A lot has been said about the power of forgiveness to heal and transform lives. Forgiveness is one of the most crucial spiritual teachings we have been given to learn, yet it can be one of the most difficult to put into practice.
“Forgive and forget” is a popular mantra, but in truth, it can be hard to let go of the strong emotions we feel as a result of a misunderstanding or betrayal. It is a rare and enlightened person who can easily let go of a grudge. Even Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples, struggled to understand when and how often it was necessary to forgive others.
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven…(Matthew 18:21-22)
One of the ways I’ve read this passage in Matthew is to reflect on how, when we are angry at someone and dredge up a memory of a bitter experience, we relive that again and again as if it just happened. Our bodies have their own cellular memory and can easily replicate it, down to the physical reactions.
The act of forgiveness means the process of intentionally letting go again and again – seven times, seventy times or even seventy times seven times – until the memory no longer triggers the same response. It’s an active and loving form of self-healing.
Forgiveness is not about letting the other person off the hook for their behavior, or even about reconciling the relationship, in certain situations. Forgiveness is about moving out of the past and into the present. In forgiveness, you reclaim your wholeness on your own terms, and let go of the story line that says, “I’m a victim of this experience.” It is an act of spirit-centered healing that may take years to resolve completely.
Forgiveness cannot and should not be rushed, but there are ways to support the process for emotional and spiritual healing, including psychological or pastoral counseling, prayer, self-help books on forgiveness, and practices such as blessing and releasing.
Self-forgiveness is also necessary for healing and personal growth. Self-recrimination and anger destroys your self-worth and impairs your ability to experience true emotional intimacy in your relationships with others. The act of self-forgiveness takes full responsibility for your actions, allows you to accept your humanity, and move forward with a new understanding of the person you want to be in this world.
Is there someone you need to forgive? Do you need to forgive yourself for something you did? Take that first step today toward healing. Forgiveness is a gift that sets you free to create lasting peace in your heart and on Earth.
Feel free to share your experience or your creative suggestions. If you’re on Twitter or Instagram, share using the #24daysofgiving hashtag. Let’s spread some love and good cheer!
Did you miss a day?
Day 1: Give yourself 5 minutes
Day 2: Give someone your attention
Day 3: Give time to a worthy cause
Day 4: Give someone a helping hand
Day 5: Give a cup of coffee or tea
Day 6: Give 3 words of love
Day 7: Give a handwritten note
Day 8: Give hugs
Day 9: Give blessings
#24daysofgiving is an Advent experiment in being called to come into being through the practices of love and compassion, while reflecting on the coming of Christ into the world.
(Image credit: Cornelli2010)