How many times have we read or heard something that made perfect sense, something whose “logic” and “universal truth” was undeniable but we could not “feel” it in our essence and, as a result, we could not apply it in our lives? How many times have we tried to force that truth/ideal/principle into our lives but in vain? How many of us have felt a sort of guilt for not being able to live by it?
If this has already happened to you, do not despair! We have all been through that phase and we will probably go through it again. All we have to do is to release the guilt and be present. Accept who we are at that particular moment in our lives and be patient. The “truth” will work its way into our essence. The moment will come when this truth will become an experience or, even better, a way of life.
One of such universal truths is forgiveness.
Spiritual and religious figures, philosophers, psychologists, they all tell us that we “have to forgive” the people who have hurt us. Some of them have gone so far as to say that we should even “turn the other cheek” and “love our enemies”. They have talked about the power of forgiveness; forgiveness can liberate us, it can transform our lives, it can free us from pain and suffering. In a nutshell, they have said that forgiveness is “the right thing to do”.
How easy is that though? How can we shift from anger, hate, bitterness, hurt etc. to unconditional love as we are asked to?
This is where the vicious circle begins… This is when we are “sent on a guilt trip”…
I have been on this trip many times myself, trying to persuade myself even lying to myself by telling myself that I have forgotten and forgiven, which worked fine until the next provocation/mention/memory, which threw me into a stage of rage. Then, the guilt always took over… “I am not a spiritual person. I am not a good person. I cannot forgive as I am supposed to…”
All this, up until I found out about the 5 steps that lead to forgiveness:
It all started to make sense! What I had heard thus far about forgiveness was replace anger/hate/bitterness with love. How could that be possible? How could I tell my heart what to feel? How can I do this colossal work?
The answer is simple. We can do this work if we stay focused on the present (to find out how, go to my “Here and now” article).
This is exactly how these 5 steps work. You take one step at a time.
What works about these steps is that with steps 1 and 2 we use our brain, our intellectual capacities, our logic, if you like, as a Trojan horse to enter the heart. We all know that thoughts create emotions and that by controlling our thoughts we can control how we feel. So, here comes step 1!
STEP 1 – ACCEPTANCE
Acceptance is a mental process. It has nothing to do with how we feel about something. It has to do with facts and not with emotions. All we have to do is to use our intellectual capacity, our logic, instead of our emotions.
The first thing that we need to do is accept that “this horrible thing or series of things” happened to us. It is unfair, it is unacceptable that such things should happen but they do. They did. And they happened to us. Maybe we allowed them to happen, maybe we did everything within our power to stop them, maybe we were unable to stop them and we were just the unfortunate victims of circumstances. But they did happen and we need to accept it. It hurts to accept it. We do not want it to be true. But the truth is that it happened and we must accept that can do nothing to change what happened in the past and the consequences that this fact has in the present. What we can change is our perspective.
Acceptance does not mean liking, wanting, choosing, or supporting what was done. It does not mean that you cannot change things or that you should be passive and do nothing. On the contrary, it requires a lot of effort!
First of all, it must be practiced consciously. It should be a daily exercise for your brain. By trying to intellectually accept the facts on a daily basis, you are creating new pathways between the neurons in your brain and, as a result, different emotional reactions every time you think about the event(s). Just make sure you give yourself enough time so that you will not feel guilt when you go back and forth, accepting one day and denying it the next. Be compassionate with yourself and keep telling yourself that you can and you will eventually get there!
Secondly, do not tell yourself that acceptance is synonymous to resignation. It is not! It is the opposite of resignation. Thanks to acceptance, you can finally take action to change what can be changed in the present!
Lastly, with acceptance, you can focus your attention on what you can do in the present and visualize what your life will be like in the future after all the changes you will have been in place! When you do that, you set the law of attraction in motion and actively create your future!
With all that, you have taken the first step towards forgiveness…
To be continued…