Author and grief expert Paula Shaw shares how to forgive, even if you can’t forget, in order to move beyond pain and resentment that might be holding you back.
People often ask me: do I have to forgive in order to heal? This is a powerful question. My answer is usually yes, forgiveness is a very important action/concept on the path to healing from grief. Forgiveness can be a springboard to healing because it clears away the resentment and hatred that blocks our energy and imprisons us emotionally.
That said, it is not essential to issue forgiveness in a way that implies understanding and condoning, i.e. the ‘forgive and forget’ type approach. Some acts are so cruel and have inflicted so much pain that forgiveness feels impossible. In such cases, all that may be realistic is for the injured person to acknowledge what happened and express the hurt feelings that resulted. After having done this, the next step is to make a conscious choice not to let those feelings hurt you anymore. Doing this in an effective way requires a safe environment where you can fully express the anger, hurt, frustration, hatred, resentment or whatever other emotions were produced by the actions of the perpetrator. Once that has been established, an energetic space can open up to allow the action of choosing something different, not letting these things eat you up and own you anymore.
Another important question is: is it always incumbent upon us to forgive? In a quote from an article entitled Do I Have To Forgive? author Richard P. Lord, says:
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that ‘cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance. Repentance has traditionally involved three aspects, which guard against cheap grace: Remorse, Restitution, and Regeneration.
When these three aspects are present, forgiveness is a powerful act. However, even then, it may only be possible to do what we described above – say, "I acknowledge the things you did/didn't do that hurt me, and I'm not going to let them hurt me anymore."
Whether you choose to do it this way or to forgive in the more traditional way, it is highly advisable to express the hurt feelings and acknowledge what happened first, before moving on to the act of forgiveness. Too often, people try to forgive before having thoroughly expressed their pain, and the result is not what they desired.
Taking either of these actions will lead to the ultimate goal of forgiveness: to release you from the imprisonment created by holding onto hatred and resentments. As long as we dwell on the hurts perpetrated by another human being and need that person to do or say something in order for us to feel better; we are on some level imprisoned by them. We become victims, unable to create the kind of lives we really want. What makes this position more pathetic is that rarely do people ever do or say what we think we need to hear in order to forgive them. We need to take back our power through expression of pain and consciously choosing to release the resentments, thereby also releasing ourselves.
It may also be helpful to remind you that the word FORGIVENESS is not synonymous with the word CONDONE. If we forgive an act, it doesn't mean what was done is ok. It doesn't mean all is forgotten. It simply means we have made a conscious decision not to focus our energy on the negative emotions created by the pain inflicted upon us. It means we are taking back the power to create our lives the way we want them to be, no longer victim to anyone’s cruelty.
You may find some of the forgiveness you need to issue will be to yourself. Remember that most of us, most of the time, are doing the absolute best we can with who we are and what we are and know at the moment. Don't burden yourself with unnecessary guilt. It is not a productive use of your energy as you journey toward healing.
Take a little time to see if there is some forgiveness, issued to yourself or to someone else, that would be life enhancing for you. Don’t let something that happened in the past hold your present for ransom. Get free. It’s up to you. You don’t have to wait for someone else to take an action in order for you to be released from the imprisonment of hatred and resentment. It’s within your power to make that choice today.
We will look at forgiveness in depth in my upcoming book When Will This Pain Ever End? due to be released this spring. Meanwhile, be sure to subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss further excerpts and helpful tips on moving beyond your grief.
PAULA SHAW, CADC, DCEP is an author, Energy Psychology specialist, therapist, speaker, Reiki Master and Grief Counselor. For more than 20 years, Paula has been passionate about empowering people who are dealing with profound loss, so they can reap something truly beautiful from their pain. She also helps clients who are going through major life transitions or seeking freedom from self-destructive addictions. She has degrees in Education and Communications from Long Beach State University, as well as graduate counseling credentials from Loyola Marymount University. She is one of the founding members of the Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology and currently serves on its board of directors. Paula is the auther of Chakras, the Magnificent Seven (2002), as well as the upcoming book When Will This Pain Ever End? Finding Your Way out of the Pit of Despair after Suffering Profound Grief and Loss, which will be released in the spring of 2015.
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PAULA SHAW, CADC, DCEP is an author, Energy Psychology specialist, therapist, speaker, Reiki Master and Grief Counselor. For more than 20 years, Paula has been passionate about empowering people who are dealing with profound loss, so they can reap something truly beautiful from their pain. She also helps clients who are going through major life transitions or seeking freedom from self-destructive addictions. She has degrees in Education and Communications from Long Beach State University, as well as graduate counseling credentials from Loyola Marymount University. She is one of the founding members of the Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology and currently serves on its board of directors. Paula is the author of Chakras, the Magnificent Seven (2002), as well as "Grief...When Will This Pain Ever End?" Finding Your Way out of the Pit of Despair After Profound Loss.
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