The Art of Forgiveness

We are starting today at the first tier in the forgiveness process. This is the place where we have defined why we are withholding our forgiveness and from whom. Overnight, we sat with the emotions that arose for us.

This morning, we have become willing to look at the resentment we hold against those who have wronged us because we want emotional peace and we want something different for ourselves in our sobriety, in our life.

Forgiveness is for us, not the other person. Yet, it does often benefit the other person as well. By forgiving, we are in no way condoning what occurred as right. It was not. Yet, we can get to a place of forgiveness even though that is true.

Having said all of that, let me say that there is tremendous freedom in forgiveness, and that is what allowed me to reach emotional peace in my sobriety. This is how it happened.

I was about 3 years sober and was doing a self-appraisal about my romantic relationships, looking at all the ways I contributed to their demise, being accountable where I erred. What I realized was, I would get drunk and yell at each of them how worthless they were, that they would never amount to anything.

I was appalled to remember I had said those things! I didn’t mean them. I said them because that’s how I was feeling about myself. Knowing how terrible I was feeling at that time, I started to feel compassion for that woman who was in so much pain that she lashed out at another human’s spirit, denigrating it, for that was a terrible thing to do and say.

Wow. That was powerful when I looked at it in that way, allowing compassion to come into my being. For when I saw myself with compassion, I was able to then see the person who used to yell at ME that I was worthless and would never amount to anything, with compassion for what he might have been feeling when he said those things to me.

I began to realize he was so very young and was dealing with his own wounds. I say that not to excuse his actions, but to lend some understanding to him, and especially given that I had done the very same thing. He was an emotionally and spiritually sick man, I have come to understand over the years. I feel compassion for the sick man he was, and he has changed. 

Armed with the knowledge that people do bad things, sometimes because they are emotionally and spiritually sick, I began to apply this thought and heart process to other incidences and people. I found myself getting to forgiveness, even if I had not repeated their behaviors myself. I have to say, there has never been a more freeing sensation for me, a feeling of deep peace.

I’d like to stress that the first step of forgiveness is identifying the incident for which you cannot forgive and acknowledging it, looking at it, feeling how wronged you were. If you skip this step, it is glossing over the damage that was done to you, so be sure to feel how the damage has affected you in your life.

The second step is to look at the situation and determine if you provoked the person and they were responding as any human being might. If this is the case, own your behavior, be accountable for it, and give up the anger you feel toward the other. Apologies may be in order…

Once you identify and feel the damage that was done to you, it is time to bring compassion to yourself, a wounded person. Be careful not to cross the line into self-pity here; you just want to feel empathy for that wounded person… yourself. Hold yourself in that space of compassion and empathy until you feel some relief from your anger. Then, consider the other person as a fallible and emotionally wounded person.

By repeating this, over time, the anger begins to fade a little at a time, and one day, you will find yourself at forgiveness.

You can do this and can soar to new heights that, up until now, you have only dreamed of. Isn’t that something you want for yourself?

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