Spiritual Tools For Forgiveness
Rabbi Lewis D. Solomon
Forgiveness represents the capacity to love when your mind otherwise resists love, insisting on a closed, fearful heart. Forgiveness by a victim focuses on giving up the way you look at a situation or an interpersonal relationship; it is not easy.
Forgiveness of another begins with self-forgiveness. Overcome any beliefs about your unworthiness, including recollections of the ways you were unloving, the mistakes you make, your past misdeeds. Letting go of your feelings of self-doubt and building your self-esteem, you give others the ability to make mistakes.
To forgive others, start by acknowledging your hurt, admitting that someone did something seriously harmful to you. If a wrongdoer does not express contrition, actualize some of the basic concepts of Jewish Spirituality. Request God to guide and direct your thoughts and understanding. Trust that the Eternal will show you the way to forgiveness. Asking the Divine with sincerity, you will see a new vision of another human being through the eyes of love, not through the eyes of judgment or guilt. The shift in perception will dissolve your anger, your hatred, your fear, engendering your love for another. Your new perception represents a transformational healing, replacing your pain with inner peace of mind.
To facilitate forgiveness, you can turn to meditation, visualization, and prayer. Many have found Forgiveness Meditation helpful in healing the hurt another has caused them. The meditation transforms pain to love by placing one’s feelings in the larger perspective of God’s Love for all human beings. We are all connected to a loving God and therefore to each other.
Use the Forgiveness Meditation for fifteen minutes, once or twice daily, for at least three weeks.
Forgiveness Meditation. Introduction: Create a warm, welcoming atmosphere, an environment of serenity and spaciousness for the journey within. Lower the lights in your room. Close your eyes, sit quietly, calm and relax your body by sitting, reclining, or lying down.
Feel yourself surrounded by Divine Care and Protection. Know that God loves you unconditionally, just as you are.
Allow any anger or hatred you feel towards others to be dissolved in God’s Love.
Breathe in and out normally, feeling where your breath flows into and out of your body. Adjust your breaths so that the in and out breaths are the same length, thereby bringing about both a relaxation of your body and an alertness of your mind.
Feel yourself surrounded by warmth and patience. Allow any anger or hatred you feel toward others to dissolve into the warmth and patience.
With each breath, breathe in warmth. Feel the warmth of Divine Companionship nourishing you. Breath in Divine Patience and feel the spaciousness of your open heart as it reflects God’s Love. Allow the warmth and patience to give rise to forgiveness. The power of forgiveness is great. Feel your body and release yourself from any tension or tightness you feel inside, caused by resentment. Let go of the pride that holds on to resentment. Allow the pain of old hurts to fade away as you place it in God’s Loving Embrace. Let go of your burdens by placing them in Divine Care, where you are safe and loved.
Reflect on _____; someone who has caused you pain; someone who has made you angry, hateful, or fearful, intentionally or unintentionally; and send him or her forgiveness. With God as your companion say to the one who has hurt you: “I forgive you.” Forgive him or her as best you can. Allow the power of forgiveness to grow. Out of compassion for yourself, allow the resentment to fade away. Let go of your judgment of another, and replace it with understanding and compassion. Ask that no harm come to _____ because of what he or she has done to you.
For _____, another whom you have caused pain, anger, hatred, fear, intentionally or unintentionally, ask for his or her forgiveness. Say: “I ask you for forgiveness.”
Forgive yourself for anyone’s pain to which you have contributed. As you feel the regret for the pain you caused, ask that person for forgiveness. Accept God’s forgiveness for the pain you caused and ask God to enable you to bring healing to this situation.
Also forgive yourself for having harmed yourself, not loved yourself, not lived up to God’s dream for your life. Say: “For every way I have harmed myself, I offer forgiveness.” Commit yourself to personal transformation.
Concluding Instructions: Come back to the here and now. Take time to ease yourself back. Slowly bring your awareness back into your body. Feel yourself back in the room and open your eyes.
Visualization for Forgiveness
If you find your capacity to forgive another obstructed, you may find the following visualization helpful in facilitating forgiveness. Focus on the visualization twice daily, in the morning and evening, for fifteen minutes, for three weeks.
Introduction: Create a warm, welcoming atmosphere, an environment of serenity and spaciousness for the journey within. Lower the lights in the room. Close your eyes, sit quietly, relax your body, breathe in and out normally, feeling where the breath flows into and out of your body.
Offer a prayer for God’s Presence in the situation you will be imagining.
Mentally, go back through the trail of pain to the situation that troubles you. Look at the situation from many perspectives, feel the pain, experience the other’s words and deeds.
Invite God to be your loving Compassion in this situation. Share your feelings with God and ask the Eternal for the strength to forgive another and let go of your pain.
Experience God’s Care for both you and the one who hurt you. With the Holy One as your Companion, reach out to the other in forgiveness. Then praying that God carry the pain, place the past in God’s Care. If the pain remains too great for reconciliation, turn the pain over to God and let the Eternal do the healing.
Conclude with a prayer of Thanksgiving for God’s Healing Presence.
Concluding Instructions: Slowly come back to the here and now. Take time to ease yourself back. Slowly bring awareness back into your body. Feel yourself back in the room and open your eyes.
Petitionary Prayers for Forgiveness
You can offer petitionary prayers for forgiveness. Twice a day, in the morning and the evening, close your eyes, relax completely, and slowly repeat one of the following petitionary prayers for fifteen minutes.
Loving God, help me see _____ through the eyes of love. Help me let go of judgment in my relationship him or her.
God, let your love flow through me to bring love to everyone I meet.
Let me offer three suggestions for implementing these spiritual tools for forgiveness. First, if your heart doesn’t allow you to love someone you have forgiven, using a meditation, visualization, petitionary prayer, find one good quality in that person, or hope for something good for that person, so that you may come to better perceive his or her inner worth. Seeing good in and for another often allows you to begin to relate better to him or her.
Second, in some instances, the pain and betrayal is so great that we cannot face it alone. Forgiveness by a victim often demands courage and a strong sense of self to overcome the pain and betrayal. You may need to seek the companionship of another or a support group to find the courage and strength to forgive.
Finally, forgiveness is not for the faint-hearted. It is not permissiveness. You cannot pretend you were not harmed by another’s hurtful conduct or speech. By forgiving another, you do not indicate acceptance of another’s cruelty, thoughtlessness, or dishonesty. Forgiveness does not mean condoning another’s harmful actions or statements. It does not imply that you will allow others to continue to abuse, manipulate or oppress you through their hurtful words or deeds. If you anticipate an ongoing relationship with someone who has hurt you in the past, set some boundaries on future interactions.