A dear friend of mine asked the question: "How do you forgive somebody who constantly hurts you?"
This a BIG question not just for individuals but for society itself. When somebody's behaviour creates pain either emotional, physical or psychological distress, discord and disharmony within us, how can we forgive them?
There are two dimensions of forgiveness that need separating into their right aspects. First of all there is third party forgiveness which usually involves an incident or incidents involving somebody we care about being mistreated by another person or it can be from a societal stand point of a person we don't know personally committing an affront that affects us as a society and we feel the action as a society on this level. This type of trespass by it's nature is very individual and circumstance specific and whilst the objective remains to get to a point where we move past the pain, the path of forgiveness this requires is different under these circumstances than it is for the second and more generally applicable first person forgiveness.
First person forgiveness is the dynamic whereby somebody in our life consistently behaves in a manner that triggers us to experience feelings of psychological, physical and/or emotional pain. It is often sustained and repetitive behaviour that goes on over a long period of time often to the point where it becomes "normal" and our emotional compass is automatically set to deal and respond to this person.
When we are children we are taught what our value is by our parents, our schools, our friends and our society. If we are truly lucky to have been raised by a network of care givers and educators who nurtured and nourished our emotional needs with positive praise for the good things we did, gentle correction of our errors and received a consistency of Love; if as children we are encouraged to aim high and be the best because we are the best and there is nothing on this earth that we can not achieve with passion and dedication; if as children we were told that we were good enough, that we were worthy, that our bodies were beautiful temples and that a child or adult did not have the right to abuse us because we are sacred and that the fact that we are alive makes us worthy of being Loved, respected and adored then the odds are stacked in our favour that as adults we will grow up knowing that we are worth "it", confident, self assured and peaceful.
However, in reality most of us did not grow up with our sense of self esteem in tact. Nobody told us how amazing we truly are. Nobody told us we are literally diamonds in the sky and that we shine with very little effort. In fact no effort at all when you know who you are and what you are worth.
"But what has this got to do with forgiveness?" I hear you ask.
It's fundamental because it is our self esteem that determines what we will or will not tolerate in the first place. It is our self esteem that teaches us as parents what standards we set in our children. Knowing what you are worth turns a dial inside that sets the bar for how you interact with the world and how the world interacts with you.
Society has trained us to expect people to behave in a way that makes us feel good about ourselves when the truth is nobody has this power. If you can not identify within yourself what is acceptable behaviour, if you do not know where to draw your own line then you are open to having your heartbroken and your trust violated.
Every single human being on this planet wants to feel inner peace and harmony. Our pain may have developed highly sophisticated and intelligent reasons why we can't be happy but our heart knows different. It is our heart that knows right from wrong but if you're brain has been trained not to speak your heart's truth then you will always be searching outside of yourself for peace and it is this search that damages our self esteem. We look for peace where there is none, in relationships (family, friends and lovers) that are destructive because what we are searching for is validation. We need to know that we exist and that we mean something to someone and when our dial is set on low we open ourselves to repeating the same pattern of behaviour. The people may change (new boyfriend, different boss etc) but the pattern remains the same. It is the search for somebody to tell that part of us that never got told as a child that we are OK, that we are good enough, that we are worthy of Love.
So how do you forgive another human being who wrongs you? By going backwards and healing your own wounds first. Forgiveness is not about releasing somebody else from their behaviour or the consequence of what they have done. If a man hits a woman there is no justification for this action. If a woman sleeps with her best friend's husband, there is no justification for this action. Likewise, if your son steals from your purse or your daughter repeatedly lies to you, do not condone this behaviour. The action itself is not what you are forgiving, theft is theft, cheating is cheating! You're just choosing not to be hurt anymore. What you are doing by forgiving somebody who hurts you is releasing yourself from their action. "I forgive you." Should literally translate into "I release me."
Here comes the bit nobody who suffers wants to hear: "Nobody is coming to rescue you." If you want to move forward you have to stop wishing for a better past. You have to step right back and detach yourself from any feelings of guilt, shame, anger, hate and betrayal. All your negative feelings have to be relinquished because you need to heal those wounds in order to raise your bar. This draws your line, marks your boundary and empowers you to not let another person hurt you. When you know how much you are Loved unconditionally because you are the one doing the Loving you will not tolerate any other human being treating you with anything less than Love. When they do treat you with less than Love because you are coming from a place of Love you can stand your ground and reject being treated badly because their behaviour, (not them) is un-Loving. You can say "No, I will not allow you to treat me like this because I Love myself enough not to allow you to harm me." and mean it because the validation you were searching for from them i.e. the hope that they would one day be nice to you, has been found in you. It was there all along. Nobody told you when you were younger where to find it but that's OK because you know where the Truth resides NOW. It is in you, you are good enough.
Are you a half decent human being? Are you kind? Are you Loving? Are you caring? Are you willing to help others?
If the answer is yes to any of the above then lay down your sword, top up your glass and forgive yourself for thinking that you were ever anything other than amazing. We all have flaws but so do diamonds! So top up your own glass and let your Love for your Self flow and it will dilute and then flush out the pain of the past and reset your future. You will then attract into your life that which you are, Love! Like attracts like and people who want to harm you when you start to radiate your true Self will be blinded by your light and the choice then becomes theirs as to how they interact with you based on how you interact with you!
Love is like Teflon coating. It protects us from all life's dirty sticky bits. It's antiseptic! It does not let toxic judgments and negative beliefs fester inside lowering our ability to receive the Love we deserve, we then effortlessly pour back out into the world unconditionally and then receive back again eternally.
You are a valued and wonderful gift to the world. You have wisdom and insights to share. You truly are unique and a blessing, you always were. There is nothing dirty or shameful about you. I forgive you for thinking less than beautiful Loving thoughts about who you are :-)
I promise you that the gift of Forgiveness is Freedom. Freedom not from our past because you can not change what has gone but freedom from how we perceive it.
So take a deep breath, open your heart, let the tears flow, forgive and feel your freedom coming, you deserve Peace.
Lots of Love.