To forgive, it's important to first accept that what happened, happened. You don't need to embrace or approve what happened, but you need to accept the reality of it. If you're not quite there, I suggest first reading my previous blog on acceptance in this healing habits blog series and then return to this one.
Resentment is a massive energy leak. It’s a toxic energy that contaminates the spirit and gnaws at the soul. Harbouring a deep grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die. It naturally follows that forgiving is one of the most healing and liberating things you can do for yourself. What has freed me of some deep-seated resentment I was unable to let go of — even though I clearly saw their futility and the suffering they brought about — is a method called Family constellations.
It is a therapeutic approach designed to help reveal the hidden dynamics in a family or relationship in order to address any stressors impacting these relationships and heal them. When utilizing the family constellation, the therapist has people who are not related to the client take on the roles of various family members to act out dynamics related to the client’s concerns. The experience is truly astounding. Complete strangers started behaving like my family members, when they couldn't possibly have known. Definitely one of the more surreal and profound experiences of my life.
Because the family constellation drew up information about my family members I hadn't known or realised, I understood patterns and dynamics better. This understanding shifted my perspective and acceptance of (past) deeds and behaviours, leading to healthier communication and far more fulfilling relationships. I did the family constellation in June 2020 and the effects are still with me today. It is with confidence that I can say something has shifted for good, and brought enlightenment and peace around issues that had literally been haunting me for decades. And so I highly recommend the method if the same relational issues keep recurring in your life, and you're feeling stuck. The book The Fountain by Els van Steijn further deepened my understanding and allowed for puzzle pieces to fall into place.
Another forgiveness method I find extremely powerful is one you can do without help of a therapist. It is avoiding having to forgive in the first place. No, I’m not teasing you. How this works is explained beautifully in Boek van Vergeving (‘Book of Forgiveness’) by Willem Glaudemans. Unfortunately the book is only available in Dutch, so I have taken the liberty of translating some passages myself, which you can read below.
"The best way to forgive is to avoid having to forgive in the first place. In order to do this, you need to understand that humans only really have 2 emotions: love and fear. All other emotions like anger, sadness, doubt, shame, guilt, jealousy etc are derived from fear.
Love and fear are mutually exclusive. Where there is love, there can be no fear, and where there is fear, there can't be love. If there are only two emotions, then there can only be 2 expressions: An expression of love or an expression of fear. An expression of fear is really a request for love. So now we have two human expressions: an expression of love and a request for love. Both expressions will lead us back to our heart and away from ego-driven thinking. The art is to view the hurtful actions of others as an expression of fear a.k.a. a request for love. And to respond to that. If you do this, your life will dramatically change. If someone blames you, you no longer have to react with that same energy. You can see that the other person is merely asking for your love. When you respond from a place of love, the whole situation will change. And then there is no need to forgive.
To forgive means to un-fault. You take back your projection of blame, your judgments and reproach. This is the core of forgiveness. Another way to say this is: To return to innocence, to see the innocence of the other person. And when you see innocence, it means that innocence is in the eye of the beholder too. In other words, you recognize your own innocence. Forgiveness is always a two-way street, the liberation spreads out in reciprocity.
Every judgment contains a blame, no matter how subtle. Blame says: the other did it, I am blameless. What happens here is separation. There is now a separation between the guilty perpetrator and the innocent victim. This is the way the ego divides the world. Forgiveness walks the opposite path and makes the separation undone. Forgiveness sees that the other is innocence, despite his or her action. Forgiveness is a state of being.
You can see innocence when you realise that the other person did the best they could with the knowledge, skills and level of consciousness available to them at that time, even if to you, it was clearly insufficient.
You can see innocence when you realise that when the other person did or said that thing, they were not connected with their centre, their heart, their being. And from that state of disconnect they did something harmful. Surely you can recognize this in yourself. You can see innocence when you know that the other person didn't know what they were doing. For if they had known, truly known, they would not have done it.
After doing a forgiveness session on his ex-wife, a friend of mine once reported: "Now I can see it. She couldn't love herself, and so she was unable to love me and the kids". This is what seeing innocence means, in all its fierce truth.
Are you willing to see the innocence of the other? Maybe it's too early to actually see the innocence, but can you express a willingness to explore that path in the future? Are you willing to take your judgments back? Are you willing to stop blaming and harbouring resentment? And when you truly see the other person's innocence, forgiveness happens automatically and the story evaporates. This one exercise can set you free."
In these passages, Willem refers to 'the other' as the presumed wrongdoer, but all too often it is ourselves we have a hard time forgiving. Thankfully, the method he describes is perfectly applicable to self-forgiveness too.
I love the fact that the practise of 'avoiding having to forgive', is really built on the notion of Wise Understanding. Wise Understanding is the first 'step' in the Noble Eightfold Path - one of the Buddha's principal teachings, which is about ending the suffering of life and achievement of self-awakening. Wise Understanding is about understanding how reality and suffering are intertwined.
I hope this blog helps you take steps towards forgiveness and heal the suffering of resentment, blame and separation. See my other blog posts for more healing tips and of course you're welcome to join The Healing Habits Retreat, 21-26 January 2023 in Andalusia, Spain. It’s the perfect time to assess, align, adopt or release habits in accordance with our intentions for the new year.
The €100 discount is still valid till January 15th 2023. Click here for all the details.
Love, Thalien xx