Are you thinking about how to forgive yourself or others? Forgiveness is a mysterious and evasive experience people are inspired to understand, yet struggle to achieve. When you type ‘book on forgiveness‘ into Amazon, it comes back with 2,000 titles. That is a lot of information about letting go and how to do it!
Well, I’m going to throw in my 2 cents. I work every day to help the wounded, betrayed, and broken-hearted find peace.
“From my experience, forgiveness is something to cultivate a relationship with.” ~Dawn Wiggins
For example, I may do it a little today, a lot tomorrow and maybe never on Friday. This is to say; it can be a moving target. And it can be based on overall wellbeing, stress, activated triggers, relationship status, and so many other things.
Learning How to Forgive Brings You Inner Peace
Cultivating a relationship with forgiveness brings peace.
If you turn your back on it, you will churn inside. But if you work with it, get to know it and spend time with it, life is a more joyful journey.
But like any relationship, it comes with ups and downs lol. And, the person we most struggle to forgive is ourselves. That idea can be hard to digest at first, but at the core, it is the reality we all face.
Blame only gets us so far. Real relief comes from facing our deepest fear that we aren’t good enough, or worthy, and reconciling it with the reality of imperfection. This is the ultimate forgiveness of self; to let ourselves off the hook for being imperfect.
From my experience, I can pinpoint 3 specific components needed to forgive (yourself or someone else).
Three Crucial Components on How to Forgive
If you are hyper-focused on your pain and the injustice of it all, you will start to forget that goodness exists.
Perspective allows you to see the pain but also the path to a solution. It reminds you that how you feel today is not how you will feel forever. For people who have grown up with terror, abuse, or neglect, it’s harder to have perspective on how to forgive.
Perspective comes with experience.
It’s hard to understand the terrain of life if we haven’t viewed it from above and below. So do the work to get some perspective. Over time it will afford you a more natural relationship with forgiveness. As a therapist, I have the honor of being invited to the deepest corridors of people’s lives. I get to see and feel their perspective and understand just how they’ve been affected.
What does it take to be Human?
I think having the opportunity to have such intimate relationships with so many people has fundamentally offered me more perspective on what it is to be human. I do the best I can to take that perspective and use it to learn, grow, and let go of old beliefs and hurts that are dragging me down.
Gratitude is the most potent form of positivity, I know.
It is the ability to see the silver lining, the lemonade, the lesson learned. When we are steeped in gratitude, it’s hard to stay in resentment.
Resentment versus Gratitude
I am grateful for the color green, the sound of my dog snoring, the steady love of my husband, the joy of motherhood, and the struggles that have left me resilient AF.
If you’re struggling with resentment, get a gratitude practice. And don’t slack.
Commit to shifting your mindset from toxic to thankful.
This is the understanding and awareness that it can’t be undone, paired with the willingness to shift forward.
Humans have a love affair with the fantasy of things being different than they are. Fill in this blank: If only…….
How many did you come up with? I bet you said things like:
- “he hadn’t left.”
- “she desired me sexually.”
- “my mother/father loved me the way I wanted/needed.”
- “I made more money.”
- “I was better at work/parenting/being a human.”
- “that bad thing hadn’t happened.”
- “they were still here.”
- “that life was easier.”
Each one of these is rooted in something that needs to be forgiven.
The tendency is to put more energy into the fantasy of changing history, than accepting and forgiving in the present. We do that because we are fearful of the full brunt of responsibility being put squarely on our shoulders. So we avoid it by blaming, fantasizing, and being plain angry at life’s perpetrators (which may include God herself).
“Acceptance is a sort of surrender that simply says ‘ok.'” ~Dawn Wiggins
If you can combine perspective, gratitude, and acceptance, you are well on your way to a relationship with forgiveness.
And remember, learning how to forgive yourself and others is not a straight line. One day you may put down the blame and 18 days later pick it back up. The goal is to stay with the process and peel back resentment one layer at a time. Until you finally make peace with your humanity.
Once you do that, you will also find peace with everyone else’s.
Happy healing. <3
Dawn Wiggins, Ed.S., Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist