Forgiveness is not easy.
No, forgiveness is not easy. Because there’s is just so much pain involved sometimes.
- Your ex boyfriend cheated on you. How do you forgive him? There’s too much pain. Besides, why should you?
- Your best friend betrayed you. Forgiveness feels impossible because of the painful emotions. You’re too enlightened to get revenge, but forgiveness? Impossible.
- Your parents abandoned you. Forgiveness is the last thing you’re thinking about.
We need to overcome painful memories so that we can feel happy. And a huge part of that is forgiveness.
You need to forgive for your own sake. Because you deserve to be happy, not to dwell on negative emotions all the time.Forgiveness is not a gift for someone else. Forgiveness is a gift for yourself--Buddha Click To Tweet
How Meditation Helps Us To Forgive
We’re agreed, right?
We need to forgive so we ourselves can be happy regardless of anyone else.
Thankfully, as a meditation teacher I know many powerful meditations for forgiveness which can greatly help when you find it hard to forgive people who have done you wrong (and yes, that might include forgiving yourself).
We all have people in our lives whom we need to forgive.
Having lived with an alcoholic father for the first twenty years of my life, there were times when I didn’t think I would ever be able to forgive him. Don’t get me wrong, my father is a good guy, but he had a weakness: alcohol, and that weakness led to a lot of pain for me, my mother, and my brother.
There were many bad times for me growing up (though perhaps that is true for all of us). And for many years I lived with resentment and anger. How could my father have done what he’d done, all those years? How could he prioritize drink over his family? There were so many “Hows” and “Whys” I could have written a novel about it.
I could have spent the rest of my life living with resentment and anger towards my father. But what would that have achieved?
I would much rather be grateful for the good in life than resentful for the bad.
What good does it do us to hold negative feelings in our hearts? None. It simply causes suffering.
We need to let go, but letting go is rarely easy.
Thankfully, meditation helps us to forgive.
Meditating For Forgiveness
The reason it is hard to forgive is because we associate painful memories with the person we are forgiving.
I used to associate my father with many painful experiences in my childhood. In order to forgive, I needed to detach those memories from my father. I needed to be able to think about my father without thinking about painful memories.
In order to achieve this I used specific meditations for forgiveness.
Try this meditation for forgiveness
As a meditation teacher I often recommend 5 key meditations for letting go. The following is my personal favorite meditation for forgiveness.
- Sit somewhere quietly with your eyes closed.
- Relax for a few minutes
- Focus your mind on your breathing for five minutes. Make sure you are very relaxed.
- Bring to mind the person who needs to be forgiven
- You will notice that when you think of this person you also think of various painful memories or thoughts. Observe these thoughts.
- This is the important bit. Every time you notice a thought about the other person (every time you experience a painful memory, for instance) say to yourself “This is just a thought. It doesn’t exist.” Imagine throwing the thought away. Now return to meditating on the person.
- Continue for ten minutes
- At the end of the meditation say, “All is forgiven”
- Visualise letting go of painful emotions.
- Express gratitude for this meditation.
- A fantastic alternative is to practice Buddhist meditation techniques such as Karuna, which increases our compassion (compassion is closely related to forgiveness).
The Hoʻoponopono Mantra for Forgiveness
As well as meditating we can also use mantras for forgiveness.
Mantras are spiritual words or phrases (similar to prayers and affirmations). This is a big (and fascinating) subject, so I’ve written a big free guide to mantras to help get you started.
The best mantra for forgiveness is the “H’oponopono” mantra.
The Hoʻoponopono Mantra for Forgiveness is an ancient Hawaiian Huna practice that promotes forgiveness. It is traditionally used by priests for ill individuals. Many of the cultures of Polynesia believe illness is cased by errors that anger gods. By practicing the Ho’oponopono mantra it is believed the individual will be forgiven and therefore find health and well-being once again.
The Ho’oponopono mantra for forgiveness is a cleansing mantra that asks for forgiveness. It is simple to use the Ho’oponopono mantra. Simply meditate on the breath and recite: I’m sorry. I love you. “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.”
And that is the spiritual path to forgiveness.
But forgiveness is a big subject. So lets take a look at the big picture on forgiveness.
Facts About Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a process of change, facilitated by empathy.
When we forgive we let go of anger and negative thoughts, we accept the events that triggered anger / sadness, and we recognise the human weakness that caused the event and shifts their way of thinking from one of revenge to one of good will or acceptance.
Lots of people are confused by what forgiveness is and what is is not.
Here’s what forgiveness isn’t:
- Forgiveness is not denial (to forgive we must face the reality of the events)
- Forgiveness is not (to forgive is not to accept wrong behaviour as right but to accept that wrong behaviour stems from human weakness)
- Forgiveness is not to pardon
- Forgiveness is not forgetting
- Forgiveness is not to reconcile (to reconcile is to have both people make amends, forgiveness is to accept a person’s error in one’s mind).
Health Benefits of Forgiveness
- Forgiveness lowers heart rate and blood pressure as well as stress.
- Forgiveness restores positive thoughts and feelings
- Forgiveness improves immune system response
When NOT to Forgive
While there are clearly many benefits to forgiveness, there are still some times when you should be cautious of forgiveness. These are:
- Do not forgive when still feeling angry towards the other person
- Do not forgive when there is a high degree of self blame
- Do not forgive before necessary changes have occurred to prevent repeated offense
- Do not forgive just because you feel obligated to
- Do not forgive before you have recognised the human weakness that led the perpetrator to cause the offense.
How to forgive
- Recognise your own transgressions, errors you yourself have made. This will help you to remember that people are human when you are wronged and therefore will help you to accept negative behaviour from others.
- Realise that forgiveness is healthy for you yourself and make a committed decision to develop the strength of your forgiveness.
- Use the definition of forgiveness written above in order to correct any misconception you might have on exactly what forgiveness is.
- When you are wronged, distance yourself from the wrong doer for as long as is necessary to feel calm, then remember that the wrong doer is human and prone to weaknesses. This will help develop your empathy.
7 reasons why to err is human, and to forgive is divine.
1. Because when you forgive someone, you help them to accept themselves
No one likes making mistakes. Some people cope okay with their errors, some dwell on them.
My worst mistake was criticising my father too severely. Now he’s passed away. My father had trouble accepting himself. And I know now, looking back, that there should have been more times when I said, “It’s okay, dad. I forgive your mistakes. I love you”. I truly wish I had said that more often.
When you tell someone that you forgive their mistakes, you help them to forgive their own mistakes too. It takes two seconds to say “It’s okay”. But those two words can make all the difference.
2. Because if no one made mistakes, the world would be a shallow place
If people weren’t allowed to make mistakes, the world would never be as amazing as it is. Thomas Edison said, “I have successfully found 1000 ways to not make a light bulb.” That’s 1000 mistakes that led to one of the most important inventions of all time.
No one ever achieved anything worth achieving without making a few mistakes on the way. Failure and mistakes are the pathway to success. If you don’t allow people to make mistakes, you don’t allow them to create success.
3. Because when you forgive you grow
Life made you the way you are. Maybe you harbour resentments. Maybe you don’t forgive people because people didn’t forgive you.
The classic example of this is the unforgiving father, the guy who was never allowed to make mistakes as a kid, so now he himself never lets his own kids make mistakes. Such a familial pattern leads to a bloodline marred by resentment.
But that father has the power to forgive his kid’s errors. He can accept his kid’s mistakes. The moment he learns to forgive he overcomes his past and changes his future
4. Because when you forgive someone, they’ll forgive you, and when you forgive each other you’ll find a deep bond
If you’re unforgiving to someone, chances are they’re going to be unforgiving to you too. We treat people how they treat us. So you fail to forgive each other and you drift apart. Many relationships and friendships have died that way.
But what if one of you sucked it up and said, “You know what? You hurt me. But I understand. You made a mistake. Hell, I’ve made mistakes too. I forgive you.”
There’s a 99% chance the other person would say “I forgive you too”.
Sharing forgiveness is a meaningful and spiritual experience. There are times when I’ve thought I’d never forgive someone, times when I thought we’d never again be friends. But then I found it in me to say “I forgive you”. And the very act of saying those words has made our relationship stronger than it ever would have been
5. Because when you let people show you their weaknesses you earn their trust forever
It’s easy to be the person who’s there during the good times. It’s easy to want to share other people’s successes. But to want to share other people’s weaknesses? Now that’s divine.
When you allow people to share their weaknesses and their mistakes with you you form a deep bond. There are probably a hundred people in your life who would be there for the good times. How many are there for the bad times? Just the ones that matter, that handful of people who are true family.
When you show someone that you can forgive them, you let them share their weaknesses with you. And when you share in someone’s weaknesses, you form a truly deep bond
6. Because forgiveness is really good for your health
Science has proven that forgiveness is extremely beneficial for your health. Did you know that forgiving people have lower heart rates and better blood pressure? Did you know that people who forgive have better immune systems and are more able to overcome illnesses? Those are just a couple of the reasons why you’ll be healthier when you learn to forgive
3. Because accepting other people’s mistakes help you accept yourself
People who expect perfection from others tend to expect perfection from themselves. The problem is that no one’s perfect. The more you expect perfection from yourself the more you’re going to feel disappointed.
By accepting other people’s mistakes you learn to accept your own mistakes too. And when you accept yourself you form a more positive relationship with yourself.
One of the best ways to learn to forgive others and to forgive yourself is to practice Loving Kindness meditation. It’s a simple, healthy practice that can make a big difference.
Now you know the importance of forgiveness in life you know why you need to forgive and forget. Why not do it now.