Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How do we Forgive?

How do we forgive the betrayal, abuse, infidelity or disappointments in our lives? In the first chapter of “Finding Forgiveness” I begin with a quote which says “The knowledge that illuminates not only sets you free, but also shows clearly that you are free.” The knowledge referred to here is about knowing yourself right to the core of your being – your spiritual essence. It is knowing the truth of who you are which sets you free. This is what forgiveness is about and why forgiveness is our ultimate freedom.

Think about a situation in your life where you have gotten hurt or where you were feeling such intense anger that you couldn’t let that anger go. As the situation happened you had already judged it, stubbornly holding on to whatever you were thinking as though your thoughts were facts. The truth is those thoughts are not facts, only your interpretation of what just took place. In a split second you became judge and jury seeing the situation through the lens colored by your life’s experiences. Ouch!

Now I know what some of you are thinking. I wasn’t the one who was the abusive spouse and ruined a marriage. I wasn’t the one who committed an infidelity and had an affair. I wasn’t the perpetrator of violence. So what do my thoughts have to do with it?

You certainly did not create the circumstances which caused you pain. Your interpretations of what happened did. Yes, our emotions created by our thoughts are very important messengers guiding us in what we need to do, AND it is when you can’t let go of them within a reasonable amount of time because of what you are thinking that the red flag waves. We do have a right to be angry and we can choose to overcome anger by seeing our situation differently, changing our thinking and letting our pain go.

Forgiveness is a process of looking at a situation and asking ourselves what this event is telling us about what we believe to be true. We begin by looking honestly at our reactions to whatever has happened including all kinds of feelings and judgments we may hold about the situation. All these feelings and thoughts are useful in uncovering our hidden beliefs. These are feelings and thoughts about ourselves which often we can only see in the perpetrator. We are learning that the feelings/thoughts along with the pain they cause were already with us before the event took place in the form of guilt. The event only seemed to cause the feelings when actually our beliefs did.

When we are willing to question our beliefs then we are in a position to begin to see the situation differently. This can be very difficult to do, and takes a lot of practice and honesty, but it is the only way we can get in touch with the beliefs that are keeping us rooted in the thinking that causes us a lot of pain. If we are willing to just say “maybe I’m wrong about this,” then the world we’ve made and all our relationships, including those we love, become our classroom for a type of learning which can bring spiritual depth to our lives. Without this spiritual knowledge we would not be aware of the mistaken beliefs about ourselves or the judgments that keep us trapped in knowing our true essence. Each step in the forgiveness process brings us more peace and takes us closer to our truth. This is our healing and it is this truth that really does sets us free.

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