Power of Forgiveness

When we practice forgiveness, we release judgment of ourselves and others. We allow ourselves to learn to accept those experiences that hurt us. It may take some time in the case of particularly traumatic events—I know this first-hand. However, it is well worth the effort to clear your space of the emotional remnants of the trauma. Think about it when you dwell on the hurt, anger, resentment or bitterness about a wrong done to you. Does the offender get affected by your feelings? Does feeling this way make the wrong any more palatable? Can feeling this way rewrite history and save you from having to experience it in the first place? Quite simply, ask yourself this one question: What do I gain by hanging onto these hurtful feelings?

Please understand that what I am advocating here is not for us to go into denial about what happened. Having survived several traumatic experiences in my life, I will never make light of how real and debilitating some life challenges can be. Letting go of hurt is not the same thing as grieving. When we grieve our losses, we give ourselves the time and space to acknowledge what happened and to honor the feelings of loss, allowing them to run their natural course. There is no way around painful experiences but to go through them, and they are part of the human experience. However, we also need to allow healing to take place over time. And, at some point, when healing has run its course, it would be time to let the grievance go. We will never forget what happened. But, if we allow complete healing to occur, the emotional charge associated with the event will dissolve in time. We will be able to make peace with the experience and gain perspective on it. And, if we are willing, we will even experience a personal breakthrough as a result of living through the trauma. I definitely have been blessed with profound breakthroughs from my own traumatic experiences.

Free yourself from your internal suffering

For a great, inspiring story of gaining appreciation from trauma, read Rosemary’s Story in Love For No Reason by Marci Shimoff. Rosemary is a rape survivor. While, as she said, she would never have chosen to be raped, she was able to recognize in time how that experience expanded her compassionate heart, and deepened her faith that she was loved and supported even through the most egregious violation a woman could suffer. If a rape survivor could let go of her emotional baggage from such a traumatic event, could we not all learn to let our grievance stories go as well? Again, it may take time, conscious effort and courage. But do you really want to go through life with a constricted heart and tense body, constantly scraping by in survival mode? You can have so much more by making room for good to come to you.

As Louise Hay wrote in You Can Heal Your Life, we do not need to know how to forgive, nor does it mean we have to condone the harmful behavior of others. Just by being willing to forgive, we are open to releasing that part of us that feels anger or hurt when we think of the person or the situation that hurt us. By being willing to forgive, we choose to tend to our own well being. It has nothing to do with the offending party or circumstances. It is simply our own commitment to let go of what hurts us inside, which ultimately only traps us in our own internal suffering. So, be willing to break down the walls of that internal prison and welcome freedom.

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This article is based on the Release Chapter of my book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life.

About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

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6 comments
Carol
Carol

Hi Alice - Again a great post. Thank you. This is so true. I realized just last week how I have been holding on to so many heavy thoughts of people who have crossed my path since childhood. They were not in top of mind, but were lurking and skulking around. I had the inspiration to write down their names - old boyfriends, teachers (including one nut who made fun of my clothes when I was in the front of the room reciting a poem!), former friends, schoolmates, coworkers, etc. I ended up filling an entire page (2 columns) with names! The important part for me was to write a note of forgiveness and thanks for their place in my life helping me to become who I am now. I then burned the paper and buried it in the back yard with a prayer. I guess you could say it was a ceremony of letting go and energy/space clearing. I cannot tell you how light I felt. Amazingly, a few days later, a new crop of names surfaced. It must have been the next repressed layer. I repeated the process. I feel great and free and actually had a few laughs at the situations I had experienced with some of these individuals.

Scott Mabry
Scott Mabry

Great topic and important reminders. I would add that sometimes the first step is forgiving yourself. Thanks!

Angela Rodriguez
Angela Rodriguez

Dr. Alice, Thank you for this reminder. I find that the unpleasant occasions that continually revisit my mind are the ones I need to wrap forgiveness around. Enjoying your wisdom, Angela

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Thanks again, Carol, for reading my posts! What a great forgiveness story and a great release ritual! I felt lighter for you just reading what you did! And I applaud you for such great awareness of the layers, which is so, so true about our lives. After all, we've spent a whole lifetime accumulating experiences, memories and beliefs without being conscious of a lot of them. That's why it may take several rounds over a period of time for the purging and integration to be complete. And, as your experience showed, those things that are ready to come up to be released will come up when you're ready to deal with them. Way to hold your consciousness, Carol! Thank you so much for sharing your experience here!

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Scott, Thank you for reading and commenting. You're absolutely right on, in terms of forgiving ourselves. It's part of the forgiveness exercise in the Release chapter of my book. Many Blessings, Alice

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Angela, Thank you for sharing your authenticity and compliment. I often find myself needing to forgive some more when I thought I had "completed" my forgiveness work. We are all in this human experience together. Nice to share it with you! Many Blessings, Alice

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