How to Practice Forgiveness
Forgiveness is one of the greatest skills you can develop for yourself, as well as those around you (and the world as a whole!). Fortunately, forgiveness is something you get better at with practice. In this article, I will share with you something you can do to practice forgiveness, particularly with someone you know personally who has wronged you in some way.
- Sit down in a chair or on the floor, with your back and neck aligned.
- Think of someone you want to forgive, and think about what it is that you want to forgive them for. Keep this person and this conversation topic in mind. You are going to visualize having a conversation with this person about this. But first…
- With your back and neck aligned, release any tension in your body, focus on your breath for a few moments, then control your breath, inhaling and exhaling for 4 counts each.
- Repeat a loving mantra, for example, “My heart is filled with God’s love.” When you only feel love, anchor yourself in this feeling. Anchor yourself in love and hold onto this feeling. When you feel you have a solid grasp of this feeling, only then can you move on.
- It is vital that you keep yourself anchored in love, tethered to your heart. During your visualization, let your heart speak and feel whatever it needs to release from this point forward. If you feel the need to cry or sob, let yourself do it. Let yourself feel, let yourself be human, let yourself be alive.
- Now, visualize having a conversation with this person about the thing they did to wrong you. You can visualize them denying it at first, because that is usually what we do when we are confronted. Visualize yourself—feel yourself—remaining in the feeling of love before explaining to them that you only want to tell them that you forgive them. Tell them explicitly what they did to you that you are forgiving them for. (If this person is especially difficult from your experience, you can visualize them denying it more than once before moving on, just so your ego does not step in to say, “nah, that’s not accurate.”)
- Visualize their sudden realization. Visualize the expression of shame on their face once they realize that you are serious. Visualize them realizing what they did and verbally beating themselves up for it (because this is what we usually do in this case). Visualize them realizing that what they did was wrong and them saying nasty things about themselves for having done it in the first place. Visualize them regretting it immensely and terribly. (This is human nature. When the vast majority of people—about 90%—recognize that they harmed another living soul and caused them pain, they feel great remorse and tend to beat themselves up for it.)
- Remind them, “It’s okay, I forgive you. I am only sharing this with you to let you know that it is okay, that I forgive you, that I love you, and that we can both move forward. I know you have been holding onto this in your mind as much as I have. And I forgive you. That is the only reason I brought this up to you.” (Most people never consciously forgive themselves for things they subconsciously know to be “wrong.” As a result, they subconsciously hold onto guilt, which builds to be immensely painful over time. This is how many people develop terminal diseases—not all, but many.)
- Visualize them feeling so guilty for having hurt you that they are on the verge of tears. Visualize them crying for realizing that they hurt you and that they did so, and that they feel disgusted at themselves for having let it happen. Feel yourself forgiving this person, realizing that they are human just like you, that they feel regret and guilt and shame just like you. Remind them that you forgive them and that you love them and that you want to move forward with them. Tell them firmly and lovingly, “It’s okay. I forgive you. You are not a bad person. I know you did not want to hurt me. I know that this has been eating away at you and I do not want you to suffer anymore. I forgive you. Please forgive yourself, because I forgive you. It is the past. we can both move on.”
- See them saying, through tears, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry, please forgive me.” remind them, “I forgive you. I do. I love you, and I know that it was not your intention to hurt me. Please forgive yourself, because I forgive you.” Visualize them nodding or agreeing with you, though they are still crying.
- Visualize yourself hugging them. Feel the embrace between you and another soul who truly does not want to harm others. Feel true forgiveness and love. Take a moment to let yourself feel and express gratitude for being able to forgive and love another human being regardless of what they do to you.
Of course, this activity is best done with a therapist, coach, or someone you trust who can stay anchored in presence and help you through this visualization activity.
I go into far greater detail about empathy and forgiveness in my book, realizing my Self in the psychiatric ward, which you can find here!
Hope that helps!