How often have you been told that you MUST forgive someone or something? It seems to me that the word "must" takes an already tough concept and makes it even harder to understand. Forgiveness in and of itself is really difficult for most of us. Especially if we are still feeling the pain and fear that was created by the situation.
My childhood understanding of forgiveness meant that I was saying, "It was okay and that it really didn't matter anymore." When as a child, I teased my sister and then was told to tell her I was “sorry.” Of course I would say the words, but was being “sorry" really my intention - NO! My intent was to get out of trouble! Saying that the act or situation is "okay" is useless without allowing yourself to actually heal, which includes feeling into and really processing the emotions and feelings of the experience. This is hard for us, because no one is excited about revisiting that painful place; we would all choose to bury the emotions and feelings over re-feeling and re-processing them.
The concept of letting something "just be" is really only possible if you have healed the hurt. That process of feeling the pain, looking at the situation and trying to understand the action from the standpoint of the individual or situation that in effect caused your pain. From this place - while we are sitting next to the pain, allowing it to be felt instead of burying it or hiding from it - we allow it to heal by giving it the space and allowing it to be felt, expressed energetically, and released. Acknowledge it, process it, allow it to heal, and let it go!
This may sound easy, but the entire process means opening ourselves up to feeling emotions that we have taken special effort to tuck away. We have consciously or unconsciously chosen NOT to allow ourselves to feel these emotions, in many cases, for a very long time. Our ego doesn't understand the purpose of "letting down" the emotional guard because it has spent such an excessive amount of time building up the walls that allow us to hide from the pain, putting it in a box and tucking it away nicely.
The truth is that the box MUST be opened and the contents MUST be examined completely before the last and most important piece of the healing can take place - the release. There are multiple methods that you can use to assist in the examination process. Journaling is a great option. So is writing a letter to the person who wronged you which allows you to state how you feel, even if you choose not to share it. Burn the letter if that feels good to you! It is such a rewarding and healing experience as you watch the flames reduce the paper, ink, memories, and feelings into ashes and then into nothing...
Exercising compassion is the next step - this is a step that requires us to place ourselves in the shoes of the person who wronged us. To walk in a make-believe space where we attempt to understand WHY someone would act in such a way.... The reality is, we will NEVER truly understand the point of view or perspective of another because we are lacking the experiences, values, belief systems, and life events that molded the "Who" of the person we are trying to identify with. But, during the process of attempting to identify with the "who " of the person we seek to forgive, and through utilizing sympathy, empathy, imagination, and by making a true effort to better understand the circumstances, we are suddenly aware of the gift of grace. This allows us to exercise compassion - even as we are standing in the space where the wounds and the pain are at the peak of our awareness.
The concept of compassion is such a backwards concept to our ego. Understand him!? What!? Did he try to understand YOU? Danger! Danger! Danger! - the Ego shouts at the top of its lungs! Keep yourself safe! What are you thinking!? Use the weapons you have wielded for decades... judgment, blame, grief, justification, sadness, anger and a myriad of others! We must fight and we must not lose the battle!" shouts the Ego!!
Opening the door to understanding feels like complete betrayal to your ego, because the ego believes there is no other way. But there IS another way! A way that not only facilitates understanding but that also FREES US! Forgiveness has NEVER been about granting or giving a gift to the person who wronged us; Forgiveness has always been about opening ourselves up to being free of the burden WE have been carrying around!
Forgiveness is NOT about saying, "It's okay," that you hurt me deeply or wronged me in an unbelievable way. It is about acknowledging that what has happened is over, and you survived! (Maybe even thrived!!!) The situation was no match for your strength and courage; You overcame it and now is the time to celebrate YOU! Celebrate the lessons that were learned, the opportunities that provided growth and expansion, and the knowledge you gained. YOU ARE MIGHTY AND STRONG! Step into that wonderful place of power and of peace that comes once you allow yourself to process and feel all that requires healing. Once you have walked through the healing space, the act of letting go just happens, and before you know it, the process of forgiveness is complete. You have transferred what was once anger and frustration into feelings of peace and joy, AND you are taking with you new lessons, new strengths and new insights.
Remember this process is about giving yourself a gift - the gift of PEACE!