It was made very clear when I first started meditation that learning to forgive others was key to inner peace and happiness. At the time, there were some specific people in my life who had hurt me in the past, and I simply couldn’t understand how forgiving them would be beneficial for me, because the hurt went too deep. As my meditation journey developed, I started to realise how much holding onto the anger and hurt was affecting me. Just thinking about bumping into them when I left the house would fill me with anger and anxiety. I finally understood that to feel happy and peaceful in life, I needed to be able to forgive them. However, I still didn’t know how. A year later in the middle of the night a scenario occurred to me which offered me immediate clarity and understanding as to why and how to forgive them. And just like that, after holding onto the anger and hurt for so long, I was finally able to let go of the negative emotions and forgive them. So here I am, sharing with you the scenario that went through my mind on that night, and the reasons why it is important to forgive others for own well-being.
Throughout your lifetime, you will inevitably encounter people who will cause you hurt and suffering. If you are someone who often holds onto anger and unhappiness that other people or unpleasant circumstances provoke in you, you are only causing yourself further unnecessary suffering and depriving yourself from achieving inner peace and happiness. When you can learn to forgive, you let go of all the unnecessary suffering and anger inside of you, and by doing so you are allowing yourself to live a life of peace and happiness.
There are many misconceptions about forgiveness, so it is important to know what forgiveness means. Forgiveness does NOT mean….
- Excusing the other person’s actions.
- Telling the person that he or she is forgiven.
- You have to become friends with that person again or allow them back into your life.
- Forgetting what happened.
Forgiving someone simply means you no longer feel any negative emotions towards that person and they no longer hold a negative space in your mind; they are completely neutral to you. Forgiveness isn’t something you do for the other person, it is something you do for YOU and YOUR benefit.
To do this exercise, you need to have a person in mind who has caused you upset or pain in the past, and of whom you are struggling to forgive. Even just thinking of them right now might make you start to feel angry or sad. This person could be an ex, an old friend, colleague, classmate, family member, or even someone you barely know. Now, I want you to imagine you are out food shopping at your local supermarket, and you’re walking down one of the food isles when you suddenly see them in front of you coming towards you. They’ve seen you so there’s no way you can turn around and go back, you are going to have to walk past them. Let’s run through these different scenarios of what you might choose to happen next:
- You go mad, you let all your anger out, you shout at them, maybe even punch them in the face!
- You act cold, you say hi but you are bitter and they realise this.
- You are completely neutral – you’re not angry but not exactly jumping for joy either. You speak to them and participate in small talk, answering in a friendly and warm tone. Then you carry on down the aisle like nothing happened.
Now let’s think, how do you feel after these scenarios?
- Your initial reaction might be relief, you’ve let your anger out and it felt good. But now your secondary emotion is kicking in, maybe you feel guilty for hurting them? Maybe you feel angry that you let them get to you again? Maybe you feel embarrassed you made such a scene? You are now left feeling angry and frustrated at the whole situation, maybe even more so than before you bumped into them!
- You might feel regret that you didn’t say something when you had the chance? Maybe you feel guilty for being so cold? You’re probably feeling confused with a mix of emotions.
- You come away feeling the same as you did before you saw them.
Ok, so now you may be thinking that the correct answer is scenario 3, but you may still be unconvinced this is the right option. To help you, here are the reasons why you should choose scenario 3:
- By choosing scenario 1 or 2, you are in some way being hurtful and unkind to the other person. For a moment have a little think – wasn’t that how they treated you? Isn’t that why you feel anger and unhappiness right now? After the hurt and anger you’ve been through, would you want to be the person to inflict that pain onto someone else? By choosing scenario 1 or 2, you are treating them the exact same way they treated you.
- Instead of focusing on the kind of things that make them a bad person, stay focused on what kind of person YOU want to be. Do you want to be the person who makes someone feel how you felt? Hurt, unhappy and angry? Or do you want to be the kind of person who can rise above that and always treat people kindly?
- You might choose to hold onto anger because you believe it will make the person you’re angry with realise they have done something wrong. But by holding onto that anger, you are putting the anger and pain more onto you than them. Furthermore, by you being angry with them they won’t realise that they have hurt you, that is something only they can choose to learn by themselves.
- Remember that getting angry will solve nothing and will only create more suffering for both yourself and others. You cannot feel happy and peaceful in life at the same time as feeling angry. The two emotions can never coexist, you need to choose to let go of anger to be able to feel the emotions of happiness and peace.
I hope by now I have helped you see not only why you need to forgive someone who has hurt you, but also how to forgive them. When you can forgive someone, it will feel like a massive weight being lifted from your shoulders. It takes a lot of strength and courage to forgive someone who has hurt you, so if you have now been able to forgive them, take a moment to feel proud of yourself that you have taken this massive step towards living a more peaceful and happy life.
Metta, E xx