If you’ve ever been harmed by someone you understand how difficult offering forgiveness is. Forgiveness can feel counter-intuitive depending on the circumstances, and you may find yourself harboring ill-will or resentment. As if all this wasn’t difficult enough you may also be struggling with forgiving yourself for an error in judgement or poor behavior, and now carry the weight of regret or shame. Resentment, revenge, shame and guilt only keep you from healing and moving forward. If you’ve been holding onto past pain because you feel the need to be vindicated, or if you are punishing yourself for choices you’ve made which perpetuate feelings of shame or regret…it’s time to let go!
Healing old wounds and embracing forgiveness requires you to develop an awareness for compassion and self-love. Forgiveness is a commitment, as the process will bring feelings and emotions to the surface. Consider breaking down the forgiveness process into smaller more manageable parts, and be kind to yourself while attempting to understand your feelings and release toxic emotions. Take the opportunity to learn, heal and grow from your experience. Releasing yourself from the weight of resentment and shame allows space for a happier and healthier life.
VALIDATION —Yes, your pain is real
When I’ve been treated poorly by someone I provide myself validation of my thoughts and feelings. This is incredibly important, since many of us have been told as children we should remain silent and not speak our truth. As adults we’re told to “suck it up” and “get over it.” Once we are able to acknowledge our pain we can assess if we are responsible for any part of the pain we are experiencing. This acknowledgment, though painful is empowering. It takes a great deal of courage to admit when we’ve moved out of our integrity or made a mistake in judgement, but it also moves us forward and assists in the emotional growth process.
If you’ve been harmed by someone but have not received a request for forgiveness…that is not your problem as you’re working on you! When we focus our energy on our own experience and emotional growth we remove the need to focus our energy on those whom we feel have harmed us (trust me, they are having their own experience). Is it worth stunting your growth for those who are not interested in their own? If you answered no, you’re ready to move to the next stage.
Holding on to negative emotions enhances cellular memory of the pain you are feeling, which in turn upsets the chemical balance of the body, causing physical and emotional stress to the sufferer.
EVOLUTION — Drop the emotional baggage
Now that you’ve validated your pain you are ready to move into the evolution stage. This stage can be painful because this is when you will need to approach your feelings, and do something with those feelings. Too often people instantly want to forget a painful situation. Be careful not to move through this stage too quickly (or not at all). Do not miss an opportunity to understand why you are making particular choices and how you can learn, grow, and modify your behaviors for the future.
When you hold onto hurt (even in your subconscious) you store it within you. Pain stored in the body can come out in the form of illness and “dis-ease.” Are your ready to approach your pain differently so you are able to fully heal? If you are still vacillating on your next step you made need to go back to the validation stage. There’s no shame in reworking stages of forgiveness. If you’re holding onto your pain as protection, find safety in knowing your intention is to heal, and you are deserving of a life free of resentment and ill-will.
Take the time to realize all of human kind is imperfect. We are all going to make mistakes and hurt each other at some point. Search for understanding and perspective. If you feel someone has caused you harm with intention, understand this person may be working through some personal matter which you are completely unaware of. However, you can make the choice to move beyond blame or revenge and into a place of compassion, healing and growth.
There are things happening in the world we cannot make sense of. Instead of attempting to understand why, take the time to acknowledge we are all having our own experiences. Focus on moving through your life growing from your experiences, both positive and negative. Remove the need to avoid adversity and instead seek the courage to move through it.
“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” ~David Mitchell
RELEASE — True forgiveness is empathy and compassion for others and self
My mother has a saying, “release them with love.” Releasing with love is a blessing to those whom have harmed you and also a blessing to yourself. This may seem counter-intuitive, but you’ve been through the validation and evolution stages so you’re ready! Love is a powerful gift and we can source it at any time. If someone has caused you harm you have a choice to either dwell in a place of victimization or thrive in a place of courage and strength. Provide those whom have harmed you with something they may be unable to source themselves…love. It is the ultimate gift and is readily available if you genuinely desire to be free of negativity and on the path for emotional growth. Provide yourself compassion if you’ve behaved poorly, and consider it an opportunity and motivation to do better next time…and there will be a next time.
This stage is the most difficult and may take some time to fully embrace and trust you’ve forgiven others for the pain they’ve caused you. If you practice integrity and positive intention, you will begin to understand you do not need to burden yourself with other people’s cruelty. Moving through life this way allows you to release others to find their own way, because you’ve already moved on to a better place.
The stages of forgiveness take time to refine, so remember to have compassion for yourself. As humans we have a habit of moving to a defensive position when we’ve been harmed. In some instances taking a defensive position is helpful, but this is not the case if you wish to move through the forgiveness process. A defensive position may have worked when we were cavemen, but we are evolving and expectations for ourselves should also evolve. Take the time to practice these three steps when a situation comes up where you feel deceived, slighted, or harmed in some way. Once you allow yourself to experience your feelings and emotions differently you will find understanding in a place of calmness and growth. Remember, forgiveness is a precious gift you give to others and yourself.
About the author
Elle Martin is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and founder of SoHo Well+being. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook for more health information and wellness inspiration. @SoHoWellbeing
Originally published at medium.com