“Forgiveness is the healing tool I carry with me everywhere.”
— L.L. Hay
What a powerful statement Louise L. Hay offers for us to contemplate! She continues this affirmation, embracing the idea of enjoying a “feeling of freedom” to remove a “heavy coat of criticism, fear, guilt, resentment, and shame.” This is letting go, allowing us to forgive. Love enters… we begin to heal. Incredibly powerful stuff!
According to the dictionary, “to forgive” is to quit feeling annoyed or resentful toward yourself or others for some perceived wrongdoing, shortcoming or mistake. The American Psychological Association defines forgiveness as “…the unintentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.” The Mayo Clinic website describes forgiveness as “a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge.” Jack Kornfield, Ph.D., renowned clinical psychologist and authority on mindfulness meditation practices, maintains that to forgive is “…giving up all hope of a better past.” Whenever we forgive, we honor our heart’s greatest dignity and bring ourselves to a grounded place of self-love and inner peace, freeing ourselves from the past. Many psychologists recommend that clients extend heartfelt compassion toward individuals who have wronged them, rather than permitting anger toward them.
Forgiveness differs from condoning, excusing, forgetting, pardoning or reconciliation. It does not require removing awareness of an offense from our consciousness, nor does it demand that we contact or relate to those who have done us harm. Forgiveness is not weak or naïve, nor does it happen quickly. It can be difficult to forgive others, but definitely toughest to forgive ourselves! Yet, each time we do, we gradually alter an undesirable habitual pattern, changing it into behavior that brings greater peace of mind. Letting go of bitterness and grudges open us to increased happiness, health and peace, allowing for a more compassionate outlook. Forgiveness can lead to:
• healthier relationships due to less anxiety, stress and hostility
• greater spiritual and psychological wellbeing
• fewer symptoms of depression
• improved heart health and lower blood pressure
• a stronger immune system
• higher self-esteem.
“Forgiveness means never putting another person out of our heart” (J. Kornfield). This “tool” is instrumental in finding inner peace and understanding. Nurturing the art of forgiving is central to sanctity of relationships, and a true commitment to a process of change. Cultivating the ability to forgive involves reflecting on facts of each situation, your reaction, and its affects on your life, health and wellbeing. We can choose forgiveness, an empowering way to move out of the “victim role,” making it easier to release adverse impacts that situations have had in our lives. Working with highly qualified professionals who help us empower ourselves toward more easily letting go may be necessary.
Please consider the value of forgiveness in your life. Let go of resentment, opening the door to greater understanding of self and others. Carry your healing tool of forgiveness with you — everywhere. Amazingly, your life will no longer be defined by how you have been hurt.
Teresa (Teddy) E. Araas, Ph.D., CHES, E-RYT-500, CYT-700 owns local businesses Balanced Living Health & Wellbeing Consultants, LLC and Santosha Yoga. She holds an adjunct research fellowship and teaches doctoral courses in health promotion and wellness in the Department of Health Sciences, Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, Provo, Utah.