I hear people say to me, “I just need to forgive and move on.” A month will go by and I’ll ask about the forgiveness and they are still stuck in anger or resentment and “un-forgiveness.”
Forgiveness is tricky. From the mind, we believe we can just do it or force it and be done with our pain and move on.
The problem is that forgiveness can’t happen from the mind. It has to happen from the heart. It’s something we must feel and not something we can think. Forgiveness is for you, setting you free — not the person that offended you.
So how do we do it?
- The process of forgiveness begins with feeling our own feelings fully. This means, get out of our heads and get into our bodies and feel the feelings that the other person caused us.
Our mind keeps us stuck in analysis mode and tries to figure out why the event happened or why the person did what they did etc. We must drop into our bodies and feel our own feelings about it. Get in touch with what’s real for us. If you can’t feel the true emotion, notice in the body where the feeling is residing. You may feel a tightness, or a twinge somewhere in the body. Just allow your focus to rest on the area in the body where something feels “off.” Start there and wait and see what emotion comes up.
- After feeling our own feelings, we then can imagine sitting with the person that hurt us. Look at what happened from their perspective, with all of their childhood wounds, with all of their limited beliefs, with all of their dysfunction and “humanness” (who doesn’t have these things?). Sit in this place and wonder about where they were coming from in committing their offense. Was it intentional? Get curious with this exercise. Ask yourself how old they feel (from an emotional perspective-when they offended you). Do you get an image of the age they were acting or reacting from? We all have wounds, we all act the best we can do in the moment and at times, people fall short of what we expect and hurt us.
We don't have to agree with what they did or agree with any of their offense. We're simply seeking an understanding of this other person fully, so YOU can move on and free yourself from the anger and pain they caused you.
- Once we feel like we can fully sit in their shoes as an observer of their offense, only then can compassion for this person happen and we can see the person for who they are (with their wounds, dysfunctions and own pain). The moment you have the thought, “I get it, I get why they might have done this,” is when we have sat in their shoes enough to begin to feel the compassion.
This exercise may have to be done a few times. I encourage you to sit quietly with your eyes closed and see the other person as a child, age 0-10 (where most of our wounding comes from). We do not typically offend others unless we are acting from our wounded part. When we can see the offender with compassion I find that forgiveness spontaneously happens. It happens within us, full bodied and from the heart. Then we feel a shift and the offender no longer is offensive to us and we see them for who they truly are, and the place they offended us from, their wounded child part.
This exercise can be hard to do because our ego wants us to be right and them wrong and won’t let us move on until we get an apology (or something like this). Sometimes the ego wants them to hurt as badly as they hurt us, the ego has many ideas for us when we are hurting and how to get revenge or respect. Sometimes, the ego just keeps us stuck in blame and won’t “let it go.” These are all ideas that come from us when we are sitting in our Adolescent Chair where our unhealed, unhealthy ego resides, and from an average emotional age of 12!
My goal is to live with peace, and to stay there as much as I possibly can. This is the work of living in our Adult Chair. It doesn’t mean letting go of hurts. It’s about gaining a deeper understanding for ourselves so that we can move on. Perhaps the understanding leads us to setting a boundary or forgiveness or something else. Whatever is needed, allow the idea to come from your Adult Chair — it’s the most empowering place we get ideas from.
For more information on the Adult Chair, please visit the podcast at theadultchair.com.