“Forgiveness does not mean condoning or agreeing with a horrendous act. It is a decision to no longer attack oneself. It is quite simply the decision not to suffer.” – Gerald Jampolsky.
How many of us suffer? Unknowingly brought on or perpetuated by our very selves? For me, in my younger years, I felt this unease much of the time. I didn’t have the knowledge nor connection with wholeness – body-mind-emotion-spirit – that can come with time and experience. I always considered forgiveness something one did toward or asked of another. Forgive myself? Whole new concept. And one I learned when I came across a book that made a life-changing impression on me. Still does. “Love Is Letting Go of Fear”, by Gerald Jampolsky, Child and Adult Psychiatrist
Messages Show Up When We Are Ready
At the time of first reading it, I’d started apprenticing at a healing center in Dallas, TX, having recently left the corporate world. The book jumped out at me as it stood in line with all the others on a shelf of our little treasure trove library. Although by apprenticing I thought I was there to learn how to help others, what I most wanted and needed was relief from my internal discomforts. To find inner peace. Fortunately, I learned at the center that true healing is an inside job. One needs to do their own work before they can help another.
Just as the teacher will show up when one is ready, so too perhaps does the book! My life consisted of stress, responsibilities, and highly competitive expectations. I had a lot of wonderful things going for me too. I thought of myself at the time as an intelligent and capable woman, mother, wife, and professional. Yet, we develop into adulthood based on the childhood environment from which we come. Discord between parents, sibling infighting, religious mixed messages, and a time when a belief in lack prevailed influenced mine. Any love I felt seemed conditional. In that space, I learned to steal, lie, manipulate, and hurt others to bolster my self-esteem.
Victim or Perpetrator – 2 Sides of the Same Coin
An important distinction to make here is what I came away with from childhood. Learned behavior as a victim. Yet I certainly did not see myself that way. In hindsight, it may at least partly explain why my mom often suggested to me to just “let it go”! Let it go… easier said than done, right?!
Wrought with anxiety when things didn’t go my way, I was quick to react, point blame, ridicule, or use some other defense. Anything to avoid feeling the discomforts of my own guilt and shame. But let’s rest here for a moment. Honestly, don’t we all have some of that running through us? I believe these are some of the most detrimental of human emotions. They need to be acknowledged and then let go. And the sooner we start the better. For as we age, those unresolved emotions can fester in very unforgiving ways.
As per Dr. Jampolsky’s book, it is not other people or situations that cause us upset. Rather, it is our own thoughts, attitudes, and projections that are responsible for our distress. And resulting actions we take that can hurt us. Healing old wounds, then, does not result from trying to change others or pretending the past didn’t happen, but rather to make our own inner change. It requires doing our own soul-searching and culling out buried anger, victimhood, shame, etc. It is all some version of fear. As Dr. Jampolsky describes, “The goal is self-healing in the face of each life challenge, regardless of the source.” Forgiveness is the vehicle. What a powerful awareness!
How to Forgive and Let Go
Consider a plant, perhaps in your home or yard. As time goes on, invariably some of its leaves and branches begin to dull and eventually die. While the plant is carrying and still trying to feed those parts, less nourishment is available for the rest of the plant. It may continue to grow, slightly, but stunted. The dead weight needs to come off to make space for vibrant new life. Similarly, if we continue to dwell on things from the past, we will not have the capacity to entertain things healthy, vibrant, and new.
Let us look at a few examples of how this can translate into your life:
Clear out a closet and identify at least one item to toss or give away.
It is a symbolic and physical act of letting go that will feel really good!
Take a moment to enjoy simple breathwork, allowing the exhale to be longer than the inhale.
Example: Breathe into the count of 3, exhaling to the count of 5. Repeat several times. The exhale is a letting go.
Write your thoughts and feelings about something you’ve been holding onto that has occupied you.
Writing moves the energy out of your system. Gently review what you wrote. Then burn or shred it. A cathartic letting go.
Sit quietly outside with bare or stocking feet on the ground.
Place your focus in your feet and breathe. Soon you will sense the earth’s energy – like a vibration or gravitational pull – grounding you. A wonderful soothing letting go.
Meditate or pray, bringing to mind a worry or grievance.
Feel where that concern is being held in your body. Your body’s wisdom will know its exact location. You will feel it as tension, tightness, a burning sensation, shortness of breath, or something else. Gently breathe a pure white light into the area. With each breath, it will begin to soften and release. A deep letting go that improves with each time.
Talk with someone you trust who will not judge nor get into drama and share what you’ve been holding onto.
Ask them to just listen. A very humbling letting go.
Claim what you want in place of what was let go.
As an example: “As I release the old, fresh and vibrant thoughts and experiences enter. All is well.”
It’s All Energy – Choose Forgiveness, Choose Love
Writing this, I can feel remnants of emotional upsets still present in my body. Clearing our “stuff” is a process! I see it as an interesting and fun challenge – between me and me! In addition to the above ideas, I use and offer this thought. Forgiveness is an energy. Even if I can’t seem to connect with what specifically needs forgiving, I can sit quietly, breathe, and call in the energy of forgiveness. As I feel it wash through me, I often become aware of how my unforgivenesses caused me to hold onto and relive old hurts. How it blocked good things, like unconditional love. How about together we let ourselves and others off the hook and practice letting go? Love will prevail. The sooner the better.
About the Author: Laura Sarna
Laura Sarna is a certified practitioner of energy balancing, guided imagery, and spiritual counseling, and is a business partner with For the Love of Healing. Her journey taught her to relax into this big, amazing process of becoming a better human increasingly aligned with her soul’s purpose. Embracing forgiveness and learning to love herself have been and continue to be her biggest opportunities for growth. Her studies with mentor Deborah Singleton (www.ahealingplace.org) proved invaluable along the way. She loves time with family, music, being in nature (especially forests), and all cats large and small.
Laura works and resides in the Dallas, TX area.
- Practice Self-Care
- Energy Healing – Stepping into Something New for My Second Act
- When the Gut Speaks – Lessons from My Gallbladder
“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”
FAQs About Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a highly personal and individual process. What works for one person may not work for another. Below are answers to some commonly asked questions we hear about forgiveness.
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is the act of letting go of resentment, anger, and the desire for revenge toward someone who has wronged you. It involves pardoning the person and moving towards a state of inner peace and understanding.
Why is forgiveness important?
It is important for one’s emotional and mental well-being. It can release the burden of negative emotions, improve relationships, and promote personal growth and healing.
Is forgiveness the same as reconciliation?
Definitely not. Forgiveness is a personal choice to let go of negative feelings, while reconciliation involves rebuilding trust and the relationship with the wrongdoer. Forgiveness may or may not lead to reconciliation.
How do I forgive someone who has hurt me deeply?
Forgiving someone deeply hurtful can be challenging. It often involves acknowledging your pain, empathizing with the other person, and actively choosing to release the grudge over time. Seeking professional help or counseling can help you through this process.
Does forgiveness mean I have to forget the wrongdoing?
Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily require you to forget the wrongdoing. It means you release the negative emotions associated with the event but can still remember it as a lesson learned.
Can forgiveness be beneficial to the forgiver?
Yes, Benefits for the forgiver can include reduced stress, improved mental health, and better relationships and can lead to greater emotional and psychological well-being.
How long does it take to forgive someone?
The time it takes to forgive can vary greatly from person to person and depends on the severity of the wrongdoing. Some people may forgive relatively quickly, while others may need years to come to terms with their feelings.
What if the person I need to forgive doesn’t apologize or show remorse?
Forgiveness is possible even without an apology or remorse from the wrongdoer. It is a personal choice and can be empowering for the forgiver, regardless of the other person’s actions.
Can forgiveness be granted to oneself?
Yes, self-forgiveness is important. It involves forgiving oneself for mistakes, regrets, or self-blame. It can be a crucial part of personal growth and healing.