The subject of forgiveness is something I have been meaning to write about for a while because it represents a very important aspect of personal development. However, before we get into the three specific acts of forgiveness we need to perform, we should start by discussing what forgiveness is, what it isn’t and why it’s important.
To forgive involves releasing any feelings of resentment, anger or bitterness that you may hold with regard to something that occurred in the past. To forgive someone does not mean that a perpetrator of some crime is absolved or released from its consequences. You can be forgiven and still be required to face justice and, of course, the reverse it true i.e. you can escape justice or even be absolved, and still not be forgiven.
So, in the context of forgiving those who have wronged us in some way, we are not suggesting, for one moment, that any crime should escape the rule of law. What we are doing is adjusting something inside ourselves and the reason we need to do it is that holding onto negative emotions such as anger and bitterness only damages one person; the person harbouring the feelings.
There are three separate acts of forgiveness we need to perform. Here they are:
1. Your Parents
There may be many things that have affected you and your life that are a direct product of your parents’ decisions. But, provided they loved you, you can be sure that they did their best for you. Sure they may have made a few bad decisions along the way. That’s just a part of being human. We all make bad decisions and, given the opportunity to live their lives again, they would have repeated their mistakes, as we all would.
Hopefully, you will be full of respect for your parents and the sacrifices they made for you. Of course you were not able to see things this way when you were a child, growing up. But now, in retrospect, you can see what they did for you as well as what they didn’t. Whatever you mentally hold them responsible for, let it go. Forgive them.
Secondly, you need to forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for all the things you know you did wrong. Forgive yourself for all the things you still manage to screw up from time to time. Forgive yourself for all your failures.
You are not done making mistakes yet. You will continue to make decisions all the way through your life and some of them will be the wrong ones. So don’t worry when that happens. You did your best. Accept it and let it all go.
3. Everyone Else
Lastly, you need to learn to forgive everyone else. Forgive them for the bad things that have happened to you. Say to yourself, ‘I forgive that person 100%’ whenever the thought of a bad incident comes to mind. Do this repeatedly if necessary. Eventually, your subconscious mind will come to accept that you do actually forgive that person.
This is the essence of the lyric in the Edith Piaf’s most famous song Je Ne Regrette Rien:
Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien qu’on m’a fait
Ni le mal, tout ça m’est bien égal
No, nothing of nothing
No! I don’t feel sorry about anything
Not the good things people have done to me
Not the bad things, it’s all the same to me.
Remember that by holding on to feelings of anger and bitterness about what has happened to you in the past, there is only one person suffering. So let such feelings, if you have them, go, completely.
Of course, although it is true that such negative feelings only harm the person holding them, when someone has done something very bad to us, we may not wish to forgive them. We might feel that they do not deserve any kind of quarter after what they did. It’s ok to feel like that for a while. It means you are not quite ready to take this step. It is however, a step you need to take at some stage if you are to finally lay things to rest and move on in your life.