Forgiveness: The Gift You Give To Yourself
An important part transforming anxiety is forgiveness. When you forgive, you release anxiety. If you hold on to resentment, anxiety holds you captive. When you forgive, it is your greatest gift to inner peace. This blog outlines how spiritual teachers Wayne Dyer and Thich Nhat Hahn overcame great obstacles to forgive to transform their lives. Additionally, I outline for the steps to forgiveness, and a worksheet you can use to forgive anyone in your life you want to forgive.
Forgiveness is a road you choose to take. It is your destination. Forgiveness is a journey and the most important decision you can make to find inner peace and happiness. Deep rooted resentment affects your mental state and make you a prisoner of your pain. When you forgive your life transforms.
No matter what anyone has done to you, you must forgive in order to set yourself free from the pain of reliving the experience again and again. Holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Resentment, anger and the inability to forgive keeps you captive to your pain, when you forgive your life opens up to peace of happiness.
Wayne Dyer’s story about his father is a remarkable insight into the power of forgiveness. Dyer grew up hating his father, he had so much resentment and anger towards his father. His father was an alcoholic who walked out on his mother when she was age twenty-two with three boys under the age of four. His mother could not financially afford to keep her three young children, and had to leave her three children in an orphanage. Dyer spent most of the first ten years of his life in an orphanage.
At 34 Dyer found out that his father had been dead for ten years and decided to visit his grave in Mississippi. When he got to his Father’s grave he felt an overwhelming sense of rage and anger towards his father for what he had done to his mother and siblings. At the time, Dyer was a Professor in psychology at Saint John’s University in New York. Although, successful in his career, nothing was going right, he was overweight, he was drinking, doing drugs, and he was in a bad relationship.
At his Father’s grave, he stood there for three hours cursing and shouting on his father’s grave. Afterwards, when he returned to his car to leave, an invisible intelligence called him back to his father’s grave. He got a calling telling him to go back, that’s not why you were sent to your Father’s grave. This invisible intelligence guided Dyer back to his father’s grave transformed his life. Instead of leaving in a rage, Dyer went back to his father’s grave and asked himself, who am I to judge you, who am I to condemn you, who am I to be critical of you, I did not know what you were living through at the time. Afterwards, he told his Father, “For this moment on, I will send you love and forgive you for everything you have done” (Dyer 2009).
After Dyer had made the decision to forgive his alcoholic father, his life took a totally new turn, he was never angry again at his father. “My own life totally turned around, when I got rid of the anger, and the resentment and the hatred” (Dyer 2009). Shortly after he flew down to Fort Lauderdale, checked into a hotel and wrote a book for fourteen days straight. The book ‘Your Erroneous Zones’ became one of the largest selling books in history, selling over 35 million copies. This event propelled his life in a whole new way, Dyer stopped drinking, started exercising, and his relationships changed. Soon after he met his wife and had his eight children. Everything in life transformed because he was willing to forgive his father.
The moment, that he made the decision to forgive his father, this decision transformed his life and relationships. Afterwards, he gave up alcohol, accepting his father did the best he could at the time. What this Dyers story helps illustrate, is that forgiveness is always possible, and through doing it you can make positive changes when you are no longer reliving the past and being caught up in it. Dyer emphasized how that you practice forgiveness for two reasons: “To let other, know that you no longer wish to be in a state of hostility and free yourself of the self-defeating energy of resentment. Send love in some form for those you feel have wronged you and notice how much better you feel” (Dyer 2016).
From Dyer’s story of forgiving his father, you learn that someone does not be alive in order to forgive. You can choose forgiveness even if you can’t tell the person to their face after they have died. The act of doing this, as Dyer’s story demonstrates frees you from the past, helps you come to terms with what happened with insight, understanding and compassion and the act of doing this transforms negative feelings of resentment into valuable life lesson.
Another striking example of forgiveness is shown from the incredible life of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn. During the war in Vietnam monks and nuns had to decide if they wanted to remain in their monasteries meditating, or help people suffering due to the bombings and heart ships confronted by the turmoil of war. Nhat Hahn decided to do both, travelling the world to help navigate through the overwhelming task of attaining peace during the war. His peace activism was acknowledged by Martin Luther King who nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prise in 1967.
Nhat Hahn did not take sides but wanted peace for his country, because he was seeking peace from both sides, he was exiled from his homeland for 39 years. The suffering he endured from not being able to return to his home and family could have made him resentful, angry and bitter, instead he developed compassionate understanding and became a global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist, revered throughout the world for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace.
Thich Nhat Hanh has been a pioneer in bringing Buddhism to the West, founding seven monasteries and practice centres in America and Europe, as well as over 1,000 local mindfulness practice communities. He has built a community of over 700 monks and nuns worldwide, who, together with his tens of thousands of lay students, apply his teachings on mindfulness, peace-making and community-building in schools, workplaces, businesses – and prisons – throughout the world. It is estimated that over 45,000 people participate in activities led by Plum Village monks and nuns in the US and Europe every year.
Thich Nhat Hahn’s incredible life demonstrates that forgiveness is such an important step for internal peace in his life. He chose to forgive, instead of holding resentment even though he could not return to his ‘homeland’ for 39 years. Through forgiveness, compassion and understanding his work has reached millions of people worldwide.
You can always choose to forgive and break yourself free from our suffering. “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That is the message he is sending” (Hahn 1998).
Forgiveness is the most compassionate act towards yourself. When people hurt you, they may be unaware they are doing so. Thich Nhat Hahn says. When we remember this, it gives us understanding into the other person and we begin to see the situation from a new perspective.
The Course in Miracles (ACIM) speaks about the importance of forgiveness. ACIM defines forgiveness as the path to happiness and end of suffering. Lesson 122 – Forgiveness offers everything I want: “What could you want forgiveness cannot give? Do you want peace? Forgiveness offers it. Do you want happiness, a quiet mind, a certainty of purpose, and a sense of work and beauty that transcends the world? Do you want care and safety, and the warm of sure projection always? Do you want a quietness that cannot be disturbed, a gentleness that never can be hurt, a deep, abiding comfort, and a rest so perfect it can never be upset?
All this forgiveness offers you, and more. It sparks on your eyes as you awake, and gives you joy with which to meet the day. It soothes your forehead while you sleep, and rests upon your eyelids so you see no dreams of fear and evil, malice and attack. And when you wake again, it offers you another day of happiness and peace. All this forgiveness offers you and more” (page. 217). ACIM reveals the importance of forgiveness: To forgive is by far the greatest gift you can give yourself in attaining happiness.
The act of forgiveness opens our hearts and minds to inner peace. Forgiveness gives you the important opportunity to understand what you have learned from the situation, how you grew, evolved and transformed by it. And in remembering only what you learnt, you can take away only what you need to remember.
Forgiveness does not mean we are weak, for it is the greatest act of strength.
Steps to Forgive
1. Keep the Lesson and Let Go of Hurt
By keeping the lesson you learnt from your hurt, you can transcend it. When you remember that every situation in life is meant to be given to you, you can grow from your hurt and be happier as a result. Whether you lost your job, your relationship with someone you dearly love. You can reflect on ‘what is the good in this’, rather than dwelling on the hurt itself.
The questions you ask yourself have a great capacity to help you heal. If you ask ‘why did they do that to me’, or ‘this was so unfair’, or ‘how could they hurt me’, you will be further trapped in the past and remain a victim of the situation. By asking yourself ‘what is the good in this situation’, you can find ways to come to terms with what happened to you and you can learn and grow from the experience to make your live better.
2. Move from the Past Back into the Present
When you experience anger, disappointment, sorrow or hurt, you are stuck in the past. This prevents you from being happy in the present and enjoying all life has to offer. By deciding you will forgive whoever hurt you, you free yourself to live happily in the present moment.
It is important to note that no one can hurt you, it is only your thoughts about someone that have the power to hurt you. Therefore, it is important to let go of the past so you can experience happiness. Part of letting go comes from accepting the situation and recognising that it was brought to you so you could grow and become even happier as a result!
3. Recognise your Role in the Situation
It is easy to blame others from everything that has gone wrong in your life. It takes courage to examine your role in the situation that caused you hurt and pain. By examining your role, it also takes you away from being a victim and powerless, to being powerful and in control of our lives. This does not mean that we have to keep ourselves in the situation if someone hurt us, you are free to make choices to protect yourself and to be happy in the future.
If you hand the control to others in your live to make you happy, you will always be miserable. By reflecting on your role in the situation, you are taking responsibility for your own happiness. True happiness is not dependant on others or material means, it comes from within yourself. Deciding to be happy no matter what someone did to you frees you to be in control of your life.
Reframing is a Neuro-linguistic programming technique. By reframing it helps you to take things less personally and view the situation from another angle. When you ‘reframe’ you see your life and the people in it differently. Understanding each person has a role to play to help us evolve helps you come to terms with what happened. Some people come into our lives for a short time to wake us up, while some remain for longer. Not trying to force outcomes of what you think should have happened helps you be guided spiritually to what life brings. It helps know that everything and everyone in your life is an opportunity to grow.
For instance, if someone you love betrayed or hurt you, imagine that this person was doing the best they could in the situation. Most likely, they have would have done this to others in their lives, seeing this enables you to ‘reframe’ and see the situation from a different perspective.
4. We Grow from Our Hardest Challenges
Often after you have healed from a situation that hurt you, you can reflect on how this has transformed your life. Your greatest obstacles are your biggest teachers. Sometimes people come into our lives to teach us the importance of boundaries, and as you develop your own personal boundaries you value yourself more and you develop greater self love and self esteem.
If someone hurt you, you get to decide how it will affect you. If you choose to hold on to anger and resentment you continue to suffer. If you choose to forgive you find peace and happiness. It doesn’t mean you need to have certain people in your lives if they will continue to hurt you, once you learn the lesson, you don’t need to repeat patterns that make you suffer.
Forgiveness can be a difficult process. It can be a ‘process’ because it can take time. However, the faster you forgive the sooner you will be happy. Forgiveness ultimately brings you from anger, and bitterness into a state of peace and love. Forgiveness is the greatest gift you can offer yourself for your own happiness. The next section has a worksheet to use on each person you are having difficulty forgiving. you can work through today and do them again in future if we need to revisit them.
Write down a list of people you find it hard to forgive, this can be anyone from birth to present that you feel any kind of resentment for. Spend time to create a list that truly encompasses everyone on it, no matter how small or big the resentment is. If you have a long list, that is good.
Do the following points separately for each person on the list:
- Write a heading; How I feel about how (person’s name) has hurt me. Write down everything that took place, and in detail exactly how you feel about what happened. It is important to leave nothing out about how you feel about this person and how you feel about what happened. How they hurt you and how you feel about it.
- Write a letter to the person you named in step 1, you do not need to send the letter. Write them a letter explaining everything that took place and how it made you feel. Provide as much detail as possible. Either send or don’t send the letters. Whether you send them or not, is not important, what is crucial is that you forgive everyone on the list, you are now on the road to person happiness, inner peace and great joy in your life!
- Write a heading: What did I learn about myself from this situation? Write down in detail about everything you learnt from the event or situation. How did you grow from the experience and how did that experience positively impact your life?
- Write the heading: I have now decided to forgive you. Write down as much as you can about why you have now made the decision to forgive them. Do not leave anything out.
- Conduct a ceremony with candles, or sitting someone in nature or at home in any quiet setting. Imagine that this person is in front of you and tell them that your truly forgive them and that you are grateful for how the experienced helped you learn an important lesson about yourself. Visualise this person and send them sincere love and light eleven times. Then imagine them small enough to stand on the palm of your hand. Blow them away and say the words to yourself ‘now go’.
- If you still feel any form or resentment repeat steps 1 to 5 again until you feel lighter and free from resentment towards them.
Dyer, W. (2009). Dr. Wayne Dyer Speaks About Forgiveness THE BONNIE HUNT SHOW. B. Hunt.
Dyer, W. (2016) “Find Peace In Forgiveness Give Up The Right To Resent
Hahn, T. N. (1998). The heart of the Buddha’s teaching: Transforming suffering into Peace, Joy, & Liberation. Berkeley, Parallax Press.
Yogananda, P. (1990). The Essence of Self-realization: The Wisdom of Paramahansa Yogananda Crystal Clarity Publishers.
 The course was channelled to a Professor of Phycology Helen Schucman. Prior to writing the book Schucman with no spiritual or religious background in 1976 when she started to write the book. Schucman claimed she challenged the book by Jesus. The book comprises three books and took Schuman seven years to write from the voice that dictated The Course in Miracles to her.