“Holding a grudge doesn’t make you strong; it makes you bitter. Forgiving doesn’t make you weak; it sets you free.”
– Dave Willis
In life you have many teachers that are part of your journey. Some you will recognize and welcome, and some you will adamantly reject seeing them as your teacher because they have caused you pain in some way. Those who fall into that category are not aware that they are your teacher. They are most likely just acting from their ego. As Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Well, most people are walking around not knowing what they are doing, not only doing to others, but also doing to themselves.
You may remove these people from your life, but are they really gone? Not if you are holding on to anger, resentment, or hatred. Not if you didn’t learn what they were there to teach you. They can live on in your emotions, your thoughts, and even in your dream space. They can also re-emerge in your life through another person. Not really the same person physically, but energetically. Your lesson will come back around with someone who brings up the same issue that came up with the person you thought you removed from your life.
Everyone has had someone in their life that has left a scar, and some are still walking around with an open wound. These are your life teachers, the ones that can cut right into the center of your heart and if you allow it, continue to eat away at you until your life seizes up with bitterness and resentment. Buddha said, “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.” There is also a modified version with the same penetrating message, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
So why would you consider someone who has hurt you in some way as a teacher? Because, while you were still in spirit form you chose your life path, including your greatest challenges because those are your life lessons. It is while you are still in your spirit form that you can also agree to soul contracts with others while they are in spirit form too, sometimes to balance your karma and sometimes to learn new lessons. And even though you may be buddies in the spirit world, you can agree to be enemies in the physical world. Those are usually the ones that cut the deepest.
Having your life lessons come through a soul contract is not always the case. If you are here to learn certain lessons, then you are destined to learn the lesson regardless of who is teaching you. Often times it will come through multiple people. So when someone has caused you pain, if it wouldn’t have been them, it would have just been somebody else because you were meant to learn the lesson that they had to teach you. When you hold on to the past or don’t learn from the past, you will continue to repeat it. This keeps you from fully moving forward in your life. As you hold on to it – it holds on to you! Forgiveness is a choice to let go; to let go of something that caused you pain in your past. You cannot change the past, but you can change how you feel about the past.
Then there is self-forgiveness, perhaps pain you have caused others or acts you committed that keep you in shame or guilt. Maybe you haven’t forgiven yourself for having let your fears keep you from realizing your potential, or for staying in a relationship where you were mistreated. Whatever your reasons, it’s time to choose to forgive yourself and to forgive others. By holding yourself or others in judgment through refusing to forgive, you create your own self-abuse, keeping you in victim consciousness.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the effects of not choosing forgiveness can be:
- Bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience
- Becoming so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present
- Becoming depressed or anxious
- Feeling that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you are at odds with your spiritual beliefs
- And, losing valuable and enriching connectedness with others
Whereas, choosing forgiveness can lead to:
- Healthier relationships
- Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- A stronger immune system
- Improved heart health
- And, higher self-esteem
Forgiveness is something you choose. It’s not going to be something that just happens to you. When you trust that the universe is a self-correcting system and you don’t have to make sure that someone pays, including you, you step out of the way and let the universe do its thing. Too often you may want retribution and end up creating blocks for yourself bringing more hardship into your life. Your spirit continues to move you toward forgiveness because forgiveness will remove those negative blocks in your life.
Back in early 2005, I had my first experience in understanding this concept. At that time, I was still very much in my own self-sabotaging pattern of giving myself away. I opened up my home to someone who asked me to work with her in starting a business. Shortly after she moved in, I went away for about two weeks on a retreat. Even though she had her own bedroom and bath, without asking me, she slept in my bed, used my bathroom, wore my clothes, ate my food, and damaged my home decorations she used for an event she was putting on. Just recalling this story helps to remind me how far I’ve come, because back then, wow, my boundaries were a mess!
After several months, she held a team meeting with me and four other people regarding the business. I could no longer deal with the situation. There were so many things happening that I didn’t agree with, yet I had done so much to help her build this company. I had basically allowed her to turn my home into its headquarters. I knew I couldn’t go on but I was struggling with walking away. I felt as though the business would take off and I would miss out on all the fruits of my labor. My mentor at the time was also at the meeting, and I remember sitting outside with him and doing my best to work through the internal struggle.
This is when I first learned that the universe has its own way of keeping track, and that my efforts would not go unrewarded, they just may not come through this business. After working through the struggle of deciding, I walked away and she moved out. I was never paid the $3,000 in commissions that I had earned that month, and she even attempted to take my leather jacket with her when she left.
She was one of my biggest teachers, not one I consciously chose, but one that the universe brought to me. I was still in my early years of my own transformational journey. I had to learn to set healthier boundaries, speak up for myself, and let go. Even though I understood that on an intellectual level, my blood would boil anytime I would think of her. But as I continued to heal, and continued to let go, I came to a place of forgiveness. Eventually, all that anger was replaced with compassion. Her company ended up going out of business, the people who remained with her lost large amounts of money, and I escaped having to experience all of that. I also made triple the amount of what I didn’t get paid shortly after leaving through another project. I was the lucky one.
I remember when I came to the realization that I no longer had any anger toward her, and even though it took some time, it was so freeing once all that anger made its way through. It’s like there was nothing left inside me, nothing, the anger was completely gone – neutralized. And when you get to that place, it’s amazing.
So the universe keeps track, it’s called karma. If you step aside and let it do its thing, the sooner you can move on to what is important for you. When you let go, forgive and learn from the painful experiences of your past, you just may be clearing your own karmic debt.
Karma really is the lessons you learn. What goes around comes around. If you have sent something negative out to the universe, it will be on its way back to you. Yet an interesting thing can happen if you learn the lesson before it comes back, you just may experience the spiritual law of grace. Grace can dissolve your negative karma and create miracles in your life. Karma works in the positive and negative. Through learning the lessons of your past experiences and by giving grace to others, it opens up grace to come into your life – that is positive karma. The more grace you give, the more you get. When you wish ill-will upon others, you bring it upon yourself through negative karma. The more compassion, empathy, and forgiveness you give to others, the more you receive. These all lead to more healing and grace in your life. Forgiveness is a process, so be patient with yourself and really honor your process of forgiveness. The wiser you become the more you forgive, because you know the price you are paying for not forgiving.
Below are exercises to help you to forgive and release those that you have held in anger and judgment.
You can write a letter to the person you are forgiving. This letter is not to send them, it is where you will release your anger, judgment and whatever else might come up for you. This may take one sitting to write, or several sittings. Once you feel complete, take the letter and burn it or tear it up. And as you do, say, “I now forgive you and release you, as I free me and forgive myself.” You can also write yourself a letter, if it’s you that needs forgiving.
There is an ancient Hawaiian practice of forgiveness called Hoʻoponopono. It is a mantra that you repeat, and even though there is no set time for how long you repeat it, try it for 30 days and see what happens. The mantra goes like this, “I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”
The Hawaiians believe by taking responsibility for your actions, thoughts and feelings, you can now choose what you want to create in your life, dissolve your karma, allow yourself to heal, and move on with a better life through Hoʻoponopono. Below this article you will find a beautifully sung version of the Hoʻoponopono mantra.
Marianne Williamson teaches a great deal about forgiveness and she encourages people to pray for the other person’s happiness 5 minutes a day for 30 days.
Are you ready to free yourself through forgiveness? Your spirit will always be guiding you to do so. Choose whichever technique you are more drawn to and see how free you feel after doing so.