There is something wonderful about living in an area that has distinct seasons. We have just entered the season of renewal and regrowth. This is one of my favorite times when the daylight is my natural alarm clock, the trees are sprouting tiny green buds, and the daffodils are defying freezing temperatures and announcing their arrival to the world.
As we experience personal growth I think of this season. We are not starting over brand new, we do not wipe the slate clean. Our growth comes from the roots of our humanness and arrives at various times in an array of wonderful colors. Spring is not about starting new, it is about continuing a cycle of renewal. We need to see the dormant season, the stillness, the quiet of winter to appreciate the arrival of songbirds, butterflies, and green grass.
A topic that often comes up during my private coaching sessions is forgiveness. It is an ongoing source of exploration for many of us. What does it mean to forgive, how do we start that process, and do we even 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.
In my own research, I came across two views of forgiveness that have shaped my own beliefs and I want to share them with you today. Elizabeth Gilbert Book of Offenses and Iyanla Vanzant 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything.
Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the concept of the Book of Offenses and how we spend so much time and energy recording 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, 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 4 steps to move toward 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, or 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. Find more thoughts on the topic of forgiveness on my blog Why Looking Back Helps Your Business and You Can’t Just Do The Work Once and Forget About It.