“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Experts say it takes 10,000 hours to be a master at something. That’s nearly 417 days, which is about 1 ¼ years (if you’re studying it 24hrs each day). More reasonably, it’s 1,667 days, or 4.5 years (at 6hrs each day). I’d say over the course of my lifetime I’ve become an expert at the grieving process. First as a mere participant, then as a conscious observer of my own process and again as a observer/participant/mentor in the others’ process. All of these levels of grieving have given me something even more important than a quickened and meaningful healing process they’ve conditioned in me a superpower…forgiveness……or as I like to think of it “fore” – giveness.
Most people have one of two impressions about what it means to forgive:
1) Just letting it go or ignoring it (actually, that’s denial and it’s the first part of the grieving process so good luck with that) or
2) giving up and agreeing that what that person or situation did to us was ok (in most cases, it most definitely was not ok).
The problem with these two views on forgiveness is they’re not sustainable.
1) In the case of denial we will continue to be triggered by future events that look or feel like the event that hurt us until we figure out how to heal that wound.
2) In the case of capitulation we slowly devalue ourselves making us prone to further victimization.
I reframe the concept as “fore”-giving because forgiveness is really a practice in making a conscious choice about where we first put our energy. When our energy keeps going to the hurt and we don’t make a conscious choice to redirect it we’re creating habits in our mind about hurt, betrayal, cowardice, self-worth and so on. In essence we accidentally create a default mode of operation that disempowers us over time until we’re sincerely waiting on the world to change in order for us to be healed, whole and happy. Our ability to forgive cannot be reliant on others’ ability to change. Therefore, our practice begins and remains within ourselves first and foremost.
Because grief is a necessary step in our growth it is helpful to lean into the experience and become an observer of our hardship:
1) When we feel the pain, feel the pain. Do not try to divert it, deny it or change it. Yes. We’ve been hurt.
2) When the always/never tape begins to play (“men always do this,” “friendships never last,” “I should’ve known better,” etc) simply ask yourself the question, “is it true?” Right here we’ve taken the energy back from the hurtful memory and invested it first (“fore”) in our healing process. I’m not saying we can never go there or that we’re not allowed to feel the pain or even that we shouldn’t be thinking the thoughts. We simply give the energy to ourselves first and ask a simple question. “Is it true?”
3) Sometimes the tape simply begins to play on repeat and all of the evidence that “proves” we’re right comes to the forefront and that’s ok – that’s merely the nature of our default patterns. When we’ve calmed down we ask the question again, “Is it true?”
4) Eventually, once we’re calm we can see evidence to the contrary. Stockpile the evidence that says your fear is false. Focus on it. Most importantly feel the evidence that says, ‘ I have healthy relationships,” “I know people that respect me,” “I’m safe” or “I don’t always make this mistake,” whatever your new realization is. This is critical to re-writing our previous default belief.
No doubt it’s a practice, but over time the investment in the process allows us a new level of compassion for ourselves and for others that pre-forgives them….or allows us to understand that they’re humans who make mistakes and can show up damaged just like we can. What is there to forgive when we don’t see a problem in the first place?!
Condensing a lifelong practice into a blog post seems a little unfair but consider these thoughts to be seeds that will grow over time with attention and practice and you’ll be surprised at the benefits to your health and relationships. As always, let me know if you have questions or if you have a specific scenario simply schedule a free consultation and we can work on it together.