Understanding Forgiveness

A family member, work partner or friend has done something to you, something that you cannot even imagine getting past. This unfathomably painful act could have involved betrayal, deceit, manipulation, sexual misconduct, or even physical scars. Any invasion of our soul in which the agony goes so deep, leaving a negative imprint on our well-being, can make pardon unimaginable. We carry the gaping pain day after day, allowing it to consume us. It taints our perspectives on love and trust. But we cannot help it, because the situation moved us to the core. We feel we’ve been changed forever but don’t like the feeling. The pain is heavy and poisonous. We want out. We wish we could erase the negativity, even if just a bit.

There is a way to erase the negativity and regain our freedom and wellbeing. What I am about to write may seem incomprehensible given the circumstances, but once we truly understand the depth and meaning of this concept, it actually becomes very empowering. In order to move on from pain, however appalling, we need to forgive. We do the opposite of what our minds are telling us to do. Your mind may tell you to destroy, to take revenge, to hate. These actions may be satisfying in the short term, but how effective will they be in the long term? The way to rid ourselves of pain is not through more negativity. We do not gain control of a situation by adding more fuel to its fire.

No: We gain control by reversing it. If we take any action that is equivalent to the destructive act that hurt us, we remain locked in that cycle. The only way to gain power over it is to elevate ourselves above it; and this is done through forgiveness. True forgiveness is not about saying, or believing, that what the other person did was okay. The person and situation could well remain in the wrong forever. Rather, true forgiveness is about taking a personal stand and saying, “I choose to not be a part of the toxicity any longer.” Instead of engaging with it, we remove ourselves from it and thereby rise above it. What I am proposing is deep spiritual work. And it is the most effective tool for gaining our power back.

Before you forgive, you have to expand your perspective regarding the other person or situation. Whether or not you truly know the individual who harmed you, one thing is certain about the human condition: A person’s external actions are a reflection of their mindset on the inside. So the worse the act committed, the worse the person is likely to have been feeling on the inside. Even if they have always tried to come across as stable and happy, actions always speak louder than words. A mind in distress will live a life in distress; a mind at peace will share its peace with all those with whom it comes in contact.

So if we are to release our pain, we must first understand the level of distress the perpetrator was suffering. Does this excuse any act of wrongdoing? No. But it expands our position. And this expansion within is a necessary step to rising above and removing ourselves from the pain. If we are operating on the same level of thinking – consciously or subconsciously – as the person who has hurt us, we will continue to be owned by the situation. But if we widen our sphere of understanding, we create distance: Moving towards clarity and insight, rather than staying in the darkness. And the more space we give ourselves and the other person or situation, the more we regain our power.

True forgiveness is about claiming your right to become whole again. When you are harmed, the pain cuts through your spirit. It takes over your heart and mind. But if you take the lessons learned and do not retaliate, then the strength and courage behind these actions will leave a more profound impact on your character than any harm could ever do. It is a part of life’s journey to go through pain. Everyone has at least one person in their life who caused them great pain. Ultimately, it is not about the grief itself, but how we handle it. If we do not claim our power back after life has thrown us to the ground, then it will only be harder to stand up when life throws us again.

This is not about ignoring the pain. It is about learning from it and building on it. Each event is a stepping-stone for the next. It is not in times of joy that we build strength and stamina; it is in times of difficulty that we lay the foundations for our future. People become too identified with their pain. But each wound is an opportunity to empower our life – and this opportunity is as great as the wound is deep. We attract what we are on the inside. If we have negative thoughts swirling in our minds, then we will attract negative situations to match them.

To forgive takes courage; it takes becoming vulnerable again. But the beauty of our lives does not lie in rigidity. When we open ourselves up, we open up our possibilities and experiences. To refuse to be owned by negativity is actually to take control of this life, instead of the other way around. We have far more power within us than we realize. Our power comes through awareness and insight. To move back towards love, trust and vitality is not an act of weakness; it is an act of strength and brilliance. A person who acts from love, whatever the situation, will shine brilliantly in a world where too many people are identified by the dark heaviness of their pasts.