Most of us intellectually know that forgiveness is a good thing–that it’s good to not hold onto resentment, pain and hurt from the past.
But when it comes to actually “doing” forgiveness and letting go of resentments, we often choose to hold onto the hurt.
We have thinking that says something like this…
“If I forgive, the other person is “off the hook” for what happened (or didn’t happened) and it’s all okay now. All is forgotten!”
Which usually isn’t the case!
Awhile ago we watched “60 Minutes” on television where there was a segment on a restorative justice program and a great example of forgiveness and letting go of resentments when it’s difficult.
If you’re not familiar with restorative justice programs…
They provide victim/offender mediation or dialogue with the consent of both parties.
One of the women interviewed had lost her brother to the carelessness of a drunk driver and she had carried hatred for years for this man.
According to her, this resentment and bitterness had dominated her life as a parent and elementary teacher and when she entered the restorative justice program, she wanted peace and relief.
Through the mediation and dialogues with the man whom she’d helped put in prison, she came to a place of compassion for him as she saw his remorse and found peace inside herself.
It was a beautiful example of how forgiveness and letting go of resentment can change lives–especially your own.
In our view, you don’t have to “do” forgiveness.
If you’re “trying” to forgive, you’re still holding onto the past and you’re stuck in a loop of thinking.
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One of the paths to forgiveness and letting go of resentments is to see something new in the situation.
When you want peace of mind more than staying a victim, you can open yourself even a little to seeing differently.
When Otto allowed himself to come into the present moment instead of reliving the past “sins” of his dad, he no longer saw him as someone to fight against.
He saw his dad with new compassion and saw how holding onto how his dad had “wronged” him was keeping him stuck in anger and resentment.
He couldn’t change what happened but what he could do is not keep reliving it in his mind.
And with this new viewpoint, he even began to understand his dad at a deeper level and felt lighter and more peaceful.
That’s how forgiveness works in your favor.
When the woman interviewed on “60 Minutes” no longer saw herself as a victim and wanted to carry hatred, she could open her heart in the present to the man who through his actions had caused the death of her brother.
Forgiveness is for you and it can be about very deep and hurtful offenses or seemingly small ones that can hurt just as deeply because of our thinking.
How do you begin to forgive?
You start by looking in a new direction than where you’ve been fixating on the past.
When your focus on the past, what happened and why it happened shifts even slightly, you’ll see something new.
You’ll see a new direction to follow that is more loving for you.