Why I believe forgiveness often needs to start with forgiving ourselves

We are often told that we need to forgive in order to heal and/or move on from a situation in which we’ve been deeply hurt.  And it’s true that holding anger against another is unhealthy.

image is of flames against a dark background with the words:
"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned".  Buddha

However, I often think that when we are feeling angry, bitter and resentful the person we might need to offer forgiveness to first is ourself!

We are often our own worst critic, and somewhere inside we can tend to blame ourselves for times when others have hurt us – ‘I must have done something wrong / provoked them’, ‘If I was good enough, they wouldn’t have done it / treated me like that’, etc – and I often think we need to address this and learn how to love ourselves again, before we can be ready to forgive others.

On a Soul level, we know that we can only make choices for our own life, not for that of others.  However, in our humanity we sometimes make our choices by ‘default’ – that is unconsciously – or out of fear, which can actually mean that we step away from who we really are: our Soul Self, our power, and our Truth. 

And so I think that the ultimate forgiveness is to forgive ourselves for doing this and for ‘allowing’ the other to treat us as less than who we really are – by which I mean not standing in the truth of our strength and Love for ourselves.  (By extension this would also include love for the other, which would not accept their behaviour, knowing that it was less than their Soul Self.)  

I think that when we can forgive ourselves, it enables us to reconnect with this Truth, and to step more fully into our Soul Self and, from here, we know that no outside force can hurt us, and that their behaviour is due to their pain.  We can then find compassion both for ourselves and, through this, for others.  It’s like a set of dominoes: knocking over the first one causes a chain reaction that pushes over all the others.  It opens the floodgates of forgiveness, compassion, insight and understanding.

Another reason that self-forgiveness can be so important is that for caring, sensitive, empathic people it goes against our sense of Self to feel anger and hurt towards someone, particularly if this is something that we’ve carried for a long time.  Even if the hurt has been profound and we feel deeply wronged, and even if we don’t know how to let it go, it still feels non-congruent to hold on to the pain and anger.  Our Soul Self will also know that it’s impacting on our wellbeing and keeping us from living at our fullest potential.

Added to that, we might have a sense that it’s ‘wrong’ to be angry and so, on some level, we punish ourselves – perhaps through a degree of self-loathing, or even self-sabotage, feeling that we ‘don’t deserve’ the things that we want if we’re the kind of person who can hold such hatred.

Here I’d just like to say that anger in itself is not ‘wrong’.  What matters is how we choose to respond and act when we feel this way.  Unfortunately we are often given the message that ‘nice’ people don’t get angry and don’t hold grudges, so if we find ourselves feeling this emotion we might react by acting out our anger, and/or we can begin to feel guilt and shame about it.  But our Soul Self knows that the emotion just ‘is’ – it’s neither right nor wrong.  In a sense it’s just information, showing us that something isn’t serving us.

Abraham Hicks teaches that ‘negative’ emotions arise when we, in our physical form, are holding a belief or thought about ourselves that is not in alignment with who our Soul Self knows us to be.  So, if my belief is that it’s wrong to be angry, but my Soul Self knows that anger is just an emotion that comes up in response to something that has happened and as such it just is, then there is a mismatch and I feel discomfort.  Equally if I’m holding a belief that I’ve been treated badly and deeply hurt by another, but my Soul Self knows that no-one can harm the sovereignty of who I really am, then there is a mismatch and I feel discomfort.  And if I also want revenge for that hurt, but in my heart I know myself to be a being of Love, then here too there is a mismatch.  In addition, each of these elements is actually adding further suffering to the pain we’re experiencing.

Note that if our Soul Self held a belief that was the same as our physical self, we wouldn’t experience the added discomfort but, as Abraham Hicks shares in this video, Source is not going to stop knowing who we really are in order to allow us to feel more comfortable!

(Please also note that I’m not in any way dismissing the hurt or any inappropriate treatment from another.  Nor am I saying that these feelings are invalid or to be pushed aside.  What we feel is very real and it is information for us to explore to uncover the wisdom that it offers us in order to decide how to respond to the actions and choices that others have made that have impacted on us.  However, each emotion will offer us different information on what’s going on for us so, for now, I’m focusing solely on the anger.)

To me, the anger we’re holding stems from a need that isn’t being met – for example the need to be heard, to be seen, to be treated with respect / dignity / acceptance / kindness.  When this doesn’t happen we might feel angry, but if we’ve been taught that the anger is ‘bad’ we might turn it inwards and use it to beat ourselves up, and so it eats away at us and can turn into hatred, bitterness, resentment, and so on.  So, this too needs our forgiveness in order to release the toxic by-products, uncover the legitimate need, and begin to meet it, in order to heal.

We don’t have control over the actions and choices of others, only of our own.  And so there may be little or nothing we can change about what others do or say.  However, we have great power and influence over our own experience, through our choices, thoughts, beliefs and alignment.

So, when we’re feeling angry, hurt, betrayed or in some other way deeply wronged, we might not be able to get the other person to apologise, and perhaps they’re not even around any more to give us the closure we’re looking for.  But actually, the most empowering and effective way to let the pain be is to shower ourselves with the love, compassion, forgiveness and healing that we long for.

image is of a wild rose, growing in a hedge.  Words are a quote from Jack Kornfield: "To let go does not mean to get rid of.  To let go means to let be.  When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own."


To me, though, the ‘hatred’ we’re holding stems from a need that isn’t being met – for example the need to be heard, to be seen, to be treated with respect / dignity / acceptance / kindness.  When this doesn’t happen we can be angry, but we’ve been taught that the anger is ‘bad’ and so we turn it inwards and use it to beat ourselves up, and so it eats away at us and can turn into hatred, bitterness, resentment, and so on.  So, this too, needs our forgiveness in order to release the toxic by-products, uncover the legitimate need, and begin to meet it in order to heal.

I’d like to finish with a quote from someone that I admire deeply – Jeff Foster. Jeff is currently (July 2021) undergoing some profound health challenges, so sending him very best wishes.

Don't try to forgive.
Forgiveness is not a 'doing'.

Simply accept that this moment is exactly the way it is right now.  And the past was the way it was.

Accept your non-acceptance in the present.  Forgive your inability to forgive.

Simply let go of the illusion that life could have turned out any other way.

This is true forgiveness.

 

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