Be it for ourselves or others, how do we forgive? Let’s start with a basic definition. One of the definitions of forgive is: to grant pardon for an offense. A definition of pardon is: to release from liability for an offense. So, we release ourselves and others for our and their offenses. It’s not saying that the offenses do not exist. Of course, we could have done better; of course, we should always be nicer to others; of course, others could have been kinder to us. But forgiveness is about releasing the offender. We’re saying, yes, we or they could have done better, but we are letting that go.
The ego doesn’t want to forgive because it needs to hold onto the grudge to feel better than. Not forgiving others and not forgiving ourselves are both signs of our lack of self-worth. Not forgiving others is the ego’s way of claiming superiority. The ego rationalizes: ‘As long as I don’t forgive (and therefore keep recalling) that wrong thing you did, I can feel good and better that I didn’t do that.’ When we don’t forgive, we remain victims and in self-pity, ’poor me’ mode. This keeps our ego-driven thoughts alive, stuck in the past and feeling unworthy.
Not forgiving ourselves is equivalent to rehashing that we could have and should have done better and that what we did was not good enough. When we truly forgive others and ourselves we are letting go of the past, we are letting go of should haves and could haves. We are letting go of wishing the past was different than it was.
In forgiving others, we don’t need to say ‘I forgive you’. There is a certain power trip that comes with those words. Their underlying meaning is, ‘You did wrong. I am better than you. Because I am a better person I release you.’ Forgiveness is ultimately a thing we do within ourselves and for ourselves. To truly forgive, rather than say I forgive you, just treat them with love or think loving thoughts about them. (If they are not in our lives anymore, loving thoughts will do.)
A big part of forgiveness is taking our focus off the transgression, be it yours or other people’s and putting our focus on our/their good, loving aspects (Even for your worst “enemy”, there’s got to be something good). We are focusing now on the good in us and in others. If it was what you consider an atrocious transgression, you focus on and love that part of them that knows better, the essence of them, their God-self, their soul.
It helps when forgiving others, to keep in mind that they must have been going through something. Not to make excuses for them, but to remind ourselves that everyone is dealing with the ego, everyone is imperfect. By forgiving, we fully accept that ‘to err is human‘. He or she may never admit it or even realize it, but our forgiveness of them really has nothing to do with them. It is about realizing and becoming aware within ourselves of the bigger picture of life. We see or imagine – what we can – from their point of view. They were acting from their ego, with a lack of self-worth, and perhaps repeating patterns they experienced from others. Just as we forgive ourselves for our flaws, we forgive others theirs.
It helps to let go of the grudge/resentment/anger by seeing some kind of value in it. For instance, we find something to learn from it, we realize how we grew from it, we see that we are stronger because of it, we learned to forgive because of it. Finding the value brings our power back to ourselves and boosts our self-worth.
A huge key to joy is forgiveness. When we are stuck in not forgiving, we are feeling guilt, shame, anger, resentment – anything but joy. It is especially helpful to keep in our minds that we forgive, not to do a favor for someone else, but because we want joy for ourselves. We forgive because we value ourselves.