As many of you know, I was severely abused in childhood. And standing here today, I have completely forgiven the man who abused me as a child. So when it comes to forgiveness, I am overqualified not just as a teacher of universal truth, but also as a personal survivor, to share with you the truths and myths about forgiveness.
Many people have been confused about why I haven’t taught directly about forgiveness up to this point. The reason is that forgiveness is such a spiritual trap and the typical human approach to it causes so much damage that I would rather the average person not focus on it at all.
One thing people cannot seem to agree upon is what it means to forgive someone. To forgive someone is to give up feeling resentment, anger or the need for requital that you hold relative to someone or something that you feel has hurt you. It is experienced as a deep relief. A deep relief of tension occurs in forgiveness because you are no longer stuck on a hook of not being able to move forward in life because of what happened. You are no longer on the hook to need something like retaliation or compensation from them in order to move forward. You are no longer plagued by painful feelings of resentment or anger or resistance towards them.
I am going to begin this talk by making a statement that I never want you to forget about forgiveness. It is going to set the stage for your understanding of forgiveness, and here it is: You Cannot Force Forgiveness. You cannot TRY to forgive. You cannot force forgiveness no matter how much you want to.
The greatest misconception relative to forgiveness is that you can simply choose to forgive. People approach forgiveness as if it is a red button that you can just push and that if you haven’t pushed it yet, you must be either intellectually challenged or enjoy stubbornly refusing to get over something.
People want you to forgive for two reasons. The first is that it is natural to want people to feel good instead of bad. The second is that it makes them feel uncomfortable feelings for us to have negative feelings, especially if those feelings are about a specific person. And most especially if those feelings are about they, themselves. In other words, they want us to change the way we feel because they are not ok with feeling their own negative emotion. To tell someone that they have to forgive is emotional abuse. It is to tell someone they shouldn’t feel how they feel and therefore to stop feeling how they feel. It is to shame them if they can’t just decide to feel differently. And if you are telling someone to forgive someone specifically, you just became a pardoner of the other person’s offense. You told the person who feels deeply hurt by someone to just take it. This makes you worse than a bystander. It makes you an enabler.
You want to forgive for two reasons. The first is that it is natural to want to feel good and if you feel like you can’t get over something, like you are resentful and angry and need requital, you aren’t feeling good. The second is that forgiveness is considered to be so virtuous and non-forgiveness so bad that you cannot be in a state of non-forgiveness and feel like you are a good person. You feel like you have to forgive in order to maintain a positive self-concept. Except there is one scenario where this is flipped and that is with regards to forgiving ourselves. Subconsciously we feel that forgiving ourselves makes us bad. That we must never forgive ourselves for the way we have hurt ourselves or others because if we do let ourselves off of the hook, we run the risk of causing harm again. This is our engrained sense of penance.
The main reason you can’t force forgiveness is that a lack of forgiveness is about painful emotions. You cannot just choose not to feel a certain way, as if hitting a red button with your free will. Emotions do not work like this. Your feelings never ever lie. They never lie because they are always a perfectly accurate reflection of a perception that you hold. In order to feel differently therefore, you have to change your perspective entirely. And unfortunately, changing your perception is also not something that you can just choose to do as if pushing a red button. For example, if a drunk driver hit someone and they ended up paralyzed, it takes a hell of a lot more than just deciding to see it as a good thing in order to consider it a blessing to have been paralyzed instead of feel like it is a curse every time you have to hoist yourself onto your wheelchair.
I cannot tell you how many people I have shaken hands with who tell me that they have forgiven someone and it is total and complete malarkey. What it is, is bypassing and suppression through fragmentation. Spiritual bypassing is the cancer of the spiritual world. It is a disease that has run rampant in both religious and non-religious circles. Spiritual bypassing (or whitewashing) is the act of using spiritual beliefs to avoid facing or healing one’s painful feelings, unresolved wounds and unmet needs. It is a state of avoidance. Because it is a state of avoidance, it is a state of resistance. I personally, consider Spiritual bypassing to be the shadow side of spirituality. Spiritual beliefs of any spiritual tradition and even simply societal beliefs can provide ample justification for living in a state of inauthenticity. They can all provide justification for avoiding the unwanted aspects of one’s own feelings and state of being in favor of what is considered to be “a more enlightened or virtuous state of being”. In today’s world, we have little tolerance for working through our pain. We much prefer instantaneous solutions that involve numbing out pain.
When we use spirituality to whitewash over our issues and try to avoid them, we use the goal of spiritual transcendence to try to rise above the raw and messy and real side of human life before we have fully faced and made peace with it. This can be seen as premature and false transcendence. And it is dangerous because it sets up a major division internally. It creates a definable split between where one really is and where one thinks they should be. It enables us to lie to ourselves and delude ourselves and live our lives through the projection of a false self.
When we have been hurt, we so often suppress, deny and disown the part of us that feels those raw unresolved feelings and identify with a coping part of ourselves that is ‘beyond it all’. We cannot heal unless we are willing to admit to where we are and who we are. Bypassing is like breaking your leg, but being unwilling to admit to it, putting a band-aid over the compound fracture and trying to continue forward anyway. If you are struggling to wrap your minds around forgiveness and in order to fully understand this, I ask you to watch three of my videos titled: Spiritual Bypassing, The Sad Truth About Most Gurus (Selective Identification) And Fragmentation, The Worldwide Disease.
It takes a very, very keen perception to discern whether someone has really forgiven or whether they have erected a false persona whilst suppressing the rest of themselves that happens to be beyond it all. I’ll give you a tip. If someone has truly reached a place of forgiveness, they will not ever tell you to forgive. Also, if someone has bypassed instead of truly forgiven, their world is full of people who mirror the parts of themselves that they suppress. People who have not forgiven and whom are mad at them for their transcendent stance on issues.
When we turn away from our pain or away from “wherever we are”, we abandon ourselves. We resist the very thing we are trying to avoid. But most terrifying of all (and this should come with a huge warning) we guarantee that it will come up in our realities again; only it will come back bigger next time. It is at this point that we eventually have to face whatever it is that we actually have to face and really integrate those painful emotional states and come up with a perception that changes the perspective of our most hurt aspects, not a perspective that enables us to suppress, deny and disown them. True forgiveness happens when all parts of us are able to move forward and feel good doing so, not just some parts of us.
That being said, how does one get to a place of forgiveness?
When you or someone else is in a state of pain relative to feeling hurt by someone else, get the idea of forgiveness out of your head. Don’t even bring it up. Get the idea of healing in your mind instead. Forgiveness implies profound healing must take place. And when you walk the path of healing, forgiveness is something that happens to you and often quite spontaneously. It is as if forgiveness falls in your lap as a result of taking previous and seemingly unrelated steps on the healing path. But what is healing?
At the most fundamental level, everything is energy. Energy is simply potential energy until different patterns arise within that energy. These patterns are what dictates whether energy ultimately becomes a toothbrush or an emotion or a tree. Patterns are like the blueprint of your physical existence. Because everything is a pattern, all forms of illness are also specific patterns. To heal something is to change that pattern. Therefore, the first layer to understand about healing is that to heal is to change a pattern. It is the opposite of repetition and redundancy. Now we must look at how to change a pattern.
When something is unhealed, it is exhibiting a pattern that we don’t like. It is in a state that is unwanted. Therefore, we can greatly simplify healing in that it is a change of a pattern that is unwanted into a pattern that is wanted. This usually entails changing it into the opposite pattern. Therefore, the second layer to understand about healing is that healing is to experience the opposite.
If our leg is broken, to change that pattern of broken into its opposite is to put together/ mend it.
If we feel demeaned, to heal is to feel valued.
If we are abused to heal is to be treated lovingly.
If we feel powerless, to heal is to feel empowered.
If we are stuck, to heal is to be able to move.
Now that you understand that to heal is to change a pattern into the opposite, look at whatever situation you feel a lack of forgiveness about. Look at the pain you experienced. What would the opposite pattern be? Make that your aim, not forgiveness. Sometimes, the changing of a pattern like this (the move from powerless to empowered for example) happens with the changing of one single belief and takes no time at all. Other times, it is a process that involves the changing of several beliefs and the experiencing of several things and many layers until a person is truly experiencing the opposite and therefore has healed.
If you look at people who have truly forgiven, you will find that you are looking at someone who is already living out the healed state of being. For example, if your adult relationships are still painful as hell as a result of your childhood relationships with Mom and Dad, chances are you have not forgiven Mom and Dad. Every time a relationship proves to be a repeat of that original relationship programming, you hate them because you feel hurt by them and you feel you can’t move forward because if it had only been different, you wouldn’t be in these painful patterns today. When you find yourself in a truly good adult relationship, it is as if you have transformed the pattern that was caused by that original wounding and so, you do not need anything from them anymore in terms of requital. You already have what you need and what that situation caused you to want. More than that, you can see how that wounding may have been a pivotal part in even getting that. Thus, you have forgiven Mom and Dad.
I have created a process, which can be instrumental in the healing of these injuries. It is called The Completion Process. To learn this process and start applying it today, I suggest you get a copy of my book which details the process that is quite literally titled, The Completion Process.
You have got to stop resisting where you are, stop expecting yourself to feel better and expecting yourself to forgive. Instead, you have to admit to where you are. Accept that where you are, is the reality. It isn’t about approving of where you are. It is about accepting the reality that where you are is where you are and how you feel is how you feel. And instead of running from those very painful feelings and the part of yourself that feels them, be completely, unconditionally present with them. Listen for the very important personal truths being conveyed by each emotion. With each emotion that arises, you need to:
#1. To become aware of the emotion
#2. To care about the emotion by seeing it as valid and important
#3. To listen empathetically to the emotion in an attempt to understand the way you feel. This allows you to feel safe to be vulnerable without fear of judgment. Seek to understand, it isn’t about whether all of you agrees or not.
#4 To acknowledge and validate your feelings. This may include finding words to label your emotion. To acknowledge and validate feelings, we do not need to validate that the thoughts we have about our emotions are correct, instead we need to know that it is a valid thing to feel the way that we feel. For example, if the thought behind your emotion is, “I feel useless”, we do not validate ourselves by saying “I’m right I am useless”. We could validate by saying “I can totally see how that would make me feel useless and anyone would feel the same way if they were me”.
#5. To allow ourselves to feel how we feel and to experience our emotion fully before moving towards any kind of improvement in the way we feel. We need to give ourselves permission to dictate when we are ready to move up the vibrational scale and into a different emotion. This is the step where we practice unconditional presence and unconditional love. We are there with our emotions without trying to “fix” them.
#6. After and only after our feelings have been validated and acknowledged and fully felt, we can strategize ways to shift into a better feeling state. This is the step where you can find new ways of looking at a situation that may improve the way you are feeling.
Often times, when we are accepting a reality relative to something that has hurt us, we end up in grief. Grief is a process that we must allow ourselves to fully experience, not try to escape out of. There is often a perception of a loss in association with being hurt. For example, I perceived that I had lost my whole childhood and would never get it back due to my childhood abuser. In my case, in order to heal, I had to grieve for that lost childhood.
When I was healing from the abuse in my childhood, I spent months where the most healing thing to do was to imagine burning this man who had ruined my life alive and burning my childhood to the ground before that no longer felt like improvement. It was then that I was ready for the next step. The reason that we feel revengeful and anger is because it is an improvement upon the powerlessness that we feel when someone hurts us. To understand more about this, watch my videos titled: Accept It, The Key To Letting Go, When The Only Way to Be Ok is to Not Be Ok and How to Deal With Anger. If we spend our lives resisting what happened, which is what we are doing when we cannot accept the reality of what has happened, we are living our life pushing against what was instead of putting our energy towards what we want to create instead.
Forgiveness occurs when we find a perspective that truly changes the way our most hurt aspect views the situation. You can look literally anywhere for this. Perspectives are absolutely everywhere. I am a big fan of doing this in a way that does not suggest that we shouldn’t be holding the perspective we are holding. For example, lets say you were hurt by your mother. If someone says, “Her childhood was even worse than yours she did the best that she could”, this perspective will do nothing in terms of creating forgiveness, in fact it only makes the way you feel worse because it implies that because of that perspective, we shouldn’t be holding our own. What we have to be doing is to be looking for a perspective that without invalidating our own, makes us change the way that we see the situation so that we feel genuine relief relative to anger and resentment and no desire for requital. The perspective that works is going to be unique for each person and unique to each situation.
For me, this happened quite spontaneously. After years of being on the healing path relative to my childhood, I was thinking about a memory that changed my perspective so drastically; it threw forgiveness in my lap entirely. I remembered that every time he would sodomize me, which happened any time I was with him when the wind was strong, he would stand up as if horrified and run away. I rarely saw any emotion from him. One day, he did this in a field where I saw where he went. I watched him on his hands and knees in the field crying and rocking. I realized that he was doing the same thing to me that was done to him all along. I realized that he had succeeded in pulling me into the hell he couldn’t escape from and now, I was the person who understood his pain and trauma more than anyone else in the world. In that instant, I could no longer see him as a monster, but a desperate person who was so alone in his torment, he had pulled me into hell with him. Ironically, this was something I had said I felt like doing any time I saw people laughing and talking about their normal lives during the time I was trying to overcome all the scars my childhood left on me. I started crying like crazy that day and my anger evaporated. I did not want punishment for him any longer. I wanted healing. To bring that healing to people like him had become part of my mission on this planet. I needed nothing from him anymore. I could see in that second how everything that happened fit into my purpose here on the planet and how without those experiences, I’d be less than half as good at what I do today. I’d have lots of spiritual information but absolutely no clue how to bridge the gap between that information and the depths of hell that make that information sound like total BS. And here’s the thing, if you had suggested any of those perspectives before I was ready, it wouldn’t have worked. It would have been like trying to force a paraplegic to get up and run a week after the accident.
Compassion and empathy. This step should never be done prematurely. If you try to get someone who was hurt to find compassion for the person who they feel hurt by, it is abusive. It is to ask a person to open their heart to someone who is kicking it. This has to be something a person genuinely wants to look for, not so that they can feel like a good person or do what is “right”, but because they are ready to stop the terrible feeling of tension that the resentment and need for requital creates. Compassion is a form of connectedness because it arises when we feel a sympathetic commonality with someone. In other words, we experience a shared felt experience of pain. There is a harmony inherent in shared feelings, as well as shared understanding. When we feel compassion, we feel sorrow and understanding and concern for the suffering of someone or something else. And having that shared commonality of pain and therefore sorrow and concern for them, then compels us to alter our perspective and feelings and actions towards that thing. Think back to a time when you were watching a movie or a show where a character experienced something that caused them to suffer and instantly you got a physiological sensation of connection with that character. You instantly related to that person and understood them as well as what they need. This is compassion. Compassion immediately arises when someone experiences pain that we relate to. Compassion naturally arises as a result of relating to someone’s suffering. Therefore, all we must to in order to feel compassion and know what action to take towards that thing is to DELIBERATELY LOOK FOR HOW YOU RELATE TO THEIR PAIN. To understand more about this, you can watch my video titled: Compassion (And How To Cultivate Compassion).
Gratitude or appreciation. Just like I said with the step of compassion, this step should never be done prematurely. If you try to get someone who was hurt to find gratitude or appreciation for the way they were hurt, it is abusive. It is to ask someone to kiss the hand that slaps them. Often this happens naturally and on its own as a result of living into the state of healing. This is the step where a person is ready to open to the perspective that contains the gift of the experience. This is where you can see how the painful experience or painful person added positively to your life in some way.
Face the step of forgiveness called the refusal to forgive. Resentment is a huge part of forgiveness. We can’t be fully conscious about resentment without being conscious about the subconscious positive intention below it. It is a refusal to forgive. Letting go or forgiving gives most people the feeling that they simultaneously have to let go of the unmet need to be treated fairly and justly in a way that creates trust. It feels like self-betrayal. And so, in order to honor their pain as well as honor their need to have just and fair treatment, they will not forgive. Resentment essentially can be like a wall that a person uses to protect themselves and try to get their needs met.
A person may keep resentment as both a boundary and a personal reminder as if to say “No one will ever do this to me again”. Also, the sense of self, also called the ego can feel a sense of itself being right and good when it is in the victim role (good and right) with someone else being in the perpetrator role (bad and wrong). Often, especially in close relationships, being the one who was wronged puts the other person in a role where they have to “make it up to you”. This is a less powerless role with more of a guarantee of fair treatment going forward. So it can be a way of using past wrong treatment as leverage to get what you want from someone and/or to stay safe.
If you distrust someone because they treated you unfairly, it is quite tempting to control them through guilt in this way. For this reason, it is beneficial to ask yourself honestly, what bad thing am I afraid would happen if I were to forgive the person I feel resentment towards today or if I forgave myself for my role in the situation? For example, perhaps my answer might be, if I forgive him or her, I make what they did to me ok and it isn’t ok. Or if I forgive him or her, they will not get how much they hurt me, so they will do it to me again. Or if I forgive him or her, I’m being like a human punching bag or doormat, which is pathetic. Or if I forgive him or her, I’ll never receive the justice and fair treatment I need. Then question this perspective. To understand more about this, watch my video titled: Resentment (How To Let Go of Resentment). The anger and resentment and expectation for compensation that you feel is so, so natural. You are right to feel that way. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is a poison that eats you from within. Thinking that it will do something to the person who has hurt you is like drinking poison, thinking it will harm the other person.
You must know that all people are being intrinsically led in the direction of improvement and healing. You do not have to force them to heal any more than you have to go over to them and hold the two sides of their cut together in order for it to heal. It does not feel good for people to be in a place of anger and resentment and needing requital. And so, all people are being intrinsically led to forgiveness.
But you can ask yourself “What do I need in order to let go of this situation or what do I need in order to forgive in this situation?” What can I do with what I have, from where I am? When you forgive someone, it’s as if you are setting a prisoner free only to discover that you were the prisoner all along. Happiness and internal freedom is found in the alteration of the point of view you are holding about a subject. If you remove yourself far enough from the limited point of view of pain, you will see that we are all nothing but the victims of victims. But you cannot force forgiveness because you cannot force the process of healing.
Forgiving is not forgetting. You cannot lie to yourself forever that you are where you aren’t. You can’t will yourself into forgiving just because you know it would be such a better place to be. Forgiveness is healing the state of pain in your own life. You have not fully forgiven something until you are able to find genuine approval for it having happened to the degree that there is nothing left to forgive. And this perspective is one that all people have the capacity to reach if we will only have the love in us enough to let the process of getting to this perspective unfold within them.