Do you hold any feelings of anger or resentment towards anyone in your life? Feel bitter because of the trouble or pain they may have caused you?
If so, you may feel completely justified in holding onto these feelings towards those that have wronged you. And while it may be natural to have these feelings it never really changes anything for the better.
Instead, I’d like to ask you to consider forgiving them. Now you may be thinking that’s easy for me to say since I have no idea as to the amount of trouble or pain they may have caused you. But allow me to explain, just as to why I’m asking you to forgive.
It is important to understand that life operates according to certain universal laws. One of which is the Law of Attraction, which states that; like energy attract like. We are all vibrational beings, creating our own life experience by the energy we send out, i.e. what you give is what you get.
When we hold onto feelings of anger, hate or negativity, that is the energy we send out/transmit into the world and that is what we end up receiving back into our own life. Therefore, by holding on to these feelings, the only person we could hurt is ourselves.
As Buddha said more than 25 centuries ago,
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."
In fact, modern research provides substantial evidence that agrees with Buddha on this. It has been shown that forgiveness lowers the risk of heart attack, improves cholesterol levels and sleep, and reduces blood pressure levels of anxiety, depression and stress.
However, before we talk about forgiveness in more detail, let’s first talk about what it isn’t.
By forgiving someone, you are not accepting and encouraging someone’s hurtful behaviour or ignoring it as if it never took place.
By forgiving someone else, you are not valuing yourself any less, but rather, you are only looking after your highest interest (as mentioned above).
As author Marie Forleo says, forgiveness doesn’t mean you need to automatically trust them again.
With that being said, how can we forgive?
Given below are a few steps that can help you on your journey to forgiveness. But first I must warn you that none of these steps are easy, but of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.
When somebody hurts us, holding feelings of resentment is easy. This may especially be the case if the other person hasn’t apologised or is least remorseful for his/her actions. In such instances, we may even feel they don’t even deserve our forgiveness.
And that is why a strong will to forgive is necessary since more often than not, there will be an internal resistance and stubbornness towards forgiving someone who has hurt us.
Ask yourself these questions if you are finding it hard to come up with the will to forgive.
How does holding onto resentment, anger or hatred feel to you?
Wouldn’t you be better off without these feelings in your life?
Always remember, forgiveness is something you do for yourself, for your highest interest and well-being. By clinging on to these feelings, you hurt nobody but yourself.
In one of my favourite movies, To kill a Mockingbird (based on the book by Harper Lee), there’s a beautiful line by Mr Atticus Finch who says to his children
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ...Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Our mind may not always be able to conceive what prompts people to do certain things. However, we may never reach a place of understanding and empathy if we are adamant on viewing what they have done solely from our point of view.
Being empathetic, understanding and compassionate begins by seeing things from the other's point of view, all of which can make forgiveness easier.
It’s also helpful to consider that you could just as well be in the other person’s shoes. How would you want them to treat you if you were doing your best and didn’t know any better?
Changing your perspective
Most often, when we are holding on to feelings of resentment, chances are we are telling ourselves only one side of the story or seeing things from a narrow perspective.
A shift in perspective can work wonders and help us to let go and forgive more easily. Doing this has helped me a great deal to let go of holding resentment towards someone in my life.
If it’s a past relationship look to see what the person or the relationship has taught you and helped you with? (Writing this down on a piece of paper will be more helpful and effective than going about it in your head.)
Being stuck in the past cannot change what has already happened, but we can make things better for ourselves by reframing the way we see the incident, event, relationship or person in a positive way. After all, in most cases, there will also be some good times you would have shared with this person. Or something that you benefited from or something to be grateful for.
Doing this may not be easy, but there is often something to learn from most relationships if we are willing to approach it with an open mind and look at it deeply.
This last step isn’t exactly required to forgive someone, but I can guarantee you it can make you feel a whole lot better if you are up for it. And you can be assured you have reached a state of forgiveness when you can do this.
Metta meditation (also known as Loving kindness meditation) is something I first came across while doing a 10 day silent Vippassana meditation course earlier this year. As an article on Elephant Journal states “Metta means directing good will and love toward all sentient beings. This form of meditation aids us in developing an attitude of kindness and compassion, especially for the people we are on bad terms with."
So here’s how you can do it,
Close your eyes and sit comfortably in a place where you won’t be disturbed.
Take a few slow deep breaths
Begin picturing your loved ones (family & friends) one by one in your mind’s eye and send them loving and benevolent energy by repeating the phrases
May you be happy
May you be peaceful
May you be well
May you be safe
Make a point to involve as much as feelings as you can while repeating the phrases
Do the same for acquaintances, neighbours etc and others you know in your life
Lastly do the same for the the people you hold resentment towards by repeating the phrases and sending them loving and benevolent energy.
You can do this practice for 5-10 minutes or however long you prefer. Though it may sound a bit woo- woo practicing this on a regular basis has some amazing benefits like, Increasing positive emotions and decreasing negative emotions, healing , slowing biological aging among many others. ( Source)
Forgiveness need not happen overnight, which is why it can be called a journey. However, it all begins with us, with our willingness to forgive. If holding onto grudges and resentments can be likened to going through life with a lot of baggage, forgiveness is all about letting go and dropping off the baggage.
Forgiveness may not be easy, but it's never beyond us as long as we are willing to keep our mind and hearts open instead of stubbornly holding onto resentment and grudges.
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