Eckhart Tolle says: “Forgiveness is to relinquish your grievance and so to let go of grief. It happens naturally once you realize that your grievance serves no purpose except to strengthen a false sense of self. Forgiveness is to offer no resistance to life – to allow life to live through you. The alternatives are pain and suffering, a greatly restricted flow of life energy, and in many cases physical disease.”
What do you think of when you hear the word forgiveness? How do you respond to it? Is it a word you’re drawn to, or is it a word that you rebel against? Does it bring up emotion? What do you think it means?
For some, there may be an association with a stringent religious connotation, or a belief that you will be asked to feel something that you don’t feel, or a belief that if you practice forgiveness that it somehow negates the suffering that you have experienced or lets a wrong-doer off the hook.
After many years of practice, I have found that the deepest point of most healing is rooted in forgiveness and primarily, self-forgiveness. In my experience, practicing forgiveness is a clear and necessary step in moving toward what you want more of. I have also found that there is a lot of misconception about what the word means and consequently, a lot of resistance to practicing forgiveness.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as “to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt.” One of the things I find fascinating about this definition is that nowhere in the definition does it say that forgiveness is an emotion or a feeling. That means that the emotions you may be feeling about a situation have nothing to do with the decision to forgive any aspect of it.
In addition, the etymology of the word “forgive” is for + gifan. “Gifan” is from the Old English and it means to give, bestow, allot, grant, devote, or entrust. The word “for” strengthens the word with which it is paired and adds the meaning of “very”. So the true meaning of forgiveness resembles “to be very giving”, or “to give forward”.
Another interesting consideration is that the Mayo clinic has listed these benefits of practicing forgiveness:
- Lower blood pressure
- Stress reduction
- Less hostility
- Better anger management skills
- Lower heart rate
- Lower risk of alcohol or substance abuse
- Fewer depression symptoms
- Fewer anxiety symptoms
- Reduction in chronic pain
- More friendships
- Healthier relationships
- Greater religious or spiritual well-being
Isn’t it amazing that a simple internal decision can have such a huge impact on your physiological and emotional wellbeing?
As you move through life, you have many experiences… some of them are traumatic, some joyful, some sad, etc. The judgments and beliefs you make about what happens actually form structures in your energetic field. These structures are like walls and they guide the decisions you make. So, you may find yourself in repeated limited patterns in your life asking questions like, “Why do I keep repeating the same relationship over and over? Or why don’t I feel a sense of fulfillment in my life? Or why do I feel so angry so much of the time?”
Here is an example: A child is born to alcoholic parents. At a very young age, the child learns that if she doesn’t make waves, doesn’t express herself too much or too loudly, that if she just makes nice, she will stay safe, receive more love and avoid getting hurt. A key point is that, at the time the child makes that decision, it is a reasonable one that protects her wellbeing.
Perhaps the child does receive more love and avoids getting hurt because she learned how to stay quiet and under the radar. Later on, however, the child grows up to find that she isn’t able to progress in her career or relationships. The belief of “staying small and not expressing myself too much keeps me safe” is now a block. It is a limiting belief. And what’s more is that once she has a limiting belief in place inwardly, the outer world is held by the same structures. There is no distinction between her inner and outer experience.
So, now not only does she need to stay small, but in order for her reality to stay valid, everyone else does too. That means that she might find herself having difficulty tolerating people who are too expressive or bold. She might even become resentful of them because they don’t fit in her idea of acceptable behavior. In reality, she is feeling disturbed because the outer manifestation of the world is not matching her expectations. All of this is based on an internal belief system that was created subconsciously in her childhood.
Limiting beliefs can keep you from experiencing your heart’s desire and living your life to its full potential. At the time these beliefs got formed, they may have been useful. They served a purpose which often has to do with survival…mentally, emotionally and so forth.
It is important to note that you are the one who forms your own limiting beliefs. And so in order to make any change, you must forgive yourself first. When we forgive, we are choosing to let go of our attachment to a point of view or a way of being. The result is that we have more freedom to live from our hearts.
When we forgive, we are giving ourselves forward to the greater part of who we are. Let’s just say that I have a belief about myself that I am not enough. Now, if I go ahead and say, “I forgive myself for believing that I am not enough.” Who is doing the forgiving? Well, I am. So that means that the “I am” is bigger than the not-enough-ness. And that means that when I am forgiving, I am expanding into the greater part of who I am rather than aligning with the limitation.
Forgiving is an expansive process of unfolding your love for yourself. When we remove all distractions, that is what we experience. We let the distractions get in our way, and we start to believe that the judgments we have are more important or more valid than the greater part of who we are. We have forgotten that at first, we are love and light and peace.
Forgiveness does not directly produce what we want, but it removes the obstacles – such as limiting beliefs – that stand in our way of experiencing what we want. It helps us to see the illusion that is running our lives. We often think these illusions are the truth of who we are, so they are hard to change because part of us thinks that if we change, we will die. At the very bottom line, it is usually fear of annihilation that keeps us in limiting patterns. Once we realize that these illusions are not the truth of us, we can make different choices. Forgiveness is an intentional act of healing.