Forgiveness work is tricky. I have been in therapy multiple times over the years, and the process of revealing and releasing pain and working towards forgiveness has been an ongoing journey. I have written letters that I have sent to people and some that I have burned. I have thrown my grievances into a fire and sent them gently down streams. Were these exercises helpful? Yes, I believe that they were in many instances. They helped me build pathways to new ways of thinking and experiencing my pain and the perpetrators of it.
As a therapist, I will admit that I have given similar homework to my clients and they have had a variety of results depending on their willingness to dig deep. Forgiveness work is tricky.
What I have continued to struggle with, has been how to forgive, and to let go of resentments and anger. I thought that I had forgiven those who harmed me including myself. I really did, but what I found is that when I engaged with that person or even thought of them, I would get sour and negative. Forgiveness is easier than recovering from the impact the event has on our life. Even so, I still sought to find new ways to forgive that will stick.
I want to back up here and say, that just because you forgive someone does not mean that you are obligated to allow them in your life. I am going to say that again, just because you forgive someone does not mean that you are obligated to allow them in your life. In fact, I think that 80 % or more of the time, those who have harmed us need to be in our rearview mirror. Yet, sometimes that person is someone that we love, and want to have in our lives in some small way that will not continue to harm us. That is where the hard work comes in.
I have forgiven scads of people, that I do not allow into my life anymore. They are permanently evicted from my sandbox! That has been easy! What has been hard had been setting loving limits, with emotional and physical boundaries with those that I want to still have in my life? What I have found is that having them in my life even in some small way continues to “poke the emotional bear” How can I be in a relationship with those that I have forgiven, without being re- wounded, and reminded of why they needed forgiveness in the first place? This is a delicate dance for sure.
This morning I meditated and yes I asked my angels and inner wisdom about this ongoing need to find forgiveness not just for past deeds but in the present. Especially when that person continues to live in their shadow and not seek the light. This is the message that I received.
“You have focused on the things that need to be forgiven enough. Now focus on loving that person and thanking them for the good things that they gave you” Hmm, Interesting
Ok so I have written down the “gifts” that came from overcoming the challenges that person or experience created for me, and while it was hard I could find them. But, I never looked for the gifts from the actual person. I had never allowed myself to look at their light and explore what was there. I had only looked at how their shadow had impacted me and “forced” me to evolve or learn a life lesson.
So this is new to me. There may be those of you who are thinking “Oh my gosh Nicole how can you just be coming around to this”? Fair enough, but I am a firm believer in timing and now is my time because now I have an audience that can benefit from my tears.
Back to the List of Love and Gratitude. I sat down with my notebook and I wrote the person’s name at the top of the page. I began to write down the things that are good about this person and how I benefited from their goodness. How their light had impacted me in positive ways, and what I was grateful for that they gave me. I will not lie, at first, it was hard because my wounded angry voice was quick to point out something BAD about this person with each positive thing I wrote down. This peep of mine would not be ignored so I took a breath, and I said to her “We have a lifetime of cataloging the bad things that this person did, we have ongoing evidence of how they wounded us, please do not think that you are being ignored, you aren’t. Allow me to find the light, because none of us exist fully in the darkness there is a light to be found”. I promised her that I would keep her safe and that this was just a plot twist and experiment to see things from a new perspective.
Once I addressed her needs and soothed her she let go of her vice grip of negativity and the list flowed. The list flowed onto two pages I might add, and for the first time in years, I felt a deep release. I have documented that release in pictures because at the moment I felt a calling to show you what it looked like. Despite bed head, no makeup, and a blotchy face I needed to show you my pain. I thought that I would experience relief, but what I can tell you is that the first emotions were extreme pain and grief. It did not overtake me it just felt like a reverence for it, which allowed for love gratitude and relief to finds its way quickly to my heart.
It has changed me, and I will take this exercise and complete it again with the others who are on that list. I know this was a long post, and if you are still with me I am so grateful for your attention and for witnessing my journey. I hope that it will give you some hope and a tool that you can use to find some true forgiveness as well. I am going to outline the steps that I took but before I do that I want to speak to you about safety. Listen carefully. Forgiveness work can be transformational but it can also be highly triggering. Remember that I have had years in therapy and tons of personal development work as a coach. So I want to make a few points.
If you decide to try these steps that I outline, I want you to make sure that you are grounded. Say a prayer for safety first to the source of light that you rely on. I want you to allow yourself to go into the process without judgments of yourself. If you feel too emotional, or unsafe at any point I want you to stop, and again say a prayer to your guiding light and come back again later. You do not have to barrel through these steps. You know yourself and if you feel triggered take care of yourself and step away. Do not underestimate the power of this process.
Here are the steps that I took:
- I picked the person I wanted to focus on and wrote their name at the top of the page.
- I invited my angels and inner wisdom to help support me through it.
- I began to think of that person with love and gratitude.
- I wrote down a list of the things that I love about that person.
- I wrote a list of the things that this person did for me that was loving and good and that I am thankful for.
- When my inner voice got angry and tried to divert me back to my old way of thinking about this person, by reminding me of the bad things? I simply acknowledged her, and invited her to be a part of the new perception and honored her feelings.
- I gave thanks to my inner wisdom and guides, and let the tears flow.
- I journaled about my experience, and how it made me feel and what it is like to look at this person with new eyes.
What I had hoped for in going through this process, was to find some neutrality. I was not seeking to take this person from Villan to Hero. I simply wanted to take my perception of this person from Villan to neutral. In reality, it will not change anything about how I interact with this person in real life. We will not frolic in the daisies and go on picnics. NOPE, things will look much the same, but I WILL FEEL differently.
Now I am sharing this with you, in the hopes that it will create a ripple of forgiveness in your life. However, I do want to remind you that forgiveness does not mean those people who have harmed you are allowed access to you. For example, if a family member has been abusive in some way you can find forgiveness for them, but it does NOT require you to allow them access to harm you again. Physical and emotional safety is always a priority when we are working on forgiveness.
If this was helpful, please comment below, or send me a message by clicking here. Are you interested in a deeper discussion on how you can find forgiveness? Contact me to find out more about my coaching programs.
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Originally published at nicole.lewis-keeber.com on December 12, 2016.