Begin not with the idea that you are doing a favor to someone who hurt you, but that you are being merciful to yourself.
To carry anger against anyone is to poison your own heart, administering more toxin every time you replay in your mind the injury done to you. If you decline to repeat someone’s offense inwardly, your outward anger will dissipate. Then it becomes much easier to tell the one who hurt you how things must change between you.
“Forgive and forget” is a popular distortion of the work of surrendering grievances. The real process is “Remember fully and forgive.” If it were actually possible to forget everything you forgave, you could teach very little to others seeking freedom from their resentments.
When you are trying to decide whether someone deserves your forgiveness, you are asking the wrong question. Ask instead whether you deserve to become someone who consistently forgives.
“Sweet revenge” is junk food for the soul.
The brief rush that revenge provides will always be followed by the degradation of one’s character. There is a real joy to be found in setting things right, but that always involves changing oneself for the better first.
To find your missing creativity, release a little of your attachment to the worst injury ever done to you. Grieve the deadness that you are letting go of, and that you have so long regarded as a trophy wound. Then celebrate the opening of a door through which your childlike nature can come back to you, laughing, asking the simplest questions, clearing your vision.
You are perfectly entitled to remain angry and resentful for as long as you like. You are perfectly entitled to believe you’ve been cheated or denied, that everything is ruined, and that you will always be under the thumb of misery until other people miraculously change (which they won’t, of course). Best of all, you are perfectly entitled to get so tired of believing all this that you decide to change miraculously on your own.
Forgiving your flaws and failures does not mean looking away from them or lying about them. Look at them as a string of pitiful or menacing hitchhikers whom you can’t afford not to pick up on your journey to a changed life. Each of them has a piece of the map you need, hidden in its shabby clothing. You must listen attentively to all their stories and win the friendship of each one to put your map together. Where you are going — into a forgiven life of wholeness, passion, and commitment — you will need all the denizens of your dark side working diligently on your behalf.
To accelerate forgiveness, practice gratefulness.
Every night, try to give equal thanks for all the day’s events and encounters. When you discover yourself becoming grateful for things that seemed unpleasant when they occurred, you will be breaking the bonds of ordinary personality. You will soon no longer need to take pride in your wounds as a defense.
Forgiveness replaces the need to anticipate fearfully with the capacity to accept gracefully and improvise brilliantly. It does not argue with fate, but recognizes the opportunities latent within it. If necessity is the mother of invention, forgiveness is the midwife of genius.
Forgiveness sends a healing message much further than you might believe. As you develop a forgiving demeanor you become an automatic transmitter within the network of human consciousness — changing minds less by your words than by your example, saving souls less by your program than by your presence.
Photo art: D. Patrick Miller