by Lynn Woodland Can we have love but not forgiveness?
Or true forgiveness without love?
Without forgiveness we can't love.
From the perspective of spiritual reality, the statements "I love you but don't forgive you" and "I forgive you but I don't love you" are impossibilities.
Love and forgiveness go hand in hand.
We can't have one without the other.
True forgiveness is not something we do for another person.
I often hear people speak of forgiveness as something we give to someone else, something that must be deserved or earned, and sometimes needs to be withheld.
The spiritual purpose of forgiveness is self-healing.
As long as we are holding anger, resentment and grudges against another person, we are poisoning our bodies with toxicity, lowering our immunity to disease and on subtler levels generating thoughts, expectations and attitudes that repel our highest good.
As we hold on to the belief that someone has harmed us so badly that we cannot, will not, forgive, we give power to the part of us that feels vulnerable and susceptible to being harmed.
Our lack of forgiveness actually draws more circumstances that will feed our anger and victimization.
Lack of forgiveness has been related as a contributing factor to physical illness, excess weight, financial scarcity, failed relationships and a host of other problems.
Lack of forgiveness inhibits love, which is the only true source of power.
As we withhold forgiveness, we inhibit our power and our very life-force.
Medical intuitive Caroline Myss, who, through her gift of intuitive sight sees the energy patterns that lead to illness, says, "By far the strongest poison to the human spirit is the inability to forgive oneself or another person."
Now that we have established its importance, what exactly does it mean to forgive?
What often makes forgiveness so difficult is that we tend to think of it as a sacrifice, as giving in, giving up, losing our "rightness.
" It's like giving up the chip that says
"You owe me."
It seems to discount the pain we felt.
Forgiveness is sometimes experienced as letting someone who hurt us off the hook, no longer holding them accountable for their actions.
But forgiveness is not an act of negotiation between two people.
It does not begin and end by speaking the words "I forgive you."
Instead, it is an internal state, an ongoing process rather than an act.
True forgiveness is not about excusing someone's hurtful actions.
It goes much deeper than this.
It is the inner awareness that no harm was done, thus there is, in truth, nothing to forgive.
Most of what passes for forgiveness is rooted in the belief that we are separate and vulnerable and have been harmed.
In this way, the act of forgiveness directs the attention of both people to the hurtful act.
The forgiver feels self-righteous, the forgiven, guilty.
The whole process strengthens both people's belief in the reality of separateness and harm, and in this way is disempowering to both.
True forgiveness is a shifting of attention away from the hurtful act, not in denial, but in release.
It means identifying with the higher part of ourselves that was never harmed so we can see past the illusion of separateness to the reality of Oneness.
As we understand ourselves to be one with the person who hurt us, forgiveness becomes self-forgiveness.
As we transcend our belief in ourselves as victims, we are able to see the other person differently.
Instead of seeing his or her "wrongness" we see the pain that motivated his or her actions.
Living from a belief that doing harm brings personal gain is a prison of separateness, powerlessness and pain.
Anyone who acts intentionally to harm another is trapped in this painful prison, even if he or she doesn't recognize it as such.
When we understand this, we can more easily feel compassion instead of rage.
As with the idea of "love," I have heard the concept of forgiveness promoted in spiritual, metaphysical and psychological circles for years as the spiritual thing, the healthy thing, the right thing to do.
And, as with teachings on love, I have heard much more on the benefits and reasons to do it than on how to do it.
How can we coax our hearts into forgiveness when they feel hardened or broken?
Words of forgiveness are worth nothing without truth behind them.
Let following help you find a path into the process of forgiving.
Let Go of Victim Scenarios
Write a "victim" scenario.
Describe everything that was done to you unjustly, all the ways you have been harmed, every way you are right and the other party is wrong.
Next, describe the same scenario from the perspective that it was somehow a great lesson, gift or turning point in your life that served you in some important way.
Write this even if you don't believe it.
Take the first scenario of yourself as victim and symbolically release it: burn it, tear it up, bury it or flush it.
As you let it go imagine that you are releasing the need to feel victimized.
Keep the second scenario and read it every day for at least a week.
See the Reflection of Your Core Beliefs
Instead of focusing attention on the wrong thing that has been done to you, imagine that this painful experience reflects some belief or expectation you have about life.
This doesn't mean you "asked" to be hurt.
It means that you learned, probably when you were very young, to expect painful experiences.
Release blame, shame and any idea that you have done something wrong and simply look at this situation as a mirror, giving you important information about your core beliefs.
Every day for a month, pray to God or your Higher Self for help in stepping out of the hurtful dance you have created with this other person.
Pray for help in releasing the beliefs and expectations that call hurt into your life.
If you are working on forgiving a parent or other person from your early childhood who helped to instill your limiting core beliefs about life, you can still see your experience with this person as reflecting some deep level of choice.
Imagine that your Higher Self called this relationship into your life for a purpose.
For example, if I look at all the pain my alcoholic father caused me in my childhood and early adulthood, I am tempted to feel rage and powerlessness.
However when I think of the turns my life took as a direct result of this early pain, I realize that my whole life path with its focus of love and healing was because of my father.
From this perspective, I see a higher purpose to our meeting and can actually feel gratitude for this painful experience in my life.
Get to the Root of Displaced Anger
When your anger is toward a group, an institution or society, rather than an individual, it is important to remember that anger is a much weaker power source than love.
Many feel that anger is a necessary ingredient for creating change.
While anger can motivate action, ultimately, when we give attention to victimization and abuse, we may achieve some sense of victory, but we also perpetuate a reality that includes victims and abusers.
The more we motivate ourselves from a place of anger, the more we will continually have to fight victimization.
Being angry at a group often has a feeling of hopelessness built into it.
While we may be able to create peace and resolution in relation to one person, doing so with all of society is obviously more difficult.
When we often find ourselves angry at "the system" in one form or another, there is usually a person or people from early in our lives we need to forgive.
This early hurt, usually related to one or both of our parents or other significant adult care-takers, imbedded within us feelings of anger and powerlessness that we project onto other situations in our lives.
We may also find that we have anger toward one or more of the important people in our adult life ¾ a spouse, friend or co-worker - and have displaced this anger onto an impersonal system because we fear the consequences of our anger.
It may be easier to face the anger we have toward a faceless system than to deal with the true source of our feeling, which invariably comes back to personal relationships with individuals.
However, it is far more manageable to forgive an individual than a system.
When you find yourself angry at a group, find the one individual you most need to forgive.
If, for example you are angry at a company where you used to work, focus on the one person you feel the most anger toward.
If you are angry at society or other such large institutions where there is no one single individual who stands out, then look to see who in your life you are holding anger toward.
If all approaches to forgiveness feel equally difficult, you probably have at least as much trouble forgiving yourself as you do others.
In this case, begin the forgiveness process by forgiving yourself.
Make a list of all the things you hold against yourself and begin to say out loud and as written affirmations, "I, (your name), forgive myself for ___________."
Louise Hay suggests looking at yourself in the mirror as you say affirmations of self-love.
I find this mirror technique to be especially helpful in working on self-forgiveness.