I think sometimes when we consider forgiveness, we think of it as something we do for someone else. “Forgive and forget” sounds almost whimpey and definitely naïve. In reality forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. First by forgiving ourselves and then by freeing ourselves by forgiving others.
- Forgiving ourselves: I know that guilt can be a motivating force but in the long run it is destructive and counter productive. When we do something wrong, either intentionally or by accident, it is important to forgive ourselves and move forward. I am not saying that we don’t have to hold ourselves and each other accountable. We do. We need make amends when possible and try to do better next time. But we also need to cut ourselves some slack. Wallowing in guilt does not help anyone and it can keep us from living in joy. The fact that you made a mistake does not make you a bad person. The fact that you feel bad about it just shows that you care. Now resolve to do better and be as charitable to yourself as you might be to someone you love.
- Forgiving others: What if someone hurts us on purpose and doesn’t even feel bad about it? When this happens, we may feel hurt, angry, and maybe we even want revenge. We might replay the infraction in our minds over and over and think about how we want to get “even” with whoever hurt us. And oftentimes we should be angry. Righteous anger can be motivating and appropriate. But over time we need to transform that anger into something else – determination, commitment to a cause. motivation for self improvement, or some other positive thing that makes our lives better; our lives, not theirs.
Here’s why; when we continually harp on the wrongs somebody has perpetuated on us, it doesn’t hurt them. In fact it helps them because we are allowing them to hurt us over and over again. Holding on to resentments just holds us down, not them.
You might say, “Yeah, but that person hurt me and it is not fair to just let them off the hook.” It is also not fair to become their accomplice and allow them to win by taking up space in your head. And remember they are human too and might actually be sorry.
Regardless, when you forgive. you are freeing yourself. Your tormentor no longer has any hold over you. You are creating space for yourself to heal and to grow. If it is painful, don’t think about them. Furthermore, withholding forgiveness from someone asking to be forgiven just hurts you further. It is all about you. Rising above, puts you in a better position. And as a side bonus, if they aren’t sorry, if they actually are your enemy, they will truly hate for you not to be bothered by them… Not that you will care because by then you will have let go and will be free.
For the forgiveness mandala, I used a picture of a fairy stone which is shaped like a cross which is, among other things, a Christian symbol for forgiveness. I also used photos of tulips, a white rose, and a blue hyacinth; all known to be symbols of forgiveness. I created a collage of these photos and a mandala from that leaving some uncluttered space in the center for healing and growth.