March is a rough month, each year at this time I see a spike in interpersonal chaos. Marriages I thought were solid dissolve, friendships end, financial and employment crisis seem to manifest. Even the weather gets touchy—in like a lion and out like a lamb—the rumble between winter and spring, dark and light, sunny and warm followed by a chance of storms.
So in honor of the stormy, unstable, beautiful mess that is March Madness I offered up the opportunity for people from my tribe to request a blog post topic. This call was answered by an amazingly talented, intelligent and dynamic woman by the name of Brenda who requested a post on How to Forgive.
This seems an appropriate topic, the emotional and energetic volatility that we experience in March often puts us in the path of conflict. We find ourselves experiencing more incidences, and interactions with people that may require forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a topic that is an ongoing source of exploration for me and my clients. The first question is:
Do we have to forgive?
For the longest time, I was not sure that we had to. To this day, I am not sure that I fully have forgiven some people, including myself. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the concept of the Book of Offenses and how we spend so much time and energy recording in and carrying around this book. In that moment when we record that offense against that person, situation or experience it feels GOOD doesn’t it? We scribble that offense down and tag the offenders and make angry notes in the margins. Anytime we think about letting it go, we flip back to that page and see that red angry writing where we recorded that offense and we get fired up again!
Elizabeth Gilbert goes on to share this about the book,
…over the years, you can become broken and sick from carrying around your Book of Offenses forever on your back. Your spine and your soul can be crushed beneath that heavy granite slab, with its names carved so deep. You get so bent and twisted beneath that unforgiveness that you cannot even lift your face to the sky anymore. Then what has your life become? How can you fly? How can you ever be free?
This is a pretty profound endorsement for forgiveness, who wants to be bent over and sick from carrying that HUGE book of offenses? I sure don’t. So then what? How do we forgive, and furthermore what does that mean?
Iyanla VanZant teaches a course on forgiveness. This is an excerpt from one of her posts
Forgiveness doesn’t mean agreeing with, condoning, or even liking what has happened. Forgiveness means letting go and knowing that—regardless of how challenging, frightening, or difficult an experience may seem—everything is just as it needs to be in order for you to grow and learn.
This is an important distinction. Forgiveness does not mean you agree with or condone what has happened!
Hear me people, when I say forgiveness does not equal accepting bad behavior nor does it require you to allow this person access to your current life. You can forgive someone for purely selfish reasons, and create epic boundaries so that they can not wound you around your power again. FORGIVENESS DOES NOT LET THEM OFF THE HOOK!
Iyanla also goes on to say:
Only forgiveness can liberate minds and hearts once held captive by anger, bitterness, resentment, and fear. Forgiveness is a true path to freedom that can renew faith, build trust, and nourish the soul.
Forgiveness is freeing, forgiveness is painful, and maddening. For some it can come in a flash and they feel the weight of the world removed from their shoulders. For me? It is an ongoing choice, process and often difficult journey.
What is the act of forgiveness like for you?
One thing I know for certain is that the most important person we need to forgive first, is ourselves. When we can truly forgive ourselves, and find our voice and foster those boundaries from a place of power? That is when we have the space to truly forgive others.
Here are a few steps that you can take to move towards forgiveness
- Voice the pain, tell a trusted friend, counselor or confidant. In some instances you may be able to voice the pain to the person who perpetrated the event. The main focus here is to voice the pain without expectation of the other person.
- Spend some time in reflection and ask yourself “What do I need to forgive myself for?” Forgiveness of self is the gateway to learning how to forgive others.
- Find the gift (I know this sounds weird). We learn something from all experiences in life good or bad. Can you find some small gift or lesson that you can take from it and grow it?
- Release with a ritual. I love rituals particularly ones that allow for releasing and receiving. Write down what you want to release on a piece of paper, burn it, throw it into the surf, toss it into a stream. Saying out loud “I forgive you and I release us both from this painful bond” Then voice what you want to bring into your life. Do you want more love? Do you want to take the energy that you spent resenting and use it to curate a new project? Do you want to call in self care? Permission to do something fun? Make sure you create space to receive.
Now it is your turn. How do you find forgiveness in your heart without feeling like you are betraying yourself and condoning what happened? Do you have any forgiveness practices or rituals that you use? I would love to hear from you. Please comment below.