The many layers of forgiveness

Forgiveness is considered an important ingredient for a happy life. It’s a saintly quality, which frees both perpetrator and victim from the effects of past cruel actions. But since most of us have not yet reached saint status, the whole concept of forgiveness can be fraught with confusion. Should I forgive someone who is still harming me or others? What if they’re not even sorry? And if they hurt me, how come I owe them

Victims suffer all over again when well-meaning mentors advise them to forgive the perpetrator without first acknowledging the harm done. Pardoning your abuser too quickly – as abused children so often do – is unhealthy and not the same as forgiveness.

If you’ve suffered harm from another, there are certain steps necessary for healing:

1) Ensure that you’re safe from further harm. It’s hard to process things when the perpetrator still has power over you. 

2) Tune in to your inner wisdom. With a clear head, acknowledge all the pain you have suffered, both at the hands of the other person and that you’ve caused yourself by holding onto anger and resentment.

3) Decide that it’s time for the suffering to end.

4) Unhook your destiny from that of the perpetrator. Choose to focus on yourself, not them.

5) The hardest part: let go of the pain. It can help to lovingly create a ritual to symbolically let go, perhaps supported by someone you trust. Continue until you feel complete. Here are some ideas:

  • Give the pain over to a Higher Power (nature, God)
  • Stand in a stream and let the water wash the pain away
  • Create a scrapbook, artwork or other record, and when ready, burn it
  • Practise Ho’oponopono

6) Once the pain is cleared, you’ll naturally begin to beam love and compassion towards yourself and others (including the perpetrator). Your healing is complete.

In rare cases, the perpetrator may approach you, full of regret, and ask for your forgiveness. Once healed, you’ll be well placed to say the words they want to hear.  If you do, it will be a gift – a blessed part of their healing journey.

Stephanie Hills ©

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