In this episode Willard discusses the importance of forgiveness and the idea that when we forgive someone it is about freeing ourselves more than "forgetting" what someone has done to us. He also offers two exercises to help you forgive others in your own life.
Today we're going to discuss how to forgive.
I think before we talk about how to forgive, we should talk about why forgiveness is important. I know when I was younger I was told that I needed to forgive and forget; and I have to say that never made sense to me. I had this perception that if I felt someone had "done me wrong", when I was angry, when I had a resentment; Why was I supposed to forgive and forget? If I did that, then they would be able to do it to me again. I had the impression that forgiveness was something I needed to "give" them so they could be free of the guilt. This came from my religious perception of being taught how to forgive and needing to ask for forgiveness and that I could only "feel good" when I knew I was forgiven.
As I continued on my journey there came a point where I was taught that forgiveness had nothing to do with the other person. It was about releasing myself from the attachment to the experience and allowing myself to move forward. But I still did not know "how to forgive".
Take a look at your life and think about how much time and energy... mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and financial you spend focused on resentment. If you answer honestly, I think you would be amazed at how much time and energy is wasted just thinking about the anger that you have towards somebody else.
So what happens when we shift our belief to the idea that forgiveness is about freeing yourself? Again this is a concept I was introduced to when I first started my journey of personal development and self-awareness. At that point in my life, I had really no desire to forgive. I spent most of my time angry and resenting something or someone. Forgiveness was not what I was about. But at that point in early sobriety, I was trying to figure out how to stay alive. For those of you that are familiar with my story, you know that when I began the journey of changing my life, I had some huge leverage for myself. I believed fully that if I didn't change, either I was going to die or I was going to kill somebody else while I was under the influence and I would live in jail for the rest of my life with the knowledge that I had done that. So I had a lot of leverage to do what people told me even when I didn't really want to.
When I was in rehab and I was told, that I needed to begin forgiving the people that I was angry at, I didn't really question why, I questioned how to forgive. And what they told me about how to forgive was that for two weeks every night when I went to bed I was supposed to think about the things I wanted for myself, and then wish for those things for this other person. It sounded insane to me! I was supposed to wish for all the things that I desire for myself, for a person I hate?!?!? This was not an easy concept for me to grasp because at that point of my life, I hated a lot of people.
But I did what they suggested, because again I was willing to do whatever it took to change my life. It is hard for some people to understand the mental state that I was in. It is actually hard to describe, other than to say I was willing to do whatever it took, whatever somebody told me I needed to do if it meant that I was going to stay sober for another day. So even though this suggestion of how to forgive someone by wishing the same thing for the person I wanted for myself made no sense... I did it.
And it worked. I am not going to say that it completely and totally erased the anger that I had. But it reduced it by probably 90-95% to where I wasn't focusing so much energy on the people that I was upset with. And by not focusing on the anger, it gave me the ability to focus on working on me.
Forgiveness is about taking care of our side of the street. Forgiveness is about being able to move forward, it is about being able to grow.
Something that I also learned about how to forgive in my own spiritual journey, my self awareness journey is I have come to believe that everything happens for a reason and it is there to give us opportunities for growth. Every experience, good and bad has occurred to give us lessons, it has happened to give us opportunities that we would not have had, without that experience happening.
As an example, my father left my mother standing at the altar. He just did not show up for the wedding. As a result, he was not a part of my life or my childhood. The first time that I remember interacting with my father face to face, was when I was 21 years old and it was not a good experience, because at that point I was at the height of drinking and drug use and when he and I met face to face, I had already been drinking for most of the night. The interaction that night with him was not a civil one. I actually humiliated him in front of a bar full of people.
Later on as I got sober, actually I do have to say this was a perfect example of everything happening for a reason; The night that he and I interacted together I believe one of the reasons for it was that I finally got sober. That night gave me a glimpse of who I was turning into. All the bad things I had heard about him, I saw in myself that night and I believe that it was a catalyst for me getting sober a few years later.
14 years after that interaction I had with him in the bar I had grown to the point in my own self development that I decided it was time for me to reach out and apologize to him for the way I had treated him that night. I had come to a place in my own growth where I had to admit that I had hurt potentially just as many people as he did, just as badly and possibly worse. I decided that I needed to apologize to him because I now had compassion for where he was in his own journey.
I reached out to him when I was 35 years old and that the phone call that we had was not the "Oprah" type of reconnection that you see happen on TV. And I want to warn you that sometimes when you are approaching someone to forgive them or to apologize you may not get the response you were hoping for or expecting. You need to remember that this is about cleaning up yourself, not how they're going to react.
Again, my experience was not one of those hallmark moments. The phone conversation lasted about five minutes and when we got off the phone, I actually came to a place of peace accepting that he and I were never going to have a relationship. And as I sat back and reviewed the conversation and then reviewed his role in my life, I was able to look at it from a totally different perspective.
By the time this happened, I had been studying more spiritual approaches to life, looking for ways to perceive my life differently. And I began to look at my fathers role from the perception of, "How did his involvement, or lack thereof in my life positively impact me?" For years I had anger towards him for the fact that he was not a father for me and that I had to grow up without a father. But now I looked at it and realized that by his not being part of my life, it helped me to become the person that I was very proud to be. By his not being there for me as a child, it made me totally committed to being in my daughter's life even when I knew that her mother and I were not going to be together. As I looked at it from this new perspective it made it so much easier to release the anger and to forgive him for all the things that I used to hold against him.
So very quickly, let's review two exercises on how to forgive. The first exercise on how to forgive is, and again it may not make any sense but if you do it you are going to experience a shift in the emotions that you feel towards the person. For the next two weeks, every night when you go to bed, think about what it is you want in your own life; a loving relationship, financial prosperity, peace, good health, all of the things you want for yourself, and when you think about these things you need to wish for the same things for the person that you want to forgive. If you are a person who prays, pray that they receive those things.
The second exercise on how to forgive is a little bit more of an esoteric exercise. The idea is for you to look back at your life, at any of the experiences you might have had where you need to be able to forgive. I do know that sometimes these are very traumatic experiences and that it may be hard for you to imagine how to forgive someone for those experiences or even for you to look back at them. As you look back at them, detach yourself. I actually have an article about how to do that called "Detachment" on the website that will give you more details on how to do that. Look at the experience and ask yourself, "What positive opportunity was created because of that experience?" And you may have to stretch your comfort zone to find an answer to that. But if you truly ask, I believe that you will find something. Then rather than holding on to the anger for what you felt was done to you, thank the person for the opportunity that was created. Again, I know that is not always easy for a lot of people, but it can be life changing.
Maybe you can share some things with me that you use on how to forgive. I look forward to hearing your results,, I look forward to connecting again soon.
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Self-Awareness 101 Series with Transcription Plus
Introduction To Self-Awareness 101: To Inspire, Educate and Empower
SA 101 Episode 1: The Importance of Developing Self-Awareness
SA 101 Episode 2: How to Truly Learn from Mistakes
SA 101 Episode 3: To Soar, I Needed To Let Go Of The Past
SA 101 Episode 4: The Meaning That We Give Things
SA 101 Episode 5: Kind Words And Good Deeds Are Eternal
SA 101 Episode 6: Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone
SA 101 Episode 7: Two Most Powerful Words You'll Ever Say
SA 101 Episode 8: Making Time For What's Truly Important
SA 101 Episode 9: Expectations and Desires About How It Ought To Be
SA 101 Episode 10: Tap Into The Sources Of The Universe
SA 101 Episode 11: The Four Agreements
SA 101 Episode 12: Courage-Being Scared But Saddling Up Anyways
SA 101 Episode 13: The Power Of Belief Systems
SA 101 Episode 14: Change Is Inevitable, Growth Is Optional
SA 101 Episode 15: You Always Have Choices, It's OK To Say No
SA 101 Episode 16: Encountering External Resistance To Change
SA 101 Episode 17: Creating A Supportive Environment
SA 101 Episode 18: Our Decisions Determine Who We Become
SA 101 Episode 19: Questions To Ask When You Overcome An Obstacle
SA 101 Episode 20: A List Of Excuses Vs. Results
SA 101 Episode 21: The Meaning Of Honesty
SA 101 Episode 22: Living In Gratitude
SA 101 Episode 23: Repetitive Patterns
SA 101 Episode 24: Non-Verbal Cues
SA 101 Episode 25: Be Brave Enough To Accept The Help Of Others
SA 101 Episode 26: Positive Thoughts And Positive Intentions
SA 101 Episode 27: Active Listening Skills
SA 101 Episode 28: How Self-Awareness Relates To Spirituality
SA 101 Episode 29: Positive Affirmations
SA 101 Episode 30: Basic Meditation Exercises
SA 101 Episode 31: Personal Development At Work
SA 101 Episode 32: Toxic Shame
SA 101 Episode 33: Eliminating Clutter
SA 101 Episode 34: How To Forgive Others
SA 101 Episode 35: Self-Forgiveness
SA 101 Episode 36: Deepening Self-Awareness
SA 101 Episode 37: What Is Fear?
SA 101 Episode 38: How To Overcome Fear
SA 101 Episode 39: Dealing With Your Anger
SA 101 Episode 40: How To Find Your Passion
SA 101 Episode 41: Increasing Your Self-Awareness
SA 101 Episode 42: How To Feel Deserving
SA 101 Episode 43: How To Be A Humble Observer
SA 101 Episode 44: Progress Not Perfection
SA 101 Episode 45: Expectations And Perfectionism
SA 101 Episode 46: Dealing With Anger
SA 101 Episode 47: Taking Responsibility For Yourself
SA 101 Episode 48: Achieving Higher Consciousness
SA 101 Episode 49: Trust Life
SA 101 Episode 50: Being Skeptical
SA 101 Episode 51: Benefits Of Closure
SA 101 Episode 52: The Final Episode