Forgiveness: It restores YOU too

Forgiving someone—in essence saying “you are totally okay with me (though I didn’t love what you did) and I’m able and willing to move forward with you in an open-hearted way” is relatively easy if you have received a deep apology and there is clear remorse and an intent to change the actions that hurt.  But…..

Click Image for Buddhist Forgiveness Practise

It can be very difficult to reach the heartsease that allows a relinquishing of the grudge state when there is no repair, no acknowledgement, no remorse.  Or worse, when you are blamed, or told you deserved the treatment that hurt.  In these circumstances, it is very challenging not to let the original harm from the other be doubled by the pain inflicted by you, if you contract your heart and stiffen against another human.  It’s sad enough that the original hardship occurred, but to then live it out in your body, heart, mind and soul is adding insult to injury.  You may have heard it said that refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  Forgiveness is a powerful inner agent in healing through the pain inflicted so that you do not have to “wear” it.

A distinction helps here:

the act of forgiveness does not mean that you’ve forgotten what happened, or that you condone it, or that you will put yourself in a place where it could happen again.  It is not a naive act.  It is an act of great internal, personal strength and self protection.


The alchemy of forgiveness requires two steps.  The first is fully looking, from the most objective and neutral place you can access, at what occurred.  With clear eyes, notice the parts that were yours, or that you may have contributed to the subsequent issue.  And apologize for that which you did.  It sounds like this “for my part, I’d like to say how sorry I am that I (name act) and that it (name impact on the other person).  You are doing this to restore your dignity and integrity–after all, you are bound by your own code of values, you are not stooping to the lower level of the person you are forgiving.

And the second crucial step is to say (to the person if you can, or in a written letter, or even to yourself). “It appears to me that you (give a clear observation of the harm) and the impact it has on me is (name thoughts/feelings).  I choose to forgive you, which means I bear you no ill will and my heart is open.  This does not mean I condone the behaviour or that I will accept more of the same.

Depending on the circumstances, a third step may be necessary:  Changes in your own actions/responses may be required as life unfolds, to ensure that you remain emotionally/physically/psychologically safe.  This could involve more boundaries, or less proximity.  Whatever moves you make come from self-care and inner regard, not from animosity or revenge.  You are going toward yourself, not against them.  You may limit contact, but you are able to wish them well in their journey.  You understand that what occurred between you was their hurt, acting out.  And you are free of any burden of resentment.