who intentionally upset you. To get a better idea of what we mean to say, think about this old Buddhist story. . .
Gelong Thubten’s Story About Forgiveness
Gelong Thubten is a Tibetan Buddhist monk and also the person who coached the cast of Dr. Strange about mindfulness, forgiveness, and joy. Gelong Thubten believes that forgiveness and compassion are the highest qualities a person can achieve. But, in order to do so, we need to train and grow. One way we can do this is by constantly challenging our minds to see things from a different perspective.
To help people understand this concept, Gelong Thubten shared this story about forgiveness:
Imagine that someone threw a stone at you. Reasonably, you would become angry. However, you need to ask yourself who are you angry with – the person, or the stone? Every sane man and woman would say they’re angry with the person who threw the stone. But, you need to ask yourself one more thing; who caused you pain? It was the stone.
So, why are you angry with the person if the stone caused you pain? The reason why is because the stone is an inanimate object controlled by the person who threw it.
The moment you make conclusions like this is the perfect time to listen to Thubten’s advice and look at things from a different perspective:
Maybe the person is not the one to blame. Rather, the pain they feel that made them behave the way they did is to blame. The person is just like the stone, helplessly thrown by pain.
If you start looking at things from different perspectives, forgiveness will arrive naturally. Understanding someone else’s struggle can make you feel compassion and lead to the faster development of your power of forgiveness.
Why Should You Forgive?
Why would anyone want to forgive someone who has wronged them in the past?
Keep in mind that forgiving does not mean letting someone off the hook for their wrongdoings or completely forgetting about the past. It certainly does not mean remaining in touch with the person who hurt you and tolerating their future maltreatment. What forgiveness means is setting yourself free so you can move on.
The reason why you should forgive people is not to free them from the blame, but to transform your own anger and hurt into healing and positivity. Just like Joan Borysenko said, “you can forgive someone and still call the police and testify in court.”
How Can Forgiveness Help You?
Forgiving can help you improve your mental and emotional health because it leads to overcoming feelings of rage, anxiety, and depression. It will help you stop thinking about the suffering of the past and become able to improve your future.
Forgiveness can improve both your psychological and physical well-being.
In the physical domain, forgiveness is often related to lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and greater stress relief. It can also reduce fatigue and improve sleep quality. In terms of the psychological domain, forgiveness will eliminate the negative experience of stress and inner conflict and at the same time help you restore positive feelings, behaviors, and thoughts.
How To Forgive?
Forgiving is easier said than done. Sometimes, we may think that we forgave someone but, in reality, we still resent that person deep inside. Here are
In an interview with Vishen Lakhiani, the founder of Mindvalley, Gelong Thubten mentioned that forgiveness should be integrated with meditation. But, in order to meditate (and forgive) properly, we need to be aware of the reason we are meditating at all.
When done with purpose and understanding, meditation will have value and a positive outcome. However, if we meditate without a strong intention, then our meditation will become a completely random action we perform.
To make sure our meditation will have a purpose, Vishen recommends embracing his 6 Phase Meditation:
- Visualizing (your perfect future)
- Daily intention
Here is his guided meditation:
If you are a beginner, here is a simple exercise that will help you start with meditation:
- Sit or lie comfortably.
- Close your eyes and relax.
- Breathe deeply and naturally. Make no effort to control your breath.
- Pay attention to your breathing and how your body moves with each breath. Feel how your shoulders, chest, rib cage, and belly move. If your mind starts wandering, start focusing on your breath again.
Four Steps To Achieve Forgiveness
If you are not experienced in meditation, don’t worry. There are some other steps that can help you achieve forgiveness.
1. Understand Why Someone Acts The Way They Do
Remember Gelong Thubten’s old Buddhist story about forgiveness? Looking at things from different perspectives is the first step toward forgiveness.
Think of the reason why someone hurt you. Was their behavior a part of their defense mechanism? What are they trying to defend themselves from? Are they suffering from certain psychological issues such as depression, aggression, or maybe even narcissism?
Asking different questions and trying to understand why someone behaves the way they do will create compassion and loosen the negative feelings toward them. If possible, try talking to the person and discussing the unfortunate event in detail.
Make sure to talk to the person when you are calm and focused, not angry and irrational.
2. Express Your Emotions
You have to be aware of your feelings and the way they affect your body and mind. Our body registers every emotion we feel and this impacts our immune system, hormonal balance, and brain chemistry.
There are several ways to express your emotions in a healthy way.
The first thing you can do is release your anger. The best way to do it is actually very primitive. You can go somewhere where no one will hear you yell or scream. You can hit, tear or break things (just make sure you don’t hurt yourself, someone else, or break something valuable). Crying, weeping, and feeling sad are also an option because they will allow you to release all the tension you have been feeling inside. Also, talking with a friend or a therapist will help you feel much better.
After releasing your anger, you can write yourself or the person who hurt you a letter. Of course, you don’t have to send it. Writing a letter will help you pour out all your emotions out of your body.
Another thing you can do is talk to the person who hurt you. This will be helpful only if you are feeling calm and if it’s safe to talk to the person. If you don’t want to talk to the person directly, you can imagine a dialogue between the two of you. Close your eyes, think about that person and tell them out loud how you feel. Then, think what they could say back to you. When you are done, thank the person for listening and release them with gratitude.
3. Rebuild Your Boundaries
Once you express all your negative emotions, feel free to create new boundaries in the relationship you have with the person. This may include not seeing the person until you’ve had enough time to heal, or establishing new guidelines in your relationship. The most important thing to do is to make sure you protect yourself and your emotions.
Sometimes, people may not understand your choice, especially if they are family or close friends. Try to explain to them why you want to create new boundaries and make sure to put your own needs above the needs of others.
4. Let Go
Fully letting go can happen in a few days, but it can also take years. You may feel better very soon and then find yourself grieving again. This is a natural thing. You cannot forgive and heal instantly, nor can you choose how long it will take you to do it. Give yourself some time and space, express your feelings, and wait until you let go. It may feel like it is taking you forever, but it will happen.
Forgiveness is one of the greatest powers and highest qualities a person can have. This mind state can’t develop on its own; you have to work on it. Choosing to forgive means choosing to help yourself by avoiding negative feelings such as anger, hurt, or depression. Becoming a forgiving person will help you live in peace and spread positivity to everyone around you.
Have you forgiven someone recently? If so, how did you feel after?