When considering forgiveness, we usually treat it as something external to ourselves. We see forgiveness as something that we give to others who “deserve it”, or withhold it from those who we feel have wronged us. But rarely do we take the much needed time and reflection to forgive ourselves. And furthermore, when we forgive another, that act can be more healing for ourselves than for the offender.
Disclaimer: you have been only taught half of the power of forgiveness.
In my experience, there are two additional definitions:
1. : to release yourself from the burden of an emotional attachment to a person, event, or circumstance that had caused you harm or distress
2. : to claim ownership of and recycle energy that is caught in a destructive or ill-fitting pattern
Let me explain:
When you forgive someone, you’re letting go. You’re making the choice to no longer live in the past, to not harbor regret or resentment, and to step forward – with or without that other person still included in your life (because that’s your choice). Holding onto pain and anger with the refusal to let someone else get away with making you feel that way is actually harming you further. It keeps you standing still. You don’t progress, you don’t evolve, you don’t grow. And, you don’t learn from your mistakes or experience either. So, although it may seem as though you’re punishing someone else, you’re really punishing yourself by withholding forgiveness. If you don’t associate the choice to forgive with the other person, and treat it instead as an act of kindness to yourself – stand back world – because you’re about to grow in so many aspects of your life!!
The second definition that I’ve given builds upon the first, with the added bonus that if you do this for yourself – you will truly be free to actualize your potential to its fullest! We all go through phases in life where we’re not being the best version of ourself. Or maybe there are things in life that you regret, based on your own choices or inaction. When we hold onto feelings like shame, regret, and any form of negative thought patterns against ourselves (“I’m not _______ enough”, “I hate _______ about myself”, etc.), we limit the person that we are and who we share with the world. Making the choice to forgive yourself will release the energy that has been dedicated to tearing you down (because energy follows thoughts and intention) and free it up to do great things for you instead.
When I journeyed through postpartum depression, I became one of the ugliest forms of myself that I had ever experienced. I felt imprisoned and it took me a year to break those chains, an additional year to return to who I truly am, and another six months to have my body reflect the soul that it houses. One of the most important steps in my own healing process was to acknowledge the person I had allowed myself to be and own it – every dark, ugly part of it. For a long time, I kept thinking of the person I was being almost as something external to myself – because when you have postpartum psychosis, you develop thought patterns that you know you would never consciously think of normally. So, in taking responsibility for that phase of my life, I was able to forgive myself and release the energy that still felt scared, guilty, and angry with myself. It wasn’t until I did this (through intention and visualization techniques) that I truly felt that the postpartum depression chapter was finally at a close.
Take some time to meditate on the idea of forgiveness, form your own definitions, and begin to live your life as openly and freely as you were always meant to.