August 27th is Global Forgiveness day for 2014. A day set aside to forgive others of their trespasses against us. I don’t think there’s a person on this earth that hasn’t been hurt by another person. There are so many reasons to hold a grudge, to seek revenge or to just harbor ill will towards another. Broken hearts, betrayal, crimes, failed relationships, injustice… the list goes on and on.
So although we may feel justified, the question really is: does it do us any good?
Practicing the art of forgiving has proven to decrease stress, lessen anger, abate depression which all leads to an increased ability to feel peace, compassion, hope and self confidence. Forgiving others promotes physical health and stronger relationships. Because it influences our attitude, it opens our hearts to love, kindness and beauty.
We may all know the benefits of forgiving and letting things go. We all know that forgiveness can truly make our home sweet home a place of joy. But how does one put that into practice and make it part of our life? Here are some ways that may help:
1. Make a Commitment To Let it Go
Our thinking and behaviors do not change overnight, but they can over time. The first step is to commit to making that change. Our pain will not go away as we continue to blame. The change will come from within first. From the thoughts we decide to pay attention to and deciding to reject thoughts that do not take us down the path of forgiveness.
2. Remember that You Have a Choice
We can’t control the actions of other people. It’s pointless to invest our energies in trying to do that. But we do have control over our own actions. We have control over our own thoughts, even. So when we’re tempted to re-live a certain injustice or painful situation, we have a choice NOT to. Exercising our power over our thoughts is just like exercising our physical muscles. The more we do it, the better we get at it, and the stronger those “muscles” become.
3. Focus on Blessings – Choose to be Thankful
After we’ve made that commitment to let our pain go, and realize that we have a choice as to what we think and do, we can focus our attention on the present moment and our future. We can’t change the past, but dwelling on it can rob us of our future. Think of the present moment and all that is going on. Think of all the good things you have in your life – make a list even. The more comprehensive the list the better. Note even the tiny positive things. Decide to have joy in your life right now. Just as forgiving is a choice, have joy is also a choice. Seeing your blessings everyday is a way to feel joy. First we choose joy, then we feel it.
4. Decide to have Compassion and Forgive
Empathy is the practice of feeling what someone feels. It takes patience and love to develop. Yet when we truly empathize with someone, even our enemies, we can’t help but find compassion for them. That doesn’t mean we dismiss what they did or that it is okay. But it means we can learn to love and forgive despite the pain. It means we allow ourselves to let go of the pain. It isn’t up to us to “punish” someone (outside of our children) for hurtful things they have done. Their own consequences will come to them at some point, just as it will for all of us. Choosing to have compassion for someone is not accepting their behavior, it is acknowledging the value of the person themselves. It is realizing that we all make mistakes and we all need forgiveness. It is allowing peace to come into our lives instead of pain and despair.