In many cultures and healing traditions around the world, it is believed that healing – be it physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual – is contingent first and foremost on forgiveness. In this spiritual lesson, we are going to look a little more deeply at this concept of forgiveness and discuss some of the important aspects of it. We are also going to explore a couple of methods of forgiveness work that you can do to both heal and improve your life.
What is Forgiveness?
Simply put, forgiveness is the act of releasing anger, resentment, bitterness, and other negative emotions that we hold towards a person due to their flaws, faults, or offenses which they have committed towards us.
Why Does Forgiveness Heal?
Emotions are energy. Negative emotions hold energy that damages all aspects of a human’s life. When we are resentful and hold on to that resent in any manner we are poisoning our energy field and our subconscious mind. This results in those resentful feelings being projected out into the Universe which results in manifestations in our life of those feelings.
Sometimes these manifestations take on physical form in our own body via illness. Sometimes they take on a physical form in our environment, for example drawing to us someone that is similar to the person we are unwilling to forgive. Another example of this would be finding ourselves having similar fights/battles with a different person than the one we were originally unwilling to forgive.
There are other times when we find ourselves experiencing turmoil and encountering negative situation after a negative situation. All of this and more can and does result from a stubborn egocentric willingness to not forgive.
Now keep in mind, none of these things may happen immediately. Sometimes it can take weeks, months, or even years before the negative emotions associated with an unwillingness to forgive manifest in our lives.
When we forgive we release those emotions and eliminate them from our conscious mind, subconscious mind, and energy field. Once those emotions are released the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of a person can return to balance and in doing so healing takes place on one or more of those levels.
Who Should I Forgive?
In the strictest sense, anyone and everyone that has hurt you or caused you some form of physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual pain. This is regardless of their intention and your current relationship with them.
For those Christian readers out there, you may be shocked to learn that forgiving is actually a biblical mandate. Likewise, for non-Christians that hold Jesus in high regard simply as an excellent spiritual teacher consider the following verse from Matthew 6:14-15.
“If you forgive other people their failures, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you will not forgive —- neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you your failures”.
Those are some powerful words about the importance of forgiveness!
Metaphysically we can interpret this a little differently than it actually reads. We can say that if you forgive others your higher consciousness will also forgive you, but if you don’t, that higher consciousness will not forgive you. In other words, our ability to manifest and co-create a great, happy, and wonderful life is directly contingent on our ability to forgive.
Forgiveness is not Reconciliation
I think one thing that is really hard for people to understand is that there is a vast difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. These are two concepts that many people confuse with one another and yet neither is dependent on the other. You don’t have to have one in order to do the other. For example, you can reconcile with someone without ever forgiving them and you can forgive someone and never reconcile with them.
To reconcile means to restore relations. To forgive means to stop feeling angry, bitter, or resentful because of someone else’s offense, flaw, or mistake.
There are certain times we should not reconcile with another. For example, if you were in an abusive relationship to forgive the abuser doesn’t mean you have to reconcile with them. To forgive them doesn’t mean you should just move back in with them and forget the abuse. That would be unwise.
Likewise, to forgive someone doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences that the person being forgiven will have to experience or endure. Consequences are part of the human experience. We only grow through enduring consequences. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that the person being forgiven shouldn’t have to deal with the consequences of their actions. In our abuser example, the abuser may have to spend time in jail or go to mandatory anger management therapy. They may also lose a relationship that was very important to them.
So yes, there are times we shouldn’t reconcile with someone. There is never a time, however, that we should not forgive another person. When we forgive we are doing it just as much for ourselves as we are for them. We are giving ourselves permission to no longer be controlled by the emotions and feelings which the other person has consciously or unconsciously brought up inside of us.
How do I Ask for Forgiveness?
On the opposing side of the coin is when we know we have done wrong and have hurt someone else. We are, more or less, spiritually mandated to ask for forgiveness. The act of asking for forgiveness is equally as powerful as the act of forgiving. It holds just as much healing power and potential as the act of giving forgiveness.
There is a correct manner of asking for forgiveness.
First, we must recognize that we need to ask for forgiveness. Have you hurt someone by what you have said or done? If the answer is yes, you know there is a need to seek forgiveness.
Example: One spouse yells at the other when they try to help them because they are angry and not in control of their emotions. The first spouse feels regret when they see the other walk away holding back tears…
Second, we must make an agreement or promise with ourselves that we will not repeat the same error or mistake again. We also must determine how we are going to make things right. This step is often skipped.
Example: The spouse that yelled promises to themselves that they will be more patient and verbalize calmly the need to do this on their own. They will make things right by doing whatever is required.
Finally, we must apologize to the person that we have hurt. A good apology will be simple and direct. It will state that you are sorry, what you are sorry for, why you are sorry, and how you intend to make sure that the mistake or hurt will not be repeated. Remember step two above? Yeah, this is where it comes into play. It will end with asking for forgiveness.
Example: “I am so sorry for yelling at you, I wouldn’t want someone to yell at me like that. I promise to be more patient and to calmly let you know when I feel like I need to do something on my own. I’ll do whatever you require to make up for this. Will you forgive me and let me make it up to you?
At this point, one of three things will happen.
- The second spouse will say yes and let the first spouse know what they need to do to finish the process of forgiveness.
- The second spouse will indicate they are unwilling to forgive them and that nothing they can do will change it. This is dangerous for the second spouse as the poison we mentioned earlier starts to stew.
- The second spouse will indicate that they forgive them, but they aren’t currently willing to reconcile and think they should separate or spend some time apart for a while or even permanently. In this case, we see how one can forgive, but that the consequence of the action has lead to a need for separateness.
Regardless of how the second spouse responds, the first must be willing to forgive themselves if they are to continue to move through life in a healthy manner.
How do I Forgive? How do I do Forgiveness Work?
What about the one that is doing the forgiving? What do they need to do? How does one go about forgiving another person? How do you forgive someone that doesn’t, hasn’t, or won’t ask for forgiveness? How do you forgive yourself when the person you have hurt won’t forgive you?
Here are three exercises you can do that will hasten the process. Many times simply doing one of these three exercises will help to forgive and release.
Exercise One: Burning Ceremony
The simplest of the three exercises presented here. In a burning ceremony, you take a sheet of paper and write on it the name of the person you are working to forgive. You also list all the things they have done which you are working on forgiving them for. You fold the paper, hold it between the palms of your hands with your eyes closed, and say “I love you, I forgive you, and I now release you and your faults from my life.”
Then you light the paper on fire and watch it burn to ashes, knowing that as it does so the forgiveness has taken place.
You repeat for each person you are working on forgiving.
Exercise Two: Mirror Work
Mirror work was something author and New Thought Minister Louise Hay believed very strongly in. So strongly that she required almost all of her clients to engage in it at some point or another.
Go to a mirror and look yourself in the eyes. As you do, say “I deserve to be forgiven and I accept it now.” Take note of your reaction and how you feel. Keep repeating this until you are able to do it without any negative response, thought, or reaction while you do it.
Once you have mastered the first part you can move on to the second part.
Keep looking yourself in the eyes and say “I release any and all negative thoughts, feelings, and patterns associated with my own forgiveness. I deserve to be forgiven. I deserve love. I deserve only the best in life. I accept it now.” Once again, take note of your reaction and how you feel. Keep repeating this until you are able to do it without any negative response, thought, or reaction while you do it.
This exercise can be easily modified by replacing I with the name of the person you are working to forgive. For example, in part one you may say:
“My father deserves to be forgiven and I accept that he is now.”
In part two you could continue:
“I release any and all negative thoughts, feelings, and patterns associated with forgiving my father. My father deserves to be forgiven. My father deserves love. I accept this now.”
Regardless of if you do the exercise for yourself or another, always pay attention to your physical, emotional, and mental reactions as you do the exercise. The exercise is only complete and a success when you can say what you are saying without faltering over your words, cringing, or having a negative thought or emotion about what you’re saying.
Exercise Three: Higher Self Letters
This is the most complex method of working through forgiveness. It involves writing three letters, one each for three consecutive days. The first is to Your Higher Self. The second is writing a letter to yourself from the point of view or perspective of Your Higher Self. The third is writing a letter to the person you are working to forgive.
Letter One – In the first letter, your task is two-fold. You are writing a letter to Your Higher Self talking about what has happened and why you are having difficulty forgiving. You need to tell the whole story and you need to express any and all emotions that come up as you tell the story.
Letter Two – In the second letter you are writing to yourself from the perspective of Your Higher Self. The letter should focus entirely on you and it should focus on the main lesson you feel you have learned or are learning from this experience.
Letter Three – In the last letter, only to be written after the first two, you are going to write a letter of forgiveness to the person you are working to forgive. In this letter you are free to indicate if you’ll consider reconciliation or not, you are also free to explain how their actions have hurt you and what you’ve learned from the experience, but the main focus should still be on the act of forgiving and releasing.
Forgiveness Prayers and Affirmations
What if you can’t forgive someone? What if you are having trouble forgiving yourself? What do you do then? Are you doomed to suffer because of the human flaw of having an ego?
Of course not!
When you have trouble forgiving someone else or you simply can’t seem to find it within yourself to forgive yourself you can always turn to the spiritual practices of prayer and affirmation. Below are three prayers/affirmations that you can say that will help with forgiveness.
The first is a traditional Christian prayer. The second is a New Thought Affirmative Prayer. The last is a simple and quick affirmation.
A Christian Forgiveness Prayer from Elijah House Incorporated.
Dear Lord, you have told me that forgiveness is not an option. You simply said I have to choose; yet, I can’t even do that! Do for me what I cannot do for myself. By myself, I cannot forgive. But, for Your sake, Jesus, as an act of my will, I give You any right I’ve felt was mine to throw people, even myself, into a debtor’s prison. Lord, I release_______: I forgive them for___________, Jesus. As you are my witness, they owe me nothing. I give You the right to hold them accountable for their actions. Lord, dismantle the prison I’ve built for others. Thank you, Jesus, for accomplishing forgiveness for me.
Lord, take the keys to the prison of unforgiveness I’ve built for myself. Release me from trying to make up for ______________, from the prison of trying to be worthy. You alone are my worth; I give You my feelings of unworthiness. Help me to forgive myself for what I did/did not do. Release me to receive the forgiveness You want to give. I give You the right to hold me accountable for my actions or lack thereof. You know what to require of me and of others, and when to give mercy.
I often want those who hurt me to hurt like I do. I want them to know the enormity of what they have done to me, and I want them to be sorry–but that is vengeance, and that is Your territory. Forgive me for trying to take Your place. Forgive me for my desire for vengeance. Thank You that I do not have to pretend it is all right, or that it does not hurt or matter. Thank you for listening to my expressions of pain. My hurt and my sin matter to You so much that You provided forgiveness for my healing.
Lord, wash my mind, spirit, and emotions of the acid of pain, resentment, and anger, and clothe me in your righteousness. I know my emotions will heal in time. In time I will be able to forgive emotionally as well—I will be able to feel the emotion of being forgiven and of extending forgiveness. Until then, Lord keep mending my wounded spirit and bruised emotions. Thank you for taking care of the legal aspects of forgiveness; for restoring relationship with others, You, and the Father. AMEN
New Thought Affirmative Prayer for Forgiveness by Dr. Joseph Murphy
I completely surrender __________ to God. God made him/her and He sustains him/her. I radiate love, peace, and goodwill to him/her, and I wish for him/her all the blessings of Heaven. I am a child of God. God loves me and cares for me. When a negative thought of anger, fear, self-criticism, self-condemnation, or resentment eaters my mind, I immediately supplant it with the thought of God in the midst of me. I know I have complete dominion over my thoughts and emotions. I am a channel of the Divine., I now redirect all my feelings and emotions along harmonious, constructive lines. Only God’s ideas enter my mind, bringing me harmony, health, and peace. Whenever I am prone to demean or to demote myself I will boldly affirm: “I exalt God in the midst of me. I am one with God, and one with God is a majority. If God is for me, who can be against me? (The Cosmic Power Within You, page 27)
A Simple Affirmation to Help with Self Forgiveness by Dr. Paul Masters
The Healing Power of the God-Mind within me has already forgiven me for times I have erred, just as I would forgive a child who knew no better. (Study Module 1, page 69).